February 6th, 2012

The Cricklewood Greats

Parody is really hard to get right.  What you're aiming for is the smile of recognition. A good parody clings so close to its original that the unforewarned may be fooled into thinking it's the real thing. Good parodies are only ever moderately funny.  Go for the belly laugh, the knowing wink, the gag, and you risk breaking the gauzy illusion. Spinal Tap- perhaps the greatest of all movie parodies- is spoiled for me by the exploding drummers. 

The Cricklewood Greats is about as good as it ever gets. Capaldi and his team understand the grammar of the kind of reverential, fan-based documentary they've decided to take apart. They keep their faces straight, they stay in character.  There are flaws, of course.  The focus wobbles a bit. The British film industry never had a Melies or a Charlie Chaplin and it was a mis-step to include them in a mickey-take of British film (even though the pastiches are beautifully done).  With Jonny Puff  they seem to be trying to get at The Archers and Grierson all in one go- and the two are oil and water. But the slaps at Gracie Fields, Peter Cushing and Kenneth Williams are accurate and sufficiently cruel- and there's a delightful sequence in which Terry Gilliam enthusiastically rubbishes himself.  

Successful parody comes out of affection, but needs to be merciless- else it would turn to mush. It doesn't kill the thing it loves. It shows us how tawdry and absurd it is, but goes on loving it anyway.


100 random Britishers talk about Britishness. I've read them all.

If I'd been interviewed I'd have said something like this:

I was born in London, grew up in the South East and have spent the larger part of my life in Greater Manchester.  I feel English but call myself British, the one being an identity of the heart, the other of the head.  As far as I know (which isn't much) I have no roots in any other country.  I like living on a multi-ethnic street. I think the Union as it stands is a good idea- and I'd prefer the Scots to stick around.   Somewhere down the line I also think of myself as European.