Vanity Fair

Blog by Ray Philp | 12 Sep 2009

Inspiration comes in many forms. Some find it in a dream. Others find it in poetry. Others still find it in an email on Tuesday morning at 4:15am from a mysterious government official known only as ‘Akeem’, purporting to belong to Burkino Faso’s Auditing and Accounting department offering a large sum of money that couldn’t possibly represent a ruse for an arbitrary scam, because he addresses you by your first name and he says ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’ a lot, and that’s really polite.

The Film Blog, however, found inspiration today on the side of a bus; or, more to the point, many buses, for the first film on the tip of the Film Blog tongue, through the downright subversive effect of advertising, is Dorian Gray, a ‘sweeping adaptation’ of Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture Of Dorian Gray. Disappointingly, the film has neither a plethora of brooms nor Franz Beckenbauer at its disposal; instead, it sticks largely to the original material as Lord Henry Wotton (Colin Firth), a lecherous socialite type, escorts the eponymous fresh-faced youth (Ben Barnes) through all of the glamorous parts of Victorian-era London, where they daren’t be seen scoffing jellied eels or listening to Oasis. Wotton facilitates a portrait painting of Gray, during which time the ingénue offers a glib remark to the artist about remaining young forever, just as the portrait depicts him. Things take a macabre turn when Gray realises that his flippant remark has come to pass, and what’s more, his newfound eternal youth comes at considerable cost.

Turning our attention to vanity within the fickle world of fashion, The September Issue finds itself gazing intently into a voltage-bothering dressing room mirror, twirling its coils of tousled hair as it enquires: “mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest...nevermind,” before flashing itself a self-satisfied smirk. The September Issue may be a documentary, but don’t let the stuffy connotations of the term detract from the frothy, glossy excess that R. J. Cutler’s catwalk romp (so called because September is widely regarded as the ‘January’ month of the fashion world) promises as it follows Anna Wintour, pioneering editor of American Vogue and certified follower of fashion. Catch this one at the Cameo.

Elsewhere, Greg Mottola’s Adventureland is not only a coming-of-age comedy, but also something of a reviewer’s dream. To wit: is it going to be a ‘rollercoaster ride of laughs’, or will it be a ‘sitting duck’ for bitter critics to aim pot-shots at? Either way, Mottola has form on the back of 2007’s Superbad, so our take on it is definitely the former. A host of wise-cracking newcomers also add zest to an 80s based coming-of-age tale about a stuck-up rich kid James (Jesse Eisenberg) who, through reluctantly taking a minimum-wage summer job at a kitsch amusement park, learns the value of not being a stuck-up rich kid, and falls in love with a fellow park slave Arlene (Kelsey Ford) in the process.

Over at the Filmhouse, Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank enjoys an official release from today after a well-received debut at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. Even if it is the bleakest thing on offer this week, by no means should you dismiss it for its shortage of levity – Arnold’s well observed council estate drama is a complex narrative of emotional extremes, duplicitous stepfathers and dreams of escape.