Monday, 23 October 2006


House of Mirth is a great film. It's 2 hours of almost unrelenting meanness where you are somewhat relieved when the heroine finally kills herself. It's a film where glances and silences say more than the dialogue which is often used to obscure the truth. It's the film Age of Innocence hopes it will be when it grows up.

Its director, Terence Davies — who also made the critically acclaimed (meaning I haven't seen it though I've heard it is very good) Distant Voices, Still Lives —, can't find work for love nor money. As he tells the Guardian in a long, sad, bitter interview:
"There's a man there called Robert Jones [former head of the Film Council's Premiere Fund] who made us jump through all sorts of hoops, and we actually did everything he wanted, and he turned round after four months and said, 'It won't travel'." He pauses for effect. "And that was somebody who had just put money into Sex Lives of the Potato Men! The way in which we were treated was absolutely shocking. If I can misquote Shaw, 'Those who can, do, and those who can't become Robert Jones.' " His voice is deep, theatrical, camp, hints of Liverpudlian with a touch of Noël Coward.
"You're up against people who know nothing, who have done a media degree or, worst of all, have done the Robert McKee lectures."

Why is that worst of all? "Because they've done a great deal of damage. Who can turn round and say it's good to have a climax on page six? Who said so? Robert McKee, and his theories are based on Casablanca, which was being written as it was being shot. So you're up against that level of philistinism. It beggars belief."
Actually, he says, there is one sure way to get a film made in Britain today. "Now you'll get money to make a film if you're a television comedian because people think lots of people will go. A Cock and Bull Story, a postmodernist comedy! What's that when it's at home? Is it funny or is it not? When I've seen Steve Coogan on television he's about as funny as tertiary syphilis." Davies is enjoying the rant, getting carried away with his flow. "I think, why are people putting money into him? But unfortunately we are awash with people who are third-rate - Ricky Gervais, Peter Kay, not a scrap of talent between them. None of them."

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