Monthly Archives: April 2016

Cuffs, Babylon and Assorted Brit Fare

I understand they can’t all be a ‘Downton Abbey’, ‘Broardchurch’, ‘Call the Midwife’ or ‘Doc Martin’ – sadly there’s just one more series of that latter gem to go. I understand that for the cost of one quality drama perhaps three or four reality/panel/quiz shows can be put to air – most of those being pure dross on the cheap. But, still, it’s somewhat deflating to have enjoyed the first season of a new series only to read, usually once you’re right into it, that the powers to be have deigned not to re-commission it for a second. ‘Cuffs’, recently shown on ABC, as well as ‘Babylon’, watched on DVD, were both subject to this indignity.

I doubt it will happen with these two offerings, but occasionally the clamour of public disappointment will cause a change of heart. This happened here in Oz with the excellent ‘A Place to Call Home’, picked up by Foxtel. In Britain, the fans refused to allow Michael Kitchen and Honeysuckle Weeks (love the name) to go away when last century’s second great conflict finished. ‘Foyle’s War’ was bought back to sort out matters when the Iron Curtain went up.

I would have thought both ‘Cuffs’ and ‘Babylon’ would be worthy of a second chance. They certainly right royally entertained my lovely lady and myself. Both contained lashings of action (‘Cuffs’ preference for police chases on foot rather that in automobiles was welcome), humour (very black in the case of Danny Boyle’s ‘Babylon’) and interesting back-stories involving the major characters of each.


It was hoped ‘Cuffs’ would become the new ‘The Bill’. Reportedly the cast were distraught at its axing – most would have to look for new work to keep the wolf from the door. It was set in the faded gloss and glitter of England’s equivalent to the Gold Coast, the poor luke-warm substitute that is Brighton. ‘Cuffs’ displays plenty of this city’s underbelly. ‘Babylon’ was, to my mind, the somewhat better offering. An American whizz-kid (Brit Marling) is brought in to run the public image of Scotland Yard. She’s all for change and transparency and is championed by the Commissioner (James Nesbitt). The actor is in much demand and presumably had to juggle this with his remarkable work in ‘The Missing’. He’ll be replaced by David Morrissey in the latter for the second round of episodes, but at least ‘The Missing’ is coming back. In ‘Babylon’, it’s ‘Game of Thrones’ style as the Commissioner doesn’t last the season. This in itself may have been a part-cause of its demise. The result, in any case = more actors out of work.


The demographic I am a denizen of, one of a certain age, love our fodder of the best of British on Auntie. Occasionally we’re outraged when favourite staples are purloined by the buying power of the commercial networks, only to have the flow of their story-lines completely buggered by mundane ads being shouted out at us. But now there’s a new player on the block as well, making the pickings for our ABC even slimmer. Foxtel’s BBC First has now the budget to get its hands on the newest product coming out of Pommy Land. At the time of writing, this pay channel was offering Le Carre’s ‘Night Manager’ (Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddlestone), ‘Capital’ (Toby and Gemma Jones), ‘Shetland’ (Anna Chancellor) and ‘Dickensian’ (Stephen Rea and Caroline Quentin) to its fortunate viewers. Sure, some of these will make their way to free-to-air later on and be released on DVD, but it’s the changing of the guard, isn’t it? I wonder how many of these will be renewed for another season?

After all, quality and the tastes of the great British (or Australian) public do not always go hand in hand. Pity that.

Mediterranean Idyll (Not)

The once sleepy island of Pantelleria is a fragment of Italy, lying between Sicily and Tunisia. Due to its proximity to the latter, these days it is a stepping off point for refugees from Africa in the quest for a new life. ‘A Bigger Splash’ is set at the time when a trickle had begun, but was yet to become the flood it is today.

Paul, played by Belgium’s pride, ‘Rust and Bone’s’ flavour of the month, Matthias Schoenaerts, has come to the island looking for a quiet break with older lover Marianne (Tilda Swinton). She is recovering from an op on her vocal chords. It is a tribute to the actress that the script gives her necessarily little to say, but she conveys all she needs to through overt facial expression, pantomime and some occasional hoarse whisperings. It is a stellar performance. You see the lady is a former rock goddess, a Bowiesque chameleon. In her pomp, she played to seething stadiums. Paul is not too happy when she receives a call from her ex-lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes), saying he is on his way and bringing a surprise to boot. He knows Harry’s form. He knows he still carries a candle for Marianne and that she hasn’t quite got him out of her system. He knows the island’s quietude will disappear as Harry is full-on. Past fifty, he still disports himself as if he was half that age, with all the accompanying indulgences. And he is a motor-mouth of the first order. Paul knows the patience he will need to get through Harry’s visit will have to be extreme.


The surprise turns out to be a young-ish lass who may, or may not be, Harry’s long lost daughter. She looks every bit of her supposed twenty-four years and the affection between daughter and dad, to put it mildly, seems somewhat unhealthy to all concerned. But Penelope’s eyes soon alight on Paul and you just know this girl, played by ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’s’ Dakota Johnson, has some mayhem in mind with people’s affections .

All four of the main players are required to get their kit off for this outing. Whilst the others are somewhat more circumspect, Fiennes wanders around starkers at the drop of a hat, so to speak. Swinton is far more mesmerising– that alien face of hers is really something and for me, watching her, is the film’s highlight. That and Fiennes’ Sir Mick Jagger parody. The Stones feature quite prominently in ‘A Bigger Splash,’ on several levels.

As it all goes belly-up for our quartet the offering does outstay its welcome somewhat. Paul and Harry have their inevitable squaring-off and for me, after all that was done with, well that was the place to tie it all together and roll the credits. But no, there’s an investigation to be done by the local police, with the inspector in charge plainly starstruck by a famous celebrity being involved. At this point it lost some of it’s attraction for this viewer.

bigger splash

Director Luca Guadagnino certainly knows how to ramp up the hedonistic inclinations of Harry and his back-in-the-day squeeze. And, on top of all the other inter-personal machinations, we discover there may have been a little something going on between Harry and Paul, once upon a time, as well. This movie is an enjoyable experience as it transforms itself from something of a romp into a tale with more bite to it. The sun-dappledness of the cinematography is an asset and I did appreciate a more engaging performance in this from Ralph F than in the lamentable ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ – although I am sure many would beg to disagree.

And how do we interpret the film’s title. Well that might not be quite as obvious as it seems.

 Trailer for the movie =