Oct 202010


A friend of mine insists all art, all creative endeavour, all work is, at heart, about revenge, about retribution on anyone who’s ever belittled us, doubted us, hurt us- a largely-unconscious, retaliatory ‘fuck you’ to the world. To be honest, I’ve never been convinced and, though glimpsing on occasion aspects of darkness in my own motivation to write and to do the job I do, I’ve always felt- definitely always wanted to feel- that, for most of us, there’s a far greater drive to connect and embrace than to distance and humiliate. Right now, I’m far less sure: sucked into the nuanced, sly perspective of this often brilliant piece of work, I’m left feeling unanchored, bemused, a little wary even of my desire to type these words. Continue reading »

Jan 132010

Always hated Guy Ritchie films: all bluster, empty flash and cartoon-brutal violence. As stomach-churningly unrealistic a portrayer of London gangster life as Richard Curtis is of its middle-class counterpart, Ritchie also had the temerity- him, an awkward, class-confused Englishman!- to find himself living with Madonna (for the official SAE stance on the former Mrs R, see here). So I knew this was going to be crap- superficially glittery-tricksy, noisy, self-consciously now. And it is all those things, but- disturbingly- it’s also beautiful to look at (the shots of a half-built Tower Bridge are breathtaking), seductively atmospheric, empathic and- in places- genuinely exciting. It’s not quite as clever as it thinks it is, not quite as funny, but it’s good: Robert Downey Jr is excellent- an agitated, agitating, neurotic, strung-out Holmes who Conan Doyle would recognise- and Jude Law understated and (remarkably) not remotely annoying. And for that, if for nothing else, we should praise Guy Ritchie.

Jan 122010

Gingerly, awkwardly, apprehensively: you approach any new Woody Allen film these days with few preconceptions and not a little fear/thrill. Bouncing from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the Jewish Manhattan mastery of those neurosis-celebrating, razor-edged words-as-wonder cinematographic feasts to Melinda and bloody Melinda, from all-wise seer/alarmingly attractive nerd to dodgy past-his-best paedophile: it’s been a long journey, and an uncomfortable one. Not a linear, regressive one, though: while Allen’s never quite relived those early glories he has, nevertheless, made some pretty decent stuff in between the dross in recent years. And now he comes along with this. It’s got Penelope Cruz in it. Its got Scarlett Johansson in it. It’s got Gaudi’s Barcelona in it. And it’s by one of the finest, most literate directors in film history. It’s bound to be good, isn’t it?

Well- no. It looks brilliant, obviously: gorgeous, exquisite. It’s got an engaging little plot. Penny and Scarly have a snog. In a stunning villa. For a brief, adolescent, moment I (as I’m sure Allen intended) wished I was the bloke who has to (emotionally and physically) wrestle P and S and the other one (the other one being the subtle, soft-brittle Rebecca Hall who does the most learning, almost finds redemption and who, actually, I found far more alluring than the other two- which probably says something about me or Woody or both of us or . . . )

Ahem.  That’s about it. We’re challenged (a bit) to reconsider our views on intimacy and monogamy and risk and settling for the good-enough.  We try hard to find a genuinely witty line or really feel anything, to discover a sign that this is A Woody Allen Film (TM), that it is the work of an auteur, as opposed to being, merely, a slightly bent-out-of-shape but generically-directed rom-com. We don’t succeed, though. It’s OK. Just OK. Let’s see where he goes next.


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