It was a great opportunity to get in a whole chunk of quality time with my father. This means sharing the joy of surfing through a hundred channels on DSTV and settling, ultimately, on something neither of us are sure the other one really wants to watch. On Saturday night this happened to be Conan the Barbarian; we resolved to get some chocolate on Sunday morning to sweeten Sunday night.
Watching Conan again did give me the opportunity to verify the verbatim version of Deon du Plessis’ favourite line from a movie. (I so make lemonade, I swear.) The version I found (and used) in Kevin Bloom’s article was “Find the enemy, crush him, and hear the lamentations of the women.” This is wrong.
In answer to the question, “Conan! What is best in life?” he responds, “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. And hear the lamentation (sic) of their women.” It is posed by the sages of the East, where “language and writing were made available” to our bulging warrior-slave.
For a moment I was amazed by the insight of the 1980’s Hollywood film classic. True fans will be happy to know that even as I write, there is another Conan movie (not a remake, which “implies a new version of an original script” but a “franchise restart”, according to IMDB) in production in Hollywood. This is so hot off the press that no actors have even been signed yet. This is important, because as I understand it, in Hollywood the life of a film starts like this: Quentin has a conversation with Uma, and then they get money to make a flick even before they have a script.
In this case, it seems that Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories seem to be at least as bankable as the conversation between a cinematic enfant terrible and his leading lady. On the other hand, it might mean that the credit crunch is forcing the studios to dig up old-and-hopefully-still-sexy formulae that have been lying fallow, and to give new muscles with a lilting Austrian/Russian/Dutch-something accent the opportunity to flex on the silver screen. For the price of, uh, I don’t know… Brad-Pitt-in-Troy or Russell-Crowe-in-Gladiator… one can make a whole period piece with some lovely unknown, soft-chinned, brawny youth. I think that is pretty groovy.
My father did not mind a bit that Arnold could hardly sputter out “…lamentation of their women”, so impressed was he with the wonderful art direction of Conan the Barbarian. I think we can agree that the spectacular reinvention of Star Trek, for example, must forebode similar fortunes for a new Conan movie. Twenty years of SFX development will enable the filmmakers to produce the mind-boggling giant demons and breath-taking fight sequences that will render a plot wholly redundant. I think I will miss a bit of plot in the next chapter, but still, Conan 2010 is probably going to be fantastic Saturday afternoon viewing on a big screen TV.
My father bought a million-inch flat screen TV last year sometime and when I go to visit, we spend a lot of time in front of it. On Saturday morning we had to go shopping for stuff to make macaroni cheese and shepherd’s pie, so that cut into our TV time quite a bit, but beyond that, Conan was not even the most fun we had on the weekend. On Saturday there was wall-to-wall rugby. (Sometimes I am surprised at the wit that can emanate from my dad. I am personally deeply offended by Francois Steyn’s blonde locks. I hardly lay eyes on him without wishing that he would get a nice haircut like Schalk. But there was always something else about him, and my father finally clarified it for me. “Hy lyk of iemand hom ‘n klap gegee het wat hy nie verdien het nie,” he commented when I mentioned that Francois always looked a bit glum. It was a revelation. Of course that is what he looks like.)
Not that we watched TV ALL the time, of course. Before lunch we sat in the sun, had a pre-lunch glass of wine, and chatted. Not so much about the Bible this time. More about family. Some about my brother. I asked him if he ever thinks about the fact that Douw might never move back to South Africa, and I could see that it was impossible for him to talk about that, even though he tried. So I made a very stupid joke and I changed the subject. I think we spoke about the rugby and dead people instead. And about how people in our family die. Apparently on his side, my grandfather’s contemporaries “is almal dood van hartaanvalle.” I don’t know why we thought that was funny, but we smiled with real humour.
But I digress. On Sunday morning I slept late. When I got to the lounge, he was already there, catching the highlights of the junior boks’ failed campaign in the IRB Junior World Champs. There was nothing on the movie channels, we found after 20 minutes of surfing, and I had no particular needs, so we turned to ESPN.
Did you know that on ESPN, from about 9 am on a Sunday, they have back-to-back American fishing programmes until after lunch? We watched quite a few until it was time to get dressed and move along to the Fishmonger for father’s day lunch, and when we got back after two, there was still fishing on TV. Amazing. We watched a bit, and then it was time for me come home.
I got a bag of lemons from the laden tree, and kudu fillet from the hunting trip. It was a good visit. The road home was clear, the late afternoon gold with the sun on the dead, winter, Highveld fields. It was impossibly beautiful.
 I googled the highest-earning male actors in Hollywood, and at the top of the list, because of the last Indiana Jones instalment, was Harrison Ford, with USD 65 million in the last year. Others were Will Smith, Adam Sandler, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Denzel… not a single one under forty. I guess even in Hollywood it pays to pay your dues, and regardless of how flavour-of-the-month you are, you have to be Tom Hanks before you get 20 million up front.