Review: Absolute Beginners
Blu-ray: Absolute Beginners (1986)
1958 Britain; teenage photographer Colin (Eddie O’Connell) falls in love with aspiring fashion designer Crepe Suzette (Patsy Kensit) but she’s only interested in her career. Boy loses girl to rich (possibly gay) man (James Fox), race riots and full blown Hollywood dancing ensue.
In 1986 the last film 21 year old me would want to see at the cinema was THIS. Glossy, singing, Patsy (Patsy?) Kensit… UGH. No, I was all about Derek Jarman and Alex Cox (Okay AND Jim Henson). I must have seen this film on video or even on TV, and obviously it made no impression on me. It’s the kind of candyfloss that I wouldn’t even TRY, so sitting down to watch and review this could have been torture, but instead I found a, dare I say, fun film, with great dancing and songs, engaging acting (yes really, Patsy is wonderful) and although the ingrained ‘race and racism’ subplot is anything but subtle, at least it hits it head on. I haven’t read the source novel and it seems that it’s a lot less ‘musical’ than this film and perhaps only bits of the novel are used (racial tension, Crepe’s marriage) and the truly interesting stuff (prostitution, racial violence, the fact that Crepe is a ‘promiscuous negrophile’ are left out).
Director JulienTemple seems to have produced a completely eclectic musical that looks as though it has been produced from the left overs of a Cliff Richard musical of the 50s (big sets and plenty of performers) but with camp creaky choreography from The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s David Toguri. The tunes that fill the film are from the previous three decades of British musical talent (pre-1980s). Among the composers and performers were Jerry Dammers, Nick Lowe, Sade, The Style Council, Eighth Wonder (with Patsy Kensit) and, of course, David Bowie, all with new material. And how could I NOT mention the great David Bowie? (well actually I didn’t in my original draft and got told off for it – I will definitley get a good shouting at for ignoring Lionel Blair). Here we have a little oddball cameo from the great man and it is, as always, very watchable. He does a bit of singing, a bit of almost robotic dancing up and down a typewriter and his hair looks terrible. It’s no Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Man Who Fell to Earth OR Labyrinth, so don’t get too excited. He did however, score a Number 1 single from the movie.
Second Sight have produced a glorious vision, the picture literally ZINGS out, the unreal, ultra lush colours really benefit from this new Blu-ray release. Second Sight have also produced a new and entertaining (key word there – as a lot of Blu-ray extras are incredibly boring) documentary on the making of the film, including stars (no Patsy, damn her), Director and producer who give a great background into the difficulties of making the film especially as they were up against 2 other ‘Blockbusters’ from the same studio that were on the road to failure.
So for me, Absolute Beginners was a pleasant surprise.
The 30th Anniversary Blu-ray of Absolute Beginners from Second Sight will be available to buy from July 25th 2016.