TELEVISION / Paranoid? Who are you calling paranoid?
The subject matter, ostensibly, was the thriller and particularly that realm of the genre that deals in millenarian doom and conspiracy. The conceit was that the impulses which fuel such books, the uncertainty and paranoia, begin to leak over into the making of the film. This was the cue for surveillance imagery of Petit meeting his contributors, for dodgy camcorder footage of him talking to his commissioning editor about the project, for interminable dramatised sequences in which the director became involved in some inexplicable conspiracy.
Some of the ideas were good - the furtive, conspiratorial look to some of the shots, snatched through car windows or filmed distantly through plate glass, provided a nicely distressed frame for the interviews with writers like Michael Dibdin and Daniel Easterman. The locations for the interviews were just right too - a lobby like a Richard Long painting, airbrushed and spookily neutral, and anonymous hotel bedrooms. But it was a film suffocated by ideas, reminding you how easily the ambition to be different can muscle out the ambition to communicate. At one point Petit's young son picked up the camera for a couple of wobbly shots (including a long image of the director's shaving water going down the plughole), sequences which may have been a sly response to the traditional dismissal of experimental work ('My seven-year-old could do better than that') but were more likely just another undisciplined impulse. I was a bit paranoid myself by the end, speculating about a secretive group of old chums at the BBC, all letting each other get away with murder, but on reflection I think it was probably cock-up rather than conspiracy.
'Thriller' made an interesting companion piece to last night's Walk on the Wild Side (C4) about computer hackers. The series is a pretty straightforward shot at the youth market, but there were some startling stylistic echoes of Petit's film. Both programmes cropped faces into fragments, both made a point of conspicuous censorship of some contributions, both had fun with computer imagery. In Petit's case, these were affectations - when Francis Wheen was talking about real conspiracy theories, there was no particular legal reason for bleeping the names he uttered (which were obvious anyway) - it was a fake amplification of mystery.
In the case of 'Hackers', the circumspection was the real thing. The hackers who half-appeared couldn't show their faces because they are engaged in illegal activities and even the non-judgemental approach of this series (it's essentially careers advice for juvenile delinquents) faltered at the prospect of broadcasting a detailed description of how easy it is to commit credit-card fraud. 'I had too much to drink one night and thought I'd have a chat with the Queen,' said one, claiming that he'd discovered the Buckingham Palace direct lines.
Another showed how easy it was to rig up free phone-calls anywhere in the world. I could get all moralistic about this sort of activity, I suppose, but I'm frightened that if I do, someone will access my bank account and set up a huge monthly standing order to the Ulan Bator Zoo. Either that or give me a criminal record for parrot smuggling. So I'll just say that they all appeared to be young men of exceptional application and energy which might be better applied in charitable work. Call me paranoid if you like but you have to be careful.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
- 5 Naomi Wolf reacts to Isis 'conspiracy theories' critism after she questions whether beheading videos are real
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
Last Tango in Halifax, BBC1, review: Hooray for Halifax, where cosy familiarity and real surprises are perfectly in step
Game of Thrones is most-pirated TV show of 2014
Exodus: Gods and Kings banned in the UAE for 'religious mistakes'
Marilyn Manson breaks silence on Lana Del Rey rape clip: 'I wouldn't make a video of that nature'
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Douglas Carswell tells Ukip to stop blaming foreigners as youth poll shows Nigel Farage is even less popular than Nick Clegg