The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Sunday, June 26, 2005

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Maybe, the first 60 minutes of "The Girl in the Cafe" compensates, but the 30 minutes of the movie that I saw were so lazy, so dull, so ponderous, so obvious that, while the horror of its self satisfcation can't be compared responsibly to the horror of extreme poverty, I WISH IT COULD BE. Richard Curtis that a film maker who wants to be serious about poverty has to first be responsible about film making. Maria noticed that everyone in the movie acted as if they were acting. The temptation to fancy up lines as flat as "While people live on a dollar a day, that cow could fly around the world first class" must have proved irresistible. The actors looted whatever store-houses of character ticks and weird sentence rhythms they had been able to accumulate over their careers to humanise the dialogue, which wasn't actually dialogue. It was a list, with two parts: (admittedly vivid) statistics and slogans. The actors took turns reading from this list, and acted as if they were having a conversation. The slogans had a teeth-grinding contempt for the intellect. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," says the well-intentioned, but smug negotiator for Britain. "My father, who may not have been as well educated as you are, said that too much of it is dangerous too. Stops you from seeing the heart of the matter," replies the saintly girl.

You could make this film yourself, if you put on Love Actually, turned the sound off, and then programmed your computer to randomly select at 3-minute intervals from the weather report, Bob Geldof speeches, NPR, and a World Bank report.

This formal invention might have seemed avant-garde, were it not for sudden flashes of competence that reminded the viewer of what it's like when people making films actually care about what they're doing. Peter Cipaldi's outburst of fury and anger at Bill Nighy for bringing the embarassing girl in was appropriately frightening. Bill Nighy watching the Scottish girl undress through the blurry filter of a boutique hotel partition blended the girl's corporeal sexiness and her dream-like untouchability for the 60-year-old bureacrat.

But, as far as Richard Curtis's script, and David Yates's direction is concerned, making a competent movie was not the point of making the movie! They made this movie to save the poor. As a result, the movie's quality suffers. The audience suffers. And the poor go on suffering. The idea that you help the uneducated swine into learning about poverty by telling them that what they're watching is a romantic comedy shows a contempt for the audience that no work of art could ever recover from.

"Life is Beautiful" is no longer the worst movie ever about a horror. Apart from Roberto Benigni, none of us should be happy about this.