Mister Tumnus, I've a feeling we're not in Narnia any more
Think you know James McAvoy? Think again. His performance in Jon S. Baird's adaptation of Irving Welsh's Filth is astounding and there is nothing sweet or fluffy about it or any other aspect of the film. Filth is very funny, very wrong, very sordid and very likely to incite hatred from Daily Mail readers across the land. Sex, drugs, more sex, more drugs, violence, corruption, depravity, even more sex and drugs
Filth is absolutely, well, filthy, and is a memorable experience to say the least.
My companion for the screening, Bag, made two comments that stood out post-screening. The first I agree with entirely: "With the thousands of films I've seen over the years, this is the first one I've come out of wishing that I'd made it." The second, that it was a film to appreciate rather than enjoy, I'm going dispute. Call me debauched, immoral and twisted, but I enjoyed every last nanosecond of Filth.
But that's not to say it is always easy viewing. Far from it. Sometime after the midway point the laughs die down, the stomach churns a little more uneasily, the grimaces are more evident and the intakes of breath are more audible. We are less willing to forgive but, like the car crash up ahead that has caused all the drivers in front to rubber-neck, well, just one long look as we pass can't hurt, can it?
Bruce Robertson (McAvoy) is a bigot. He's bi-polar, a junkie, sex-obsessed, self-obsessed, manipulative and frequently thoroughly unpleasant. He's also a cop. With a promotion in the balance, Bruce is up against several colleagues and sets about turning one against the other, unsettling them with salacious gossip and blatant lies to ensure he beats them to the post. Throw in his manipulation of fellow freemason Bladesey (Eddie Marsan), his sultry wife, Carole (Shauna MacDonald) and his hallucinatory sessions with Doctor Rossi (Jim Broadbent) and you have one monumentally screwed up anti-hero. And what's not to love about that?
The Cohen brothers may have the monopoly on fantastic character names, but nobody writes actual characters like Welsh and the cast that Baird has poured into Filth is staggeringly good in their interpretation of this mess of freaks and misfits. There isn't a poor performance in the entire film from the uncertain laddishness of Ray (Jamie Bell) to the fantastic absurdity of Doctor Rossi. While none are bona fide Hollywood stars, the cast that glitters in a maniacal, dirty way is a treat beyond expectation: Imogen Poots, Shirley Henderson, Gary Lewis (yes, Billy Elliott and his dad are reunited at last!), John Sessions, Joanne Froggatt
Filth is a perfectly paced film; it roars ahead stirring emotions and judgment, exciting and thrilling as it trashes everything in its wake but it is never so fast that we feel left behind or that we've missed out on a juicy morsel of degeneracy. Sufficient time is allowed for us to filter through, as best we can, the quagmire that is Bruce's life, but Baird never pauses or permits us time to glance at our watch or neighbour.
The soundtrack, too, is bang on the money stamping though a musical landscape that is at times acceptably cheesy and more often a reminder of what to check is on the iPod. Where else can you effortlessly segue from David Soul into Shaking' Stevens? While the latter is consigned to audio wallpaper, the bizarrely fantastic cameo from David Soul is a delight. Had Dennis Potter snorted cocaine Pennies From Heaven might have resembled this.
Yes, there are elements of Welsh's novel that are missing (no police dogs here
) from Filth but there always have to be excisions for film adaptations and there's no reason, in this instance at least, to mark down a film for that. No, Filth is superb and as near to perfect as I've seen for many months (since Broken and Trance).
If the trailer excited you, take the plunge. If you're a nun, a granny, my mother, or lack a strong stomach and nurture your prudishness, take a very long, very fast walk in the direction of something much safer. Dixon of Dock Green this ain't!
If you look in the mirror and see something slightly off-kilter grinning back, however
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