Indecent exposure


On the flight home from London, I decided to watch films I probably wouldn’t watch with my wife. Perhaps unfortunately, they weren’t films any decent person would watch on a plane either.

First, I watched The Look Of Love, in which Steve Coogan plays Paul Raymond. It doesn’t end well, but that is a fact of history, rather than a plot twist. Early on, Coogan seems to be channelling Alan Partridge, and with a cast infested with British comedians, you might think it was going to be a farce. It turns out that tragedy is just comedy + time.

There are some great titles, and Imogen Poots does a wonderful job as Raymond’s daughter, Debbie. She plays the sort of person who’s entertaining to watch in a film, aggravating in life, and eventually doomed. But with a good accent. The film is filled with a certain nihilism, as the pornographic delights of Soho swirl around the plughole. There’s a definite sense that the clipjoints of the old days were preferable to the filth that’s come along since, and I think that might be viewing Soho through rose-tinted spectacles, even with the shadows across this story.

That’s fine, mind you, but the problem with watching this on a plane is that half the running time seems to be naked breasts, which made me feel a bit conspicuous. I hope everyone else was asleep, not glaring at the man watching porn on a transcontinental flight.

In the UK, obscene publications are woolily defined as things that a reasonable person would find shocking. I suppose if you told somebody that there were pictures of men doing terrible things to goats, I’d have thought they would have to be unreasonable to be shocked, but I’m not a lawyer and maybed forewarning somebody is not a defence. Quite probably, reasonable people on planes don’t expect nudity. They expect not-very-good food, swollen ankles and cramped seating arrangements.

And dogs ripping men apart? Perhaps Django Unchained was also an unwise choice of film. There’s lots of blood, lots of abuse of perfectly good woodwork tools, and what feels like a waste of Samuel Jackson. In previews his character had been built up to titanic importance, yet in the film he seemed rather small and constrained, a banal example of the banality of evil. Or perhaps he’d been adjusted to fit the constraints of the screen.

Jamie Foxx is good as a gunslinger, but unfortunately whenever I see him I think of his egotistical quarterback/pop star hybrid from the ludicrous Any Given Sunday, and the killer dentist feels like the centre of the film, a paternalist core for the others to revolve around. Perhaps that’s because he’s European and the Americans realise/guess/believe he has moral superiority. Or they’re scared of root canals. Leonardo DiCaprio has become good and evil in the 16 years since he was a fresh-faced urchin on the Titanic, and maybe I was boggle-eyed after all this flying, but I could swear I saw Quentin Tarantino attempting an Australian accent.

In Mississippi. How confusing.

Two films in, exhaustion made it feel as if I had a band of metal constricting my skull. Age will not wither me but air travel will. I slept, awoke, watched a disappointing episode of Red Dwarf almost drowned out by the constant laugh track, then attempted some restitution by watching Wreck It Ralph.

Second time around, the plot mechanics are more obvious and I found Sarah Silverman slightly more annoying, but I was still welling up in the final moments. Although come to think of it, a film where the hero crashes into something from a great height is perhaps even less suitable for in-flight entertainment than anything else that I watched.*

* I did watch Cloverfield as I descended on Taipei once: also a terrible idea, but I blame that on a cultural misunderstanding by China Airlines. Should I really hold BA to higher standards?

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