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

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
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.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam