Ed#449 You Talkin' to Me?

9 January 2014 Melissa Cranenburgh

Ed#449 You Talkin' to Me?

I know. You're expecting some insightful and/ or surprising reminiscence about the time I met Robert De Niro in a LA hotel suite and – after we’d chatted about his recent artistic direction (Silver Linings Playbook, thumbs up, Little Fockers, confused silence) – we pulled on fake mohawks, then took selfies while re-enacting that scene from Taxi Driver.

Well, that just didn’t happen. I’m sorry.

Fortunately, there is plenty of insightful and/or surprising material about De Niro in this edition. In our cover story (‘Doing it His Way’, p14), Bruno Lester interviews the usually publicity-shy actor about his workaholism, disregard for critical acclaim and move from drama to (all-too-often suspect) comedy. And, in an accompanying piece (‘De Niro in the Dark’, p17), Film Editor Rebecca Harkins‑Cross posits that – despite De Niro’s “peerless” acting ability – poor career choices have dimmed his star power considerably.

Even if fans of the once-celebrated dramatic actor feel like he’s sometimes dialling in performances, De Niro – who even runs his own production company – sounds like he is not planning to bow out of the biz any time soon. “What am I going to do?” he retorts, when asked about retirement. “My main interest has always been movies – making them, directing them, being involved. I have never lost the passion for that.” Audiences longing for the De Niro of old can only hope to see some evidence of that “passion” translate to the screen, once more.

As always, though, our cover story is but a fraction of a magazine that delivers enough material to keep you engaged long after your phone battery has reached its final bar. And this edition, many of the stories are about very personal connections. In ‘Canvas and Cigarettes’ (p18) Deborah Wardle elegantly draws together memories of her once-rugged father in his declining years with those of her son as he drives off into adventurous young-adulthood. Meanwhile, thirtysomething Amy McPherson warily steps aboard a family holiday with her ageing parents (p21). Andreas Katsineris-Paine finds deeper meaning in a brief encounter outside an urban train station (p28). And Will Cox (p11) writes about the general disconnection – between management, the workers and everyone else – in his erstwhile job at a call centre.

Taking a slightly different tack on this loose theme is columnist Helen Razer (p13). This edition she talks about the ‘commodification of compassion’ on supermarket shelves. These days, many manufacturers suggest that buying their goods will somehow benefit humanity, the environment, cute furry little creatures. And that may well be the case. But it’s unlikely you’ll ever get a tangible example of the alleged ‘good’ you have done when you take your ethically charged goods to the self-serve check-out.

When it comes to The Big Issue, it’s pretty clear who benefits. You: for getting a copy of a very readable, independent magazine. And the person who handed it to you – who’s out earning money to help pay for accommodation, buy dinner or save up for a holiday. You may even make a lasting connection with Amanda, Marcus (both on ‘Streetsheet’, p7) or another vendor. Leading to a regular exchange of greetings, a shared coffee break or even just a shy smile as you hurry past. You have bridged the considerable gap between you and someone from a different background whom you may never otherwise have met. Try wrapping that in recycled paper and sticking it on the supermarket shelves.

Melissa Cranenburgh is Associate Editor of The Big Issue.