Tuesday, 4 November 2014


Alex Ross Perry excoriates the thin-skinned, thick-headed culture of literary intellectualism in Listen Up Philip, a biting exercise in critiquing from the inside out. He crafts a novelistic insight into a series of characters of serious self-importance as they themselves might have done, only with the wisdom do acknowledge the depth of said self-importance. It's neither the comedy - which is sharp enough not only to draw wry humour from natural sources but to draw sly, stinging barbs from the most unlikely sources - nor the candid hopelessness - which is, in fact, possibly too coarse, too cruel, too neatly misanthropic. What gives Listen Up Philip is distinctively piquant flavour is Perry's ability to ingratiate broad elements and finer ones into the one unique style, one of an individual quality yet defined by the expansive mix that has informed its creation. Perry derives most deliberately, but is able to admit to this practice and thus offer a commentary on it, the film serving as both essay and evaluation. That's a convenient quirk, certainly, though Perry utilises that convenience for optimum effect, folding it into his perfectly-formed mixture of comedic influences and formal intellectualism. He takes aim at himself, at his American indie filmmaking contemporaries, at the New York literary crowd, even at Listen Up Philip's audience. That misanthropy may alienate some, though it's probably actually best suited to those whom it may bruise the hardest - they'll get it hardest too. The cast is exemplary, most if not all leads have never yet been stronger. The jazz soundtrack is a fantastic irritant, though it's Listen Up Philip's most ambiguous aspect: I'm unsure whether its inclusion was in genuine earnest or in mock earnest, but I assumed it to be the latter and chuckled away accordingly.