We are at the cinema. On screen, the restaurant scene in which a villainous Mr Saatchi is seen holding the curvaceous Ms Lawson by the throat. There are shades of noir; echoes of Ace In The Hole (1951, with Kirk Douglas in the Saatchi position and Jan Sterling feeling his fingers around her neck); Beware, My Lovely (1952, Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino); Angel Face (1953, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons) andThe Big Knife (1955, Jack Palance and, again, Ida Lupino).
Luckless Lupino – seemingly the girl most likely to find herself in a throat-hold – was really A Player in 1950s Hollywood, adding writer, director and producer credits to her acting roles. Ida’s position of strength is echoed today in Nigella’s show-making, deal-clinching status in foodie TV both for the BBC and now ABC (as seen in the new, piping hot show, The Taste).
Meanwhile her husband, Charles Saatchi – the ex-adman-turned-art-collector who’s never alone because he always has a cigarette to hold hands with, is such a dyed-in the-wool smoker he too might be described as taking a leaf out of the noir pack.
Yet for all the smoke signals of the past, the mise en scene has moved on from the 1950s. No morechiaroscuro; instead of a monochrome contrast between light and dark, the current scene offers a full spectrum of colour and texture.
Partly decorative, partly a screen to make the protagonists’ faces more elusive, more alluring, the restaurant is woven with pistachio green plants set against the incandescent copper-and-glass tubing which serves to warm this Mayfair terrace on an unseasonably cold day in June.
The tubing is smooth; so too is the suede of the villain’s shoes, but in a different way – one hairless, the other furry. And, somewhere in between, his immaculate, clinically white shirt made of the softest cotton: material that says ‘touch me’ even though you know you’re only ever going to see it on someone you don’t.
The consensus is that he shouldn’t have touched her like that. But the suburban ‘movie theater’ audiences who served as the test-bed for 1950s Hollywood product, would not have thought to demand a new ending in which Kirk and Robert or Robert and Jack had to be investigated by the police for having placed their hands around a woman’s neck. Only if he killed her afterwards; not if the two of them were back on speaking terms a few hours later.
Perhaps all those people who set so much store by this latest scene, who insist it says something so important that they themselves just have to say something too, should bear in mind that whatever they say matters no more than the guinea pigs of half-a-century-ago responding to Hollywood’s latest offering.
It’s a spectacle, right? And we’re all spectators now.