On cinema

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Homage is a celluloid staple. The impulse might be tribute or it might be laziness, but either way it's impossible to imagine cinema without its sly references, compliments and outright, if interwoven, displays of reverence.

Look at Night of the Hunter and you'll see borrowings from DW Griffith. Look at Scorsese's remake of Cape Fear and you'll see borrowings from Night of the Hunter. Some even make a career of cloning. Look at the work of Brian de Palma and you'll see the work of Alfred Hitchcock: Phantom of the Paradise offers the Psycho shower scene, with a plunger instead of a knife. Dressed to Kill offers the same, only with a lift instead of a shower. Obsession reworks Vertigo, while The Untouchables breaks away from Hitch to plunder the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin.

This can have its charm, if it doesn't become a habit. Only it is a habit. Call them 'quilt movies' - movies that are blatant bits and pieces from other, usually superior, things. Sometimes this can have a point (Hammett's lifts from film noir illustrate the author's life). But Body Heat is merely a double of Double Indemnity. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is Chinatown married to every cartoon you ever saw: so what?

Now we have the homage as art form: the Coen brothers' The Hudsucker Proxy (above) assembles My Girl Friday, the Capra canon and. . .you have to stop counting. It's impossible to keep up. And maybe audiences don't care that there's no join between the dots. Some critics certainly don't. 'The most original film in years,' said one of The Hudsucker Proxy. Which is either very post-modern or being as lazy as the film itself.

(Photograph omitted)

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