The Clash Film Column: Making A Spectacle Of Itself

Exhibition, and more…

If you’re feeling guilty about any personal tastes, you’re probably being a bit silly…

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That was the week in which...

There was minor film-based broadsheet beef over the concept of the “guilty pleasure”.

I have seen 30-minute chunks of Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging more times than I dare to recall (I blame Angus), but I also own box sets by Yasujiro Ozu and Michael Haneke. I’m more excited to see a new Shane Carruth movie than any superhero flick. I’d rather rewatch Gremlins or A Fish Called Wanda again, rather than any of the 1980s movies listed in Sight and Sound top films list.

In short, the often-illogical foibles of personal preference tend to triumph over intellectual analysis or received wisdom when people discuss their favourite films. So The Telegraph’s diatribe against the phrase (here) makes a certain amount of sense: as ‘worthy’ as a film is, what does that mean if it doesn’t leave an impression on you?

Obviously directed at The Guardian’s light-hearted Guilty Pleasure series (here) – effectively a simple platform for readers to recall and discuss favourites from the recent past – the earnestness of the article almost contradicts its own argument: for if any film, regardless of its ambition, can be enjoyed on its own merits, why be so angered at film journalism as entertainment rather than a critique?

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The Big Film: Exhibition

Note: My failure to see Transcendence (the consensus is that it’s one of the year’s surprise critical flops) means that this week’s ‘big’ film is the not-at-all-big-but-really quite-decent Exhibition.

Over the course of her previous two films, the quietly fascinating Unrelated and the intelligent if yawn-worthy Archipelago, director Joanna Hogg has defined an immediate niche for herself with her low-key, character-driven explorations of the middle-class. First World Problems perhaps isn’t the most inclusive of film genres, but it’s an approach that’s very much her own.

Set almost entirely in an architecturally stunning if increasingly claustrophobic Kensington home, it presents a story of two artists named only by their initials: D (former Slits guitarist Viv Albertine) and H (Liam Gillick). Their relationship is a seesaw of on-off communication, their work is distracted by the endless noise of their neighbours’ home improvements and their long-term future is in question as they try to sell their property. Immensely real, sporadically sexually explicit and, in its rare moments of humour, bone dry, it’s hardly Richard Curtis.

Aside from the mystery of an unspoken incident in the past and an argument about parking, not a great deal happens. Not that it matters, for Hogg’s ability to depict personal conflict (in this case, D’s anxiety which is neatly encapsulated by Albertine’s performance) casts a calm, meditative storm of domestic drama.

Exhibition, trailer

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Also Out: We Are The Freaks

A bunch of misfits experience a night of anarchy as they search of a greater meaning in life in this energetic if underwhelming comedy. Jack (Jamie Blackley, profiled) dreams of escaping his bank job for a new career as a writer, but everything’s on hold while he waits for confirmation of a grant that will allow him to so. His friends, meanwhile, are just about coping with merely being functional.

Utilising the caustic, sex-based humour of The Inbetweeners with some sporadically inventive visual touches, We Are The Freaks tries to twist the fresh into the familiar but its strengths are lost in a largely forgettable plot which doesn’t make the most of its nostalgic, last days of Thatcher backdrop.

It’s an attribute that’s also reflected in the casting. Rising talent Blackley does his best with the material; Brit indie stalwarts including Michael Smiley (again as an improbably named hard man, this time Killer Colin) and Rosamund Hanson (not a huge leap from This is England’s Smell) are deployed as stock characters; and Danielle Lineker drops by with a credited cameo for no discernable reason.

Supposedly intended as a fresh slant on the coming-of-age sub-genre, We Are The Freaks instead feels like a discount version of what it aims to subvert. By the end of its barely-there wisp of a running time, the film’s deficiencies overcome the goodwill that its scrappy underdog status had previously generated. 

We Are The Freaks, trailer

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New Talent: Omar Sy

Who? After years working in French film and TV, 36-year-old Omar Sy’s major breakthrough is coming later than most.

What’s he been? Few of his previous films commanded much of a profile here until Untouchable (aka The Intouchables) earned a position as a substantial foreign-language crossover hit. In France, however, it one was of the biggest films ever, and earned Sy the César Award for Best Actor.

What’s coming up? Whatever your taste in films, there’ll be something that appeals in Sy’s upcoming filmography. Like mega-budget superhero flicks? You’re in luck as May will see Sy play Bishop in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Prefer visually enticing artsy whimsy? He also has a key role in Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo in August. Or dinosaurs? There’s Jurassic World in the summer of 2015. Or you’ll be able see him with Bob De Niro and Keira Knightley in Candy Store, as well as Good People with James Franco and Kate Hudson.

They say: “Everyone wants to work with Omar! He’s such a lovely guy and I thought he was pitch-perfect.” Michel Gondry

X-Men: Days Of Future Past, trailer

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Shorts

Spidey’s (review) multitude of superpowers have helped to catapult him back to the top of the UK box office with a whopping £9 million taken last weekend alone. Featuring a cast mostly consisting of Britain’s more mature actors, The Love Punch followed at #5. Tom Hardy’s purring Welsh accent lilted Locke in at #9; India’s rom-com 2 States followed its domestic success with a credible #10 placing; and We Are The Best! followed at #17. Read an interview with the latter movie’s director, Lukas Moodysson, here

Best known for Back To The Future (much, much more on that here) and his infamous Letterman appearance, and now a maker of low-budget, taboo-busting films, it’s fair to say that Crispin Hellion Glover isn’t particularly bothered with following a conventional career path. His Big Slide Show is now touring, and quite entertaining it is. Just don’t make any solid plans about getting out for last orders…  

Finally, when Clash spoke to director Colin Trevorrow about his low-budget time travelling comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, he gave very little away about the (ultimately erroneous) rumours that linked him to the next Star Wars film. Now he’s finally landed a big film – Jurassic World – and he’s still keeping his cards close to his chest...

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Words: Ben Hopkins

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