Wednesday, 14 July 2010
Guy Ritchie, Holmes (2009)
Some film blogging this week; books back next week.
Now, for reasons to which I have previously adverted on this blog,* I rarely get to see grown-up movies during their first-run cinema outings. Hence the belatedness of my take on this, one of last year's box-office hits. This belatedness renders much of what I might otherwise say redundant, since other, better critics have previously covered most of the things I would otherwise have said here: Dan 'Hart to Hart' Hartland, for instance (a much more expert Holmesian than I) gets it pretty much right, I think.
I've only a couple of things to add to his meditations. Like him I enjoyed the film very much; but unlike him it struck me as less a midrash upon Conan Doyle's original than upon ... well, upon 1970s screen entertainment in general. For instance: the over-arching plot, and its intricate setting-up-and-demolishing of a putative supernatural narrative superstructure was much more Scooby Doo than Hound of the Baskervilles; its buddy-buddy relationship between Holmes and Watson more Starsky and Hutch than Tom and Jerry (not that Tom and Jerry, dumbkopf: this Tom and Jerry). Then watching Holmes going mano-a-mano with the gigantic French thug in the dockyard it clicked in my head. The Frenchman ... Jaws! Holmes ... Roger Moore's James Bond! This isn't Conan Doyle, it's The Holmes Who Loved Me; it's Holmesraker, For Your Holmes Only, Holmesopussy, A View to a Holmes. The film's commercial success is a testament to how large the audience still is for the fast-paced, weightless, witty, kitchy, high-camp adventures of Moore's Bond, something not catered for by the universal em-noir-ing of the action adventure mode (the Dark Knights and Bourneified Bonds of this, our 21st-century).
This in turn lead to another realisation: Jameson's cultural telescoping of history is an actual effect. For today's younger audience, the 1960s and 1970s are so far lost in the backward abysm of time that they're more or less Victorian. Or to be a little more precise: they're Victorian in a jazzed-up sense: Sergeant Pepper uniforms, Adam Adamant and so on. Ritchie's Holmes is quite a complicated culture-text, by this reading.
*Lily is eight now; Dan two-and-a-half. Thank you for asking.