Rag Tale

Rag Tale


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The camera has Tourette's. After 15 minutes of fast zooms, sliced cuts, topsy pans and turvy close ups you want to be sick, or leave the cinema. Words like "pretentious" and "pulverised" tumble into the soup of what was once your critical judgement. If this is the sharp end of 21st century moviemaking, it looks more like a drug-induced pop video experiment faxed to the frontal lobes of a trend setting art school show-off.

After 40 minutes, you have eaten your words and are beginning to think this is an original and thrilling (Machiavellian?) piece of work, with an inspired improv script and terrific performances. Words like "frenetic," "edgy," "cynical" and "ruthless" kidnap your opinion. What began as mixed up ensemble storylines have become focused and clever. The camera is still refusing to stay still, but it's all right now, because it's only reflecting the dysfunctional mindset of these delusional journos.

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They call it a satire, but it doesn't feel like satire. It's too close to the bone. Exposing the rat-infested powerhouse of a national tabloid should be ripe for glorious exaggeration and monstrous villainy. And so it is, but not absolutely. These people have brains and some of them have feelings - not many, it's true - but to call them stereotypical Lunchtime O'Tooles would be squeezing the pip of credulity, which is what this is about, making stuff up, destroying reputations, being nasty in the national interest, writing lies to fit a specified agenda, playing politics like a hand of poker.

The editor is shagging the proprietor's wife. Everyone in the office knows about it; the secretaries listen in. When the waste matter hits the air conditioning, it's survival of the shittiest. Plots are hatched, schemes invented, loyalties shredded. You can't help marvelling at the depths to which these apparently intelligent, well-informed men will stoop. The gutter is so far above their heads, they can't see the light.

In addition to the brave cinematic approach to the visual look of the film (the critic has now turned full circle and is up his own arse), the acting is sublime, especially Rupert Graves as the editor, Jennifer Jason Leigh as the proprietor's wife and Ian Hart as an unscrupulous, cocaine-addicted paparazzi. The director is not a bum-fuzzed boy in short trousers, but the distinguished Irish writer/director Mary McGuckian.

Reviewed on: 21 Aug 2005
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Poisonous cynicism and manipulative scheming at the heart of a national tabloid.
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Ben Sillis **

Director: Mary McGuckian

Writer: Mary McGuckian and the cast

Starring: Rupert Graves, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ian Hart, Lucy Davis, John Sessions, Bill Paterson, Sara Stockbridge, Kerry Fox, Malcolm McDowell, Simon Callow, Cal Macaninch, David Hayman

Year: 2005

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


EIFF 2005

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