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The Riot Club

The Riot Club film posterSynopsis

From Laura Wade’s play Posh based on the Oxford University Bullingdon Club of which Cameron and Osborne were members.  Miles (Max Irons) is initiated into this club.  He’s supposed to be the “decent” one and is in love with Lauren (Holliday Grainger) from a state school.  There is a dinner party in which things get a bit nasty.  Will there be consequences?

Review

Wade’s play has embarrassed those establishment figures connected to this sort of club.  Their behaviour oozes the smarm of social class entitlement, their intellects and egos feed at the trough where they can disdainfully whisk away the temptations of “noblesse oblige”.  It’s like watching Tom Brown’s Schooldays and the horrid Flashman, only here the bullying is more simple class snobbery.  We despise their oafishly spoilt behaviour.  They trash the grubby pub room where they are not served with the requisite finesse and they become poisonous oik baiters, loathing the poor and the low paid.  This disdainful attitude to the poor is only slightly exaggerated in the film, it is prevalent enough in the UK at the present time.  We know Miles is the decent one because he’s allowed the condescension of being nice to a northern working class girl who is, of course, decent and humane.  The Riot Club louts beat up the Scottish landlord of the pub and, guess what, the film was released in the week when the Scottish referendum took place.  Great timing!

Peel away all this obviousness, and for me, The Riot Club becomes a satire on our own double standards.  The Scottish landlord is servile to the club, are we supposed to sympathise with him in spite of this?  Then there is the club’s ploy of the intellect, before their tutors the boys adopt adversarial attitudes that serve to stimulate the intellect.  Riot shows that when the same intellectual play is translated into the outside world we’re supposed to condemn it, because the less educated can’t take the critical intellect?  Just because this critical thinking comes from spoilt brats?  Surely equality requires intellectual reciprocity.  Is being stolidly serious in the face of this critical mind supposed to be morally superior?  Riot satirizes our vicarious acceptance of such behaviour as entertaining, just as it’s a hard eyed look at middle England’s complacent compliance in greed and snobbery. Riot Club is the latest in a long line of films in which the banquet or meal is the centre of the drama.  Entertaining.

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Posted by on October 10, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Bel Ami

Bel Ami posterSynopsis

Set in the belle epoque of the Third Republic in the Paris of 1890.  Starring Robert Pattinson as Georges Duroy, an impoverished  ex-soldier who’s helped out by another soldier (Philip Glenister as Charles Forestier).  They go back to Algeria in the 1880s.   Forestier introduces Duroy to his wife, played by Uma Thurman as Madeleine, and she helps him achieve a reputation as a writer of essays.  Duroy then seduces Clotilde (Christine Ricci) and  Madame Rousset (Kristen Scott Thomas).  Duroy marries Madeleine after he and Madeleine accompany her husband dying of consumption.  Madeleine has a lover, Duroy and she divorce.  There are scandals about government ministers and the invasion of Morocco.  Duroy might marry the daughter of his enemy, Rousset, played by (Colm Meany).

Criticism

This is from a novel by Guy de Maupassant, I had to read him for French A level.  Maupassant wrote about peasants (often from Normandy) and how their lives of miserable poverty made them embittered, hardened, and mean minded survivors.  Duroy is no exception, he starts out as an impoverished gold digger and he’s quite ruthless about using sex as a means to power and money.  This is no morality tale about a wicked opportunist getting his comeuppance, he succeeds in his ambition for wealth and status.  His father lives in poverty and daily prays for paradise in this world, Duroy will not be such a martyr to delayed gratification, he has no illusions about what money and power do to people.

In the world of politics and culture Duroy is initially out of his depth and gets by through seducing the right woman.  The starchy suited masculine world of 1890s Paris is really run by clever women, Duroy is never in control of events, not even of his private life.  He is jealous and insecure and in his behaviour with fellow capitalists he is like a well varnished cockroach in an elegant jar with other cockroaches.  The fascination comes with seeing how he will fall from money and influence.  The film looks a little like costume drama TV episodes compressed into one film.  The acting can be pretty wooden, Thurman seems hilariously incapable of acting angry.  Kristin Scott Thomas is her usual dewy eyed, tightly buttoned vulnerability.  Pattinson himself seems all groomed surface with nothing much behind it.  The men are vile and the women are confined to the usual role of tempter, seduced respectability, hard headed manipulator, or bored wife.  Nice to look at but not too great to listen to.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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