Monday, July 27, 2015
ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS reviewed
Now we come to the first of the "buts." When David Bowie turns up, about halfway through the picture, he provides a welcome distraction from the piling disappointment - and also something of an unwelcome relief map, pointing out to us that the two leads (Eddie O'Connell and Patsy Kensit) really aren't all that good-looking or interesting. Looking like the proverbial Man of Bronze, Bowie's small part in the film includes the most inspired filmmaking in the picture, a musical number that shows what a marvelous addition he would have been to MGM in its heyday; you can't look away from him and he moves with both grace, style and imperative. (Alas, the spoken side of his performance gives no hint of the fine actor he could be under other circumstances.) There is also a nightclub scene with a performance by Sade that is very enticing. These are a far and happier cry from an elaborate yet embarrassingly bad number featuring The Kinks' Ray Davies, staged inside a bisected rooming house set constructed à la THE LADIES' MAN. Davies plays the henpecked father of our hero, and if the point of the number was to show us what O'Connell was hoping to get away from... well, after a couple of minutes, we share his feelings.
Temple also includes allusions to his GREAT ROCK & ROLL SWINDLE universe with appearances by Tenpole Tudor and Irene Handl, and to Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg's PERFORMANCE (an infinitely greater film about London) with appearances by James Fox and Johnny Shannon. There's even a point in the Bowie number that seems to allude directly to that film's show-stopping number "Memo From Turner."
As for the other "buts," let's go back to that "aggressively visual." Home entertainment systems have been around for awhile now, so the expression has gone somewhat out of fashion in terms of reviewing new product - that said, this is a pretty solid "demonstration disc." If you want to show off your video set-up, the early extended take number - or the Bowie number - spilling out of your speakers in 5.1 DTS will serve very nicely.
Also, take note that this is a Twilight Time release, so this is a limited edition Blu-ray with an isolated music track. This sort of feature is usually of appeal to soundtrack collectors, but this one offers a much broader musical spectrum, so that it's probably of greater interest as a musical release than as a film. Its soundtrack encompasses not only Bowie, Ray Davies and Sade but The Style Council, and the entire soundtrack was arranged and conducted by jazz great Gil Evans, who includes a vocal version of Miles Davis' "So What" as a climactic surprise. With the movie playable in 5.1 or 2.0 DTS-HD MA, this disc sounds better than any soundtrack album of this material, and the isolated tracks are exclusive to this release. Therefore, as Twilight Time releases go, ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS has unusual provenance and collectability. If you want it, move fast - limited to 3,000 copies.
Posted by Tim Lucas at Monday, July 27, 2015