Wednesday, 1 October 2008

In The Crap

There’s an article here by Toby Young that essentially talks about this:

As a reviewer, I always accepted that film is a collaborative medium, but until I started spending time with film-makers I had no idea just how true that is. It is most obvious when it comes to the screenplay. It is fairly well known that the officially credited writers of a film are rarely, if ever, the only authors of the shooting script, but I was still shocked when a famous screenwriter confided he'd been Oscar-nominated for a film he hadn't written a single word of...

I now realise that describing someone as the "director" - or "screenwriter" or "producer" - is completely misleading, in that there are no clearly circumscribed areas of responsibility on a film set. Those official titles are, at best, starting points, guideposts that sometimes point you in the right direction, but equally often lead you astray.

Slogging my way through In The Cut, a single question became immediately apparent: if film truly is a collaborative process as Mister Young states in his article (and I’m not suggesting for a second that it isn’t), then how on earth does something like In The Cut limp its way onto celluloid? Didn’t anyone involved with the making of this film have the presence of mind to say, “Uh, Jane, sweetie – that film you’ve directed? It’s utter guff.” Perhaps everyone was intimidated by the Oscar that Ms Campion no doubt takes everywhere with her, but even so, that’s not really an excuse. If you believe Toby Young, then a film can be made or destroyed in the edit. With that in mind, just imagine the raw material that the editor Alexandre de Francheschi had to work with – it doesn’t really bear thinking about it.

Just what makes In The Cut so toe curlingly bad? Talking about film as a collaborative process is all very well, but if you’re going to start with a script that’s essentially rubbish, then no amount of blood, nudity, swearing and pretentiousness is going to help you. The protagonist Frannie is as drearily passive as a wet weekday morning, where the male characters veer between being either cardboard cut outs or gross stereotypes. Campion can sprinkle the finished product with as many moody atmospherics and pretentious asides as she likes, but she can’t disguise the clunky, paint-by-numbers plot that telegraphs its ending a good hour before it occurs. In other words, you can’t make a skyscraper out of housebricks – and the building that In The Cut most closely resembles is a brick outhouse.

Perhaps the fact that Meg Ryan takes her clothes off might divert attention from the mound of rubbishness clunking about on screen?

Er, nope.

As above, the one thing that constantly staggers me with films such as this is that it has taken a small army of professional, intelligent people with an Oscar winning director (supposedly) at the helm to get the thing made. So why is it so bad? There has to a reason: too many cooks? Or not enough? Maybe there weren’t enough suits involved (Toby Young’s criteria for getting a half decent film made)? Who knows? And more to the point, who cares? All I know is that some collaborations work and others don’t – and you can safely put In The Cut in the latter column.

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