Julien Temple's "Absolute Beginners"
December 12, 2011 7:55 PM   Subscribe

[Absolute Beginners] has a glossy immediacy, and you can feel the flash and determination that went into it. What you don't feel is the tormented romanticism that made English adolescents in the 70s swear by the novel the way American kids had earlier sworn by The Catcher in the Rye. - Pauline Kael

The musical numbers included Sade's "Killer Blow", David Bowie's "That's Motivation", Ray Davies' "Quiet Life", and Slim Gaillard's "Selling Out".

The famous opening shot is nowhere on the Web that I can find. But its flavor can be sampled in director Julien Temple's music video for Janet Jackson's "When I Think Of You".
posted by Trurl (15 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
FYI , the film is available to be streamed on Netflix.
posted by OHenryPacey at 8:09 PM on December 12, 2011

Wut? No mention of Tenpole Tudor? And there isn't even a decent clip of his scenes on the net.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:18 PM on December 12, 2011

This is the only Tenpole Tudor anybody needs
posted by Flashman at 8:47 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

No discussion of the film can leave out the Jam's Absolute Beginners, their 1981 song that was inspired by the novel but (seemingly inexplicably) was not featured in the movie five years later (though Weller's Style Council was, with Have You Ever Had it Blue, which was a different version of the song With Everything to Lose).
posted by scody at 8:49 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a good interview with Vincent Reid, beginning here (continues over a few subsequent records) - he was living in Noting Hill during the run-up to the riots and helped defend the community during the riots themselves. He mentions Colin MacInnes in this part.
posted by Abiezer at 9:17 PM on December 12, 2011

I had my scody alert all set up, but it turns out I was too late.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:21 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I taped this film off cable when I was an 80s teen, and watched it dozens of times. It's great to revisit it. I had no idea of the importance of the book.

I remember when I heard Miles Davis' "So What" for the first time, I recognized the melody from the film's closing number. And now I've just learned that Gil Evans, who gets partial writing credit for the tune, was the film's musical director.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:39 PM on December 12, 2011

Gah, this was the source of a gazillion in-jokes among my Bowie-crazed friends and me in high school, "Selling Out" especially.

How fucking fantastic does Bowie look in this film? Wow.
posted by mintcake! at 12:19 AM on December 13, 2011

The opening shot (coming after the Bowie theme tune, the highest point of mid-eighties Bowie, which might sound like damnation by faint praise, but it is a great, huge, sweeping Bowie Ballad and totally fabulous) did set one up for a much better film than the rest of it is. The problem is that Temple couldn't work out whether to make a film of MacInnes' Absolute Beginners, to do a Frank Tashlin tribute or a love-poem to Soho and it falls heavily between the three stools. As someone who's a big fan of the book (which captures better than anything else I've read the sense of turbulent demographic change, particularly in terms of race, that set the stage for everything in London and Britain since), enjoys Tashlin and loves Soho, I felt personally let down by it.

But the opening shot is wonderful.
posted by Grangousier at 12:46 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ha. I had no idea Angela Thirkell was Colin MacInnes's mother.
posted by pracowity at 1:28 AM on December 13, 2011

The novel is a mind-blower. Breezy language, sharp characters, an arms-wide-open ride around London, all the romanticism and anxiety of coming-of-age, and -- although you might not notice till your third or fourth read-through -- an ingenious structure. The kind of book that should be taught in writing courses.
posted by grounded at 2:40 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a teenager who had recently finished the Colin MacInnes book I can remember looking forward to - and then being pretty disappointed by the Julien Temple film. 25 years later the both Bowie's theme song and Ray Davie's scene with "Quiet Life" seem to have held out pretty well however. Also Patsy Kensit of course (her fame started quite a while before Absolute Beginners in fact).
posted by rongorongo at 6:23 AM on December 13, 2011

Somewhere inside me a very angry child will never, ever forgive this film for ensuring that season 3 (?) of Robin of Sherwood would never get made. The older me is mad that this launched Patsy Kensit on the world, so all round I am fixed to dislike it forever.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 11:40 AM on December 13, 2011

MacInnes's books are hard to find in the US, but they're all wonderful. I have no interest in the Temple film; the real filmic milieu of the books is the British "kitchen-sink realism" of the time, and some of the idiosyncratic stuff that came after, like Karel Reisz's "Morgan" or the films of Ken Loach and later Mike Leigh. He was unusual for the time in writing about the black West Indian experience in London; "City of Spades" is terrific, as is "Mr. Love and Justice" and "All Day Saturday".
posted by Fnarf at 11:50 AM on December 13, 2011

BTW, I saw this movie during its premiere week in a theater in Hollywood. This film is BIG BIG BIG on the big screen, it was not made for the small screen. And alas, this is exactly the sort of film that will never be seen in a theater again, not even in art house cinemas.

My friend brought her grandmother to see it with us in the theater. The movie upset her grandma seriously, especially the riot scenes, I could see her shaking and crying. We asked if we should leave, but grandma insisted on staying through the movie.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:52 PM on December 13, 2011

« Older Your No. 2 favorite Christmas tradition   |   Bibliographia Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments