09 June 2006

Worms, Worms, Worms

Peter Ustinov as Frederick the Wise     Deciding late last night to occupy my noggin with some ostensibly intelligent flicks, I rented a triplet of movies:  Kingdom of Heaven, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Luther.  Have still to watch the first two, but the last was a pretty profound disappointment.  After hearing some glowing assessments of it, I had expected something much better.  The script, though not horrible, left much to be desired, and I think I am now officially sick of seeing Joseph Fiennes in every picture set in the sixteenth-century.  The real problem with the movie is its clumsy, in fact bloody awful, direction, which seems like it was done by an undergraduate with a keg party to go to.  Each scene feels like it's just filmed dialogue, and the narrative a crudely spliced-together summary of events.  (It was directed by a chap named Eric Till whose previous film was Red Green's Duct Tape Forever, which suggests something about Luther's editorial process.)  I'm not sure whether the movie feels more like a miniseries that had two hours hacked from it or a Coles Notes version of Luther's life, reduced to abbreviated bullet-points that are trundled out dutifully and dully.  Till doesn't seem at all interested in any of his characters, Luther included, with some of them presented as little more than guest-star cameos, like Alfred Molina's Johann Tetzel and Marco Hofschneider's Ulrich, their parts in the story picked up and dropped like potatoes off of a barbecue.  Everything about the movie seems cursory, and its ending has to be one of the most unsatisfactory endings I've seen in a very long time, so much so that it reminded me more than a little of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which at least had the virtue of being funnySadly, this was Peter Ustinov's final film, and he's okay as Frederick the Wise, but Till's ramshackle manner runs rough-shod over possibilities for giving the Prince-- or Luther, for that matter-- any dramatic gravitas.  Till, put simply, just doesn't seem to be even nominally interested in his characters or his story, and the result is a laboured and cliched precis of Luther's life, as riveting as a Wikipedia entry and just as inspired. 
     This reminds me, though, of Sir Peter's famous answer when he was asked what he would like to have on his tombstone.  It was a typical Sir Peter pearl:  "KEEP OFF THE GRASS."  Mine, I think, will read "Hey, you're standing on my fucking testicles!"

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