Pop Will Eat Itself

Blog by Ray Philp | 31 Jul 2009

It shouldn’t have taken an 80s indie quartet of modest repute to reveal the culinary habits of popular culture in so obvious a fashion, but the source of such a proclamation hardly matters when its truth is so apparent. Cannibalism in an arts context is something of a double-edged sword – the line that separates an affectionate tribute from lethargic simulacra is about as clear as a jakey’s bathwater. The only thing that does seem obvious to the Film Blog, paradoxically, is that this week’s assorted box office fodder muddies the waters even further.

Why Tony Scott felt that The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3, the 1974 heist thriller adapted from Morton Freedgood’s novel, was worthy of a remake is also murky in its apparent logic. Joseph Sargent’s original was hardly crying out for a reinvention, and it’s doubtful that Scott’s version has much more to say than Sargent’s, except perhaps to show off some new ways to extract some ‘Ugh, I’ve been shot’ grimaces from the perennially wounded Denzel Washington.

In similar style, Will Ferrel’s filmography, I’m sad to say, has laterally resembled something akin to a dead Denzel walking. Semi-Pro and Talladega Nights punctuated the diminishing returns of his scene-stealing megalomania that, in hindsight, makes the seminal Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy seem all the more like a serendipitously hilarious fluke. Ferrell’s latest adventure, Land Of The Lost, draws inspiration from the eponymous 1974 (was 1974 really such a fertile muse of mediocrity?) cult television series whereby a family are warped back in time and thrust into the Technicolour land of prehistoria. On this occasion, Ferrell portrays disgraced palaeontologist Rick Marshall, who conspires to construct a time machine with research assistant Holly Cantrell (Anna Friel) and survivalist Will Stanton (Danny McBride) in order to prove the existence of his time warp theory to his detractors.

Elsewhere, followers of fashion might treat Coco Before Chanel (screening at Glasgow Film Theatre, Filmhouse and Dundee Contemporary Arts) as a glimpse into the primordial soup of haute couture – for those of you that have been living under a fossilised rock for the past 65 million years, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel is considered a veritable T-Rex of the fashion industry. Anne Fontaine’s partial biopic fixes its gaze on Chanel’s (Audrey Tatou) early life, from her impoverished childhood to her stratospheric rise to success as an emerging designer for the Parisian elite.

Still, the archetypal rags to riches tale may leave those seeking something truly prescient rather cold, not least the zeitgeist conscious folks at DCA. Their exclusive screening of Alphaville certainly doesn’t lend itself to the image of a bow-legged merchant of poorly tailored swag, such is the proliferation of cheap imitations on offer elsewhere this week. Jean-Luc Goddard’s film depicts the dystopia of Alphaville, a city in which the word of God and the state are one and the same, and where the word ‘love’ is denied and banned from public utterance. Goddard’s minimal noir aesthetic adds to this bleak vision of 20th century anti-secularism that’s not to be missed, especially since it’s screening only on Sunday and Monday this week.

Finally, the GFT have yet another exclusive up their sleeves on Sunday, as they offer the early birds among you to catch the wriggling worm that is Mesrine: Killer Instinct. Jean-Francois Richet’s tour-de-force narrative of infamous French anti-hero Jacques Mesrine is ably portrayed by a smirking, snarling Vincent Cassel. The first of two films (the second of which will see the light of day on 28th August) Mesrine: Killer Instinct charts Mesrine’s rise to the top of the criminal underworld, aided by girlfriend Jeanne Schneider (Cecile De France) and mentor Guido (Gerard Depardieu).