Two Gentlemen on the Beach
By Michael Kohlmeier
Haus – £17.99
Churchill would always look unkempt. His suit fitted badly. Any suit would look terrible on this man – just as any suit would look good on Chaplin.
What a wonderful book.
Replete with poignant excerpts, an occasional nefarious persuasion, as well as a sociological understanding that only the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill might truly grasp, Two Gentlemen on the Beach captures the true essence of depression.
That’s right, depression, along with it’s all consuming trajectory, which luckily, most of us might never have to encounter. And I’m not talking about a mild bout of feeling fed-up, I’m talking the sharp stab of subliminal, impending suicide; snippets of which are intelligently as well as coherently touched on by Michael Kohlmeier – an Austrian writer and musician – throughout these 230 pages.
A fine example is surely the following: ”So Chaplin knew that Churchill had periods of gloom and hopelessness – the ”black dog,” as Samuel Johnson termed this bastard child of errant impulses. And contaminated brain chemistry. He knew that Churchill, the quintessential British swashbuckler, kept finding himself in the kennel of the beast without having been able to take any precautions against it. He knew that the animal attacked him from behind, and within a few hours would turn Churchill, the quintessential rhetorician, into a nervous stutterer was soon rendered monosyllabic, with only one thing on his mind. Churchill had never spoken to anybody, not even his doctors, in more detail and with more honesty about this torment […]. To prevent this most radical of consolations from ever becoming their only consolation, Churchill and Chaplin decided to keep meeting; if there was one person who could stop the other taking this path, then it was he, or he.”
Furthermore, it’s nigh impossible to write of either of these two great men, without touching on the political; which, in and of itself, promotes this book unto a pantheon of a much wider proclamation: ”Of course Triumph of the Will was propaganda for a loathsome ideology […] but at the same time it was the pinnacle of cinematic art, a better political film had never been made […]. Frau Riefensthal was a great artist – and a captivatingly cunning comedian […]. There were lengthy shots of Hitler. Every ridiculous detail of the dictator’s gestures and speech patterns were captured on celluloid. He opened his mouth wide, barking the most banal nonsense out into the universe, and the camera was right there, probing this lipless scream-hole all the way to his tonsils, exploring his nostrils, exposing every bogey.”
It’s such a tough, plurality of writing, that partially accounts for Two Gentlemen on the Beach being such a riveting read.
That it’s so brutally honest, just might be the other.