Sun, Sand and Scuzz

A Marriage of Reason and Squalor Sky Arts © Justin Downing For Sky Arts 2015

A Marriage of Reason and Squalor
Sky Arts
© Justin Downing For Sky Arts 2015

Edinburgh International Film Festival is upon us (pictured)! Or almost — the opening gala is tonight, but the press screenings began on Monday and I am scurrying to catch up before the event has even opened.

I feel I should have an Edinburgh-themed banner, but haven’t gotten around to that either. I was thinking of photoshopping Greyfriars Bobby into the TRAINSPOTTING toilet, or showing a woad-daubed Adrienne Corri torching Sean Connery in a Wicker Man fashioned in the likeness of Alastair Sim.

We took a punt on THE MARRIAGE OF REASON AND SQUALOR, the debut feature from Jake Chapman, one half of the Chapman Brothers art-making entity, although getting in proved tricky when neither one of us could remember the title.

“That was exactly what I would expect him to have made,” Fiona said afterwards.

“As meaningless as its title. Although there was a marriage.”

“And squalor.”

“But no reason.”

The film is sometimes icky, as you’d expect from the guy who assembled child mannequins with sex organs for faces, and indeed from the brother of the other guy who did the same thing. It’s also sometimes funny, I have to admit. There is apparently a shorter TV edit, and that seemed like it would work better — the film’s more interesting ideas are overextended at feature-length. As a grotesque parody of Mills & Boon-style Gothic romantic paperbacks, it begs the questions Why Do That Now? and Do You Think That’s Edgy?

A very good perf from Sophie Kennedy Clarke, traveling to the beautiful but smelly island of Morass to marry her consulting surgeon Rhys Ifans, helps anchor the thing in some toehold of reality. The island itself is a mix of modest sets, un-sunny British locations, and CGI. It never achieves the stylistic wholeness of Stroheim’s Sternberg’s wholly artificial ANATAHAN. There are some terrific bits of percussive editing in the more experimental scenes, and lame editing in the dramatic ones.

I couldn’t quite work out why Chapman felt himself qualified to write this as a novel, and to direct it as a film/TV show, but needed Brock Norman Brock, he of the comedy name, to write the adaptation. “Maybe he’s not qualified to write a script?” Fiona speculated. “He’s not qualified to write a book or direct a film, but that didn’t stop him.”

I can be cruel, as Fiona will tell you. Actually, I’m kind of glad something as peculiar as this can get made, even if for basically silly reasons. (“He’s an artist! Give him a camera and he can be an artist with a camera!”)

Looking seriously forward to THE LEGEND OF BARNEY THOMPSON opening the Fest tonight, and to the press showing of Bogdanovich’s SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY earlier in the day. Also industry screening of THE CHAMBERMAID LYNN, which goes before the public on Friday — that’s one of the few I’ve already seen, because I got to write the catalogue copy — I’ll quote you a bit later. It’s lovely.

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5 Responses to “Sun, Sand and Scuzz”

  1. Quick niggle, Sternberg, not Stroheim.

  2. He also wrote a Mills and Boon parody novel with the same title. The heroine is named Chlamydia. I saw a signed copy going for £2 in a charity shop the other day, so it obviously wasn’t a commercial success.

  3. Whoops! Never post until you’ve read to the end!

  4. Chlamydia Love, who is thinking of marrying Dr Herz, which will make her name even more thigh-slappingly hilarious, won’t it?

    Thanks, Harry. Von trouble.

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