The worst kind of whinge

also showing SWIMMING WITH SHARKS George Huang (15) NADJA Michael Almereyda (15 ) NORTH BY NORTHWEST Alfred Hitchcock (PG)

There have been few relationships as torrid and incestuous as the one that the movie industry has conducted with itself. Watching Sunset Boulevard and Barton Fink is like listening to a dear friend deride the lover that you suspect they just can't live without. Swimming with Sharks follows in this tradition (and has a macabre tinge left over from another Hollywood satire, The Player).

It's about Guy (Frank Whaley), a film school graduate who's got his foot in the industry door as an assistant to senior executive Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey). Spacey makes mountains of money and ritually humiliates Whaley. It's debatable which one he takes the most satisfaction in. His glee is palpable in some crisply demeaning insults - "My bath mat means more to me than you do," he blurts. Their relationship is warped, but strangely warm. "You could have walked out whenever you wanted," he tells Guy later when the tables have been turned and the slave has bound his master to a chair, inflicting bizarrely appropriate tortures on him (like paper-cuts, the curse of the office junior). It's a classic sado-masochistic relationship, born out by the kink in the climax, which finds Guy revealing an unexpected loyalty to the man who has crushed his spirit.

Swimming with Sharks is the worst kind of whinge, and after 100 minutes of its damned self-righteousness, you know how Guy feels (only it's the snooty writer-director George Huang who should be tied to a chair and tortured). Movie nerds and withered old critics will adore it, because of the scene where Whaley despairs of his pals, who only know Shelley Winters from The Poseidon Adventure. The joke negates itself, and incriminates Huang; doesn't he have a life outside the movies, you wonder?

Clearly not. His characters are ciphers, except for Benicio del Toro, who has a dapper cameo as Whaley's predecessor; and Spacey, who triumphs because he wields sarcasm the way other people wield machetes. Oh, and because he's the finest, most vibrant American actor around. The role isn't worthy of him - he has no room for manoeuvre - but he lends Buddy a complexity that isn't in the screenplay. With his iron will and perishing wit, Spacey always retains the upper hand, even when he's covered in purple sores and tabasco sauce.

The film fails on every technical level, too. No wonder Huang is so miffed at Hollywood - until he brushes up on pacing a picture, and composing and blocking scenes, and sustaining suspense, he'll be lucky not to spend the rest of his days parking cars there. And rightly so - his elitist attitude is contemptible. He establishes a spurious battle between independent cinema and Hollywood, wherein only one can be victorious. That's a terribly naive attitude. Hollywood is perfectly capable of producing masterpieces - ET, say, or The Godfather Part II, or Speed. Equally, the independent sector is not above botch jobs - like a certain Swimming with Sharks, for instance.

But not Nadja, an arch black-and-white comedy about vampires in New York (imagine Dracula re-written by Tama Janowitz). Elina Lowensohn and Jared Harris play vampire twins who get the frighteners put on them when Dr Van Helsing (Peter Fonda) hammers a stake into their father's heart. The writer-director Michael Almereyda treats vampirism the way Terry Gilliam approaches time-travel in the forthcoming Twelve Monkeys: as a metaphor for 20th-century chaos and malaise. It works, too - even at its most metaphysical, it remains dryly funny, and the pixelvision sections (shot on a foggy Fisher Price toy camera) are hallucinatory. Artery-licking good.

Just time to direct you to the pristine new print of the cruel and cunning North by Northwest. Cary Grant gets hounded by a crop-dusting plane ("dustin' where there ain't no crops"), Eva Marie Saint turns lighting a match into an act of thrilling sensuality, and Hitchcock is on his most wicked behaviour.

n All films are on release from tomorrow

RYAN GILBEY

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn