April 13, 2009

Brian's Britain

Bagehot, the Economist columnist, is normally an interesting guide to British life and politics. This week he attempts some movie criticism and falls below his normal standard. He argues that there is a movement of mood away from the complacent and irritating world view of Richard Curtis- something this blogger fundementally agrees with- but towards a gloomier and dystopian view of the world encapsulated in the film, the Damned United. I agree with him about Mr Curtis's films which I have never seen as anything more than a fairground view of Britain, sold to American tourists- though as the box office figures so far this year indicate, Bagehot is wrong to assume my countrymen agree with me: the Damned United has taken less so far than the Boat that Rocked. I disagree with him about the Damned United and consequently about the mood he identifies as changing- the Damned United is not as good nor as grimy as the Economist columnist believes it to be. The fashions of the clothes are different but the Damned United is no Mike Leigh film- it is a feel good movie looking back nostalgically on the achievements of Clough and accepting without qualification his view of Leeds United as a cynical team: the film is about the escape from the seventies not its return.

I have reviewed it already on this blog and so don't feel the need to do so again. This point has been made in other places notably for example in the Guardian, where the film's producer noted that it is a film 'with an upbeat ending... an enjoyable experience'. As Owen Gibson for the Guardian argued the film was 'more Carry on Cloughie than... Yorkshire Heart of Darkness'. That contrasts to the book but it is important to remember when you read Baghot's piece that the Damned United fits much easier into the Richard Curtis mode than say a darker and more interesting period piece about the seventies, Control, does. Understanding trends in culture is important- if the British are becoming more gloomy that has implications politically and economically for the country and for the world but I do not think you can derive those conclusions from this piece of fluff. The danger is that reading a film through its subject matter- ie the dark times of Clough at Leeds as chronicled in David Peace's book- can lead you to misunderstand the mood of the country that made the film popular.

Far more interesting might be the approach which took Control and considered why it released in October 2007 took 2.4 million dollars Uk wide in that year, whereas the Boat that Rocked has taken 2.7 million already this year and the Damned United has already taken 2 million! Indeed looking at the box office figures, the top ten films this year in the UK are Slumdog millionaire, Bolt, Marley and me, He's just not that into you, The curious case of Benjamin Button, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Role Models, Gran Torino, Bride Wars and my Bloody Valentine- there are some good films there but it scarcely indicates the nation's movie tastes are getting grimmer- there is a whole pillow full of fluff in those top tens to assure me that the reign of Curtis is not over yet.


The Organic Viking said...

*reaches for half-read copy of Economist*

Gracchi said...

Half read! HALF READ!

That's like boiling Thor and pickling Odin!

The Organic Viking said...

Well, they always get read eventually. Just not necessarily by Tuesday!