Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb….
Donald Clarke writes for The Irish Times about a strange anomaly in the reviews for The World’s End…
“The film has yet to open in the United States. So, virtually all the reviews currently on Rotten Tomatoes are from British publications. There does, thus, seem to be a fascinating divergence between the United Kingdom and Ireland. Actually, it’s more interesting than that. Note that one of the other three dissenters on Tomatoes writes for the Scotsman. So it’s actually a difference of opinion between the English and the other nations in “these islands” (as Sinn Fein used to say). At time of writing, the inestimable Nigel Andrews of the pink paper seems to be the only Englishman to resist the picture’s supposed charms. ”
Read the full article here.
The article holds an additional sub-title “Celtic critics seem to have no time for the last film in the Cornetto Trilogy. Their English colleagues can’t get enough. We’re puzzled”, which sets the scene for this week’s commentary as I can try and piece the puzzle together…
Born in Ireland, and raised in England, I love Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz (and, without the Horror film cult-obsession, I prefer the latter but fully appreciate the former’s ground-breaking Rom-Zom-Com uniqueness). I don’t see the celebration for Scott Pilgrim vs the World though – when I watched the film a second time, it all feels a little too self-congratulatory. As nods to Nintendo and Kung Fu appear throughout, we pat ourselves on the back for knowing the references. Almost a film directly made for the masses at Comic-Con, but not for me.
I have yet to see The World’s End of course, but it seems the love for Edgar Wright in England has managed to spill into a slight bias. Indeed, as Spain has Pedro Almodóvar, England has Edgar Wright. Cine-literate filmmakers who constantly turn to the history of cinema to openly portray their own interpretation of a story seem to be a definitive form of post-Tarantino filmmaking. Whether Sergio Leone inspires a West-Ireland buddy-cop comedy in The Guard or a silent film explains the rape of a carer in Talk to Her, the filmmakers wear their influences on their sleeve and make no apology for openly imitating (copying?) established filmmakers. Obviously, every film holds an influence from elsewhere – but these particular films could hand you a list of films alongside a viewing as you ‘tick’ off the films paid homage to. Night of the Living Dead? Tick! Bad Boys II? Tick! For a Few Dollars More? Tick!
Edgar Wright aspires to be amongst these filmmakers – indeed, it is what gives his films a little more flair, hopefully placing him alongside Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodóvar on that international platform. Unfortunately, as much as I adore his previous two films, they aren’t on the same level as Pulp Fiction or Bad Education. As a writer on cinema, I often read articles highlighting the amount of film blogs that are written by film fanboys rather than critics. The same could be applied to filmmakers. Edgar Wright, I would argue, is a fanboy filmmaker – in the best possible way of course, but a fanboy nevertheless. This is opposed to the artistry and subtlety of a filmmaker like Martin Scorsese who, although a fan of cinema, appreciates the history and almost academic education necessary to truly deliver films that have a scale and quality surpassing many others. In time, Quentin Tarantino – who seems to tip-toe between fan boy and film artist very carefully indeed – will sit alongside Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Edgar Wright, for better or worse, will remain alongside Kevin Smith and Guy Ritchie for the foreseeable future. I’d argue he is superior to Smith and Ritchie, but that is nevertheless the ‘group’ he would be placed alongside.
And this is where the Irish-English divide is bred from. England desperately wants a Tarantino – and Edgar Wright is who England has chosen. The Irish haven’t judged so quickly – and have no aspirations to idolize Edgar Wright – thus, creating a criticism which is at odds with the majority of English critics. While the English are proudly placing Edgar Wright on a pedestal – if only to ensure the positive press influences the UK-funded film when it is released in the US – the Irish have no such bias. It is a tough balance but I think the trendy Pegg, Frost and Wright combo has fallen out of favour 9 years after the initial buzz around Shaun of the Dead, and it is only the English critics who continue to wave the flag for the Cornetto Trilogy.