Friday, 15 February 2013

A Film Review

There will be those of you who recall my old pal Vernon Thornycroft.  Still floundering in the depths of pedagogy, he got in touch the other day to send me an interesting article from his archives.  It relates to a film made by his amanuensis (and my friend) Simon Broad, which I recently had the chance to see and enjoy.  I understand the BFI is considering a limited-edition release: I hope it goes ahead - the film is worth £29.99 of anybody's money.

The review was written by the internationally-renowned film academic Raymond Dogdirt and appeared in a 1974 edition of the well-respected film magazine "Screen & Sound".

I thought you might like to read it.

A STAGGERING OPUS - “Let The Dog See The Rabbit”

“Peter’s our biggest headache - professionally speaking...”

This tour de force from emerging writer and director Simon Broad presumes from its audience a uneasy conversance with its complex plot. Yet it can. This is familiar ground - and it is to the ground, downwards, that we look as the story begins on the footways, steps, the very earth from which our spirits emanate: the symbolism of the extractor fan - from where does it extract? A sequence of textured down shots as a young man - Noël - searches for an entrance - but an entrance to where? The doorway - when he eventually finds it - will be a portal to what? A fulfilled promise? An encounter? Imprisonment? Or worse?

And why does Noël search for “Richard Hart” when it is Peter we need to discover?
Broad’s portrayal of torpor as his protagonists fabricate their irksome relationships is overwhelming. This our territory, but with them in charge.  It has never been so eerily uncomfortable.

London. And as a grey embankment drifts drearily away to Tomila’s Reverie, parallel themes emerges. Conspiratorial voices, dull administrators in lifeless offices, ponderous telephone calls, a Whitehall even Deighton would reject as moribund. The players take their time. It is the only weapon they have.

But Peter.  Where is he?  Where is this man with “lots of faces, for different occasions - self-centred to a frightening degree”?

Broad’s use of Rundgren’s ‘Initiation’ throughout the film is ironically apposite - for few here are being initiated. Collusion is rife: in their enclosed world they investigate potentially boundless realms, yet this is a film about entrapment and captivity. Any one is restrained by another. All are imprisoned within their own tortuous machinations. Even we, as audience, yearn for release. Yet we reject it.

Is that Peter? 

Is that him struggling silently through a post-coital cigarette with Roland? It could be. Sarah loves him. They all love him. Despite Peter's “naïve romanticism”, his “pseudo intellectual ramblings” and "brandishing a flowery pen”, they love him.  Why shouldn’t they?  Isn’t Peter the escape they - we - you - I - all covet? Where is he, anyway?

As an essay in entrapment, ‘Let The Dog See The Rabbit’ is faultless. Even a frenetic walk through the racing traffic of Aldgate or cruising past hydrofoils on the Thames leads no-one to escape. We are all ensnared in the same melancholy intrigue.

So is this “about peace and self-development alone"? Is it a world where "one makes one’s own rules”?  If so, how can it be? 

And where is Peter?

Broad’s captivating use of 1⁄2” monochrome videotape perfectly enregisters the gloomy environs of his libretto. Ugly camera angles, awkward pans and anomolous pacing position this film at the forefront of a British ‘nouvelle vague’ (and I put the accent on ‘vague’). The flow has started, it has yet to reach its crest. What will the denouement be? What will our denouement be? 

And what happened to Peter?

This magnificent work deserves your fullest attention.  It is a masterpiece.  Bravo, M. Broad!  

(It certainly beats all that bollocks I foist onto my General Studies students at St Martin's every Tuesday night...).

Raymond Dogdirt - Screen & Sound.    May 1974.

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