Last night I saw Watchmen at the London Imax. The film is, of course, pure spectacle and if you’re going to see it in the UK, then don’t bother unless you’re going to the Imax, the largest screen in the country. The movie is way too long but its over-financing means there are plenty of really expensive shots that look good if you’re watching on a big enough screen. However, enough of that, what about so called ‘quality” film these days?
The flick that won a shed load of awards recently was Man On Wire, a documentary about Philippe Petit, who pulled high-wire stunts culminating in an illegal walk between the New York Twin Towers in 1974. The stunts Petit engineered required elaborate preparation and this is used to give Man On Wire the feel of a caper movie but one tailored to middle-brow tastes. The archive footage of Petit is mesmerising but the re-enactments of those parts of his story not filmed at the time are a TV-style snore fest. Worse yet is the dreadful music ranging from Eric Satie via Michael Nyman to early Fleetwood Mac, all deployed in a really clumsy and intrusive way.
The soundtrack is used to reassure catatonic middle-brow viewers that they are watching something supposedly imbued with ‘artistic purpose’. The resultant bollocks may convince the dim-witted their tastes are superior to those of your average street gawker, but the critical judgements of anyone who falls for a gambit of this type cannot be taken seriously. As a documentary Man On Wire would have been much better either as sleazy exploitation or something that was genuinely high-brow. If director James Marsh had shown some taste and used the tune Tightrope by Inez and Charlie Foxx instead of the truly awful Albertross by Fleetwood Mac, and tracks like Ho Ho Rock & Roll by Pete Roberts instead of Nyman and Satie, his movie wouldn’t suck quite so much; his cack-handed attempts to use music to signify ‘gravatus’ really infuriated me.
I rarely like movies that win awards, and Man On Wire is simply yet more mediocre fluff that the culture industry wants to hype up through its hierarchical prize system.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!