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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chris Morris' 'jihad comedy': a throwback to Ealing?

See full article (including clip from the film) at http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/jan/25/four-lions-chris-morris
Excerpt:


Halfway through Four Lions, Chris Morris's dark comedy about a hapless British gang of wannabe suicide bombers plotting death and destruction in London, one of the antiheroes, surveying the aftermath of an unscheduled encounter between a co-conspirator and a flock of sheep, screeches, "Is he a martyr or is he a Jalfrezi?" It's one of the movie's great lines, and as it floated above the heads of a largely American audience unfamiliar with the nomenclature of Indian cuisine, the thought dawned that it asks a pertinent question of the movie itself.
  1. Four Lions
  2. Production year: 2009
  3. Country: UK
  4. Directors: Chris Morris
  5. Cast: Kavyan Novak, Riz Ahmed
  6. More on this film
Morris's brilliant work on The Day Today, Brass Eye and Blue Jam set the bar vertiginously high and his first foray into movie writing and directing arrives saddled with expectations. The story – which follows a Sheffield-based gang as they train, bicker, strategise, bicker, bicker some more and finally set off to London on their dastardly mission – is by and large engaging, and occasionally very funny. But you get the sense that the demands of cinema, namely a longer run time and the need for a linear, conservative story structure, have coerced Morris into sacrificing his anarchic vision in favour of a curry of not entirely complementary flavours.
By turns Ealing comedy, tragedy, thriller, buddy movie and satire, Four Lions isn't well served by the tonal shifts, but is always watchable for the performances of Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay and Adeel Akhtar as the jihadis. Their internecine warfare brings the biggest laughs, and there is much fun to be had from the trademark Morris doggerel; bilious, surreal convoluted outpourings coated in invective that spill out in Urdu (the gang switches between Urdu and English).

If anyone gets a chance to see this, I'd be interested to hear what they thought about it (just add a comment below)

[UPDATE FEB 8TH: see the co-writers' festival diary as they take the film to Sundance looking to find a distribution deal: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/feb/06/four-lions-chris-morris-writers-sundance]
[UPDATE 15TH APRIL: feature on Chris Morris; excerpt: 'The most sustained impression to date of his character, as well as his working practices, comes in Lucian Randall's new biography of the satirist, Disgusting Bliss: The Brass Eye of Chris Morris. Randall didn't get to interview his subject – that willingness to engage is far from universal – but, thanks to the co-operation of Morris's colleagues and acquaintances, he builds a portrait of a determined, uncompromising artist; loyal, generous friend and boss; and occasional pain in the arse.
His work is structured around the key insight that the ever-increasing presence of the camera in both public and private life legitimises or even occasions behaviour that would otherwise be recognised as absurd or harmful. Work predicated on this notion is now central to mainstream comedy, from the faux-documentary style of The Office to the various provocations of Sacha Baron Cohen and the persona of Stephen Colbert. Morris has done more to identify and skewer this cultural shift than anyone else and deserves wider recognition – whether he wants it or not.']

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