Absolute Beginners Review

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A musically based adaptation of Colin MacInnes’ novel about London life circa 1958. Low-level photographer Colin must climb the fashion tree pretty quickly if he’s going to keep the love of model Crepe Suzette whose affections tend to be career orientate


Now notorious for being a great big waste of British money, talent and time, this featherbrained musical-drama certainly never held back on ambition. Julian Temple, moving on from his video-director stroke punk chronicler role of the late 70s, attempts to attach a caustic edge to a grand slab of self-satisfied, over directed pop-nonsense.

Any film that attempts to out-flamboyance Orson Welles, by hanging on longer than Touch Of Evil’s fabled four minute opening tracking shot, is up to no good. From there on, the great lumbering, look-at-me style proceeds to dance all over the meagre mewling of the plot. The song and dance numbers are so overcooked they bleed into a mild form of bedlam— with the soul exception of Bowie’s snazzy title song (the best thing the movie give us). Temple, wrestling his way through a mightily troubled production, is trying to evoke the colour and energy that accompanied the emergence of teenage rebellion, but his cast haplessly flounder with the mock-street speak and cardboard ideas of youth and identity. And mixing in a pot-pourri of trendy faces does not credibility grant: Ray Davies, Mandy Rice-Davies, Edward Tudor-Pole and a glassy-eyed Bowie all look as if they’ve been sold a pup.

Little of it actually recalls MacInnes’ socially minded novel. That is until Temple, clearly struck by the very evident shallowness of his endeavours, decided to hastily paste on a race riot sequence at the end. It’s a forlorn attempt to fool us into thinking that this was anything more than just a ragged attempt to resurrect both the ailing British film industry and the dusty musical format. It failed on both counts.

A general disappointment, but then with David Bowie and Patsy Kensit what did you expect.