Tuesday, 23 September 2014

REVIEW - THE RIOT CLUB (LONE SCHERFIG)


Would that the powers that be could realise what a talent Lone Scherfig is. The power and the potency of her direction is detectable only upon closest examination, the layers of gloss she allows to form over her technique just commercial window-dressing. She lends each scene a distinct sense of place and, crucially, of urgency, but refuses to allow her touch to be as keenly tangible. Projects like The Riot Club, Laura Wade's toothless adaptation of her play, are beneath her. Wade's screenplay is pretty basic, establishing its hollow theme of the contemporary class system in simplistic soundbites, and swiftly abandoning it in pursuit of fruitless examinations of its individual characters. What intellectual value and what relevance the film has in its central stretch is largely lost as the film draws to a close, feebly reiterating points made earlier, most unsatisfactorily tying off would-be plot threads. With nowhere left to go, The Riot Club peters out, already seemingly finished with serving as social allegory, and now more occupied with itself than the world beyond its runtime. There are plentiful scenes, however, of quiet inspiration, all of them disguised as standard conventionality by Scherfig, subversively clandestine in her approach. See how she engages you in scenes that may have seemed questionably rote on paper, yet bristle with a tense energy in her hands - how smart to encode subtext as principal text. Note how she draws attention to the significance of the film's thematic content in relation to the history and the future of the culture it references, rather than the immediate present. And wince, squirm or revel in how she indicts us all in the moral toxicity of these characters' behaviour; then try not to feel too deflated as the film offers us straightforward exit strategies, get-out-of-jail-free clauses. Would that she could have been afforded an opportunity to let the sting of this film's strongest stretches linger on.