cries & whispers

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This week, a late-night tip-off sends me scurrying to the Prince Charles cinema just off Leicester Square for a cast and crew screening of Preaching to the Perverted, a "fetish farce" which, under a mesh of glamour and hilarity, examines the implications of the Spanner SM trial. And what do you know - it's not half bad.

As is usual on these occasions, the film-makers pop up to give a little spiel at the beginning: "Don't try anything you see here at home!" They're not kidding. Discussions with the censor have been stiffish: "We'd already filmed about five whippings when we were told the BBFC doesn't allow it." Unfortunately, the speeches are constantly interrupted by someone in the stalls shouting: "Never mind all that - show us your willy!"

The trouble with these screenings is that the extras - all exotically dressed - cheer wildly whenever they see themselves on screen. Despite such distractions, the film comes across as pretty slick, with an excellent cast. Tom Bell plays a brusque Northern MP, vaguely reminiscent of Dennis Skinner, who heads the fight against sleaze and dispatches a young God- fearing lad, Peter, into The House of Thwax to collect evidence of actual bodily harm.

Christien Anholt shows amazing dedication to his role as the virginal infiltrator, initiated by having his nipples pierced ... yeowch! Did he really ...? No, it's very strong glue, says an insider. Well, it's convincing. The scene where Peter and the dominatrix, Tanya Cheeks, played by Guinevere Turner of Go Fish fame, chain themselves together in an, ahem, intimate way, involves no "nipple-doubles".

The film (out in July) has some great lines, "Stop electrocuting Peter!" being my favourite, along with the immortal words bleated out by a trussed- up dead ringer for Joaqun Cortes: "Sorry, mistress, I promise not to interrupt your academic work again."

Bizarrely, when you get to the end you realise how terribly moral it's all been. There is no (non-consensual) violence, and the female star spends most of the time strenuously and successfully avoiding full sex with men. (Admittedly, this is on the eccentric grounds that nothing "vanilla", ie valued by straight society - penetration, shopping, wearing loose clothes - is permissible.) I don't think I fancy being a mistress. I like the tight clothes and having naked men do all your housework, but no shopping? Now that really is perverse.Like everything else these days, Preaching to the Perverted has a Fiennes link. The score is by wife-and-husband team Maya and Magnus Fiennes. He's the younger bro of The Famous One, but what's this? A novel called Subterfuge thumps on to the desk, with a hideous cover featuring Saddam Hussein. "Gerard is a member of the well known 'Fiennes family'," goes the blurb. A tale of political intrigue in the Middle East, it's rather good on executions, especially stoning. There are hostages, gunfire, general Islamic unpleasantness and a lot of sex, including a bout in a bathtub, with islands rising out of the sea and the probing of underwater caves. Well done, that Fiennes!

And here's a flyer for the show Oscar Meets Ella, 17 May at the Purcell Room: Maxine Daniels sings Ella Fitzgerald, Mike Hatchard narrates and tinkles as Oscar Peterson. But it's the biography of the bassist, Herbie Flowers, which raises the over- plucked Tante eyebrows. Flowers created possibly the most famous bassline in modern music, the one in "Walk on the Wild Side" which goes "Dum ... dum, dum... dum, dum" (just like every other bass riff, in fact). NB: Mr Flowers also wrote the 1970 Clive Dunn chart-topper, "Grandad". Respect! His place in the Rock Pantheon is secure.

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