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


Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders