Why is the UK so lousy at cinema?

Amid all the gloom of the past few weeks, a nugget to warm my cockles: it turns out that the film Three and Out has been a massive flop.

For the past month, Londoners have had this film rammed down their throats via a mammoth advertising campaign and a faux controversy over Aslef condemning the film for promoting the idea of suicide by underground train. I can only wonder what Aslef got out of the deal as this gave the film a huge amount of free advertisng. The promoters responded by making the controversy a central part of their marketing, publishing ever increasingly bizarre adverts in the London press attempting to summarise the “debate” and screaming censorship every 30 seconds.

But as film promoters go, Aslef have nothing on the Catholic church and the film remained in the doldrums. Speaking personally, I was lost as soon as I saw my first poster, with an image that managed to evoke the twin horrors of Britpop-travesty Shooting Fish (with Gemma Arterton standing in for Kate Beckinsale before she discovered leather basques) and Sex Lives of the Potato Men.

But it does beg the question why the UK is so bad at making decent films. Our TV is of variable quality, but there is enough good stuff on the small screen to suggest we are not lacking in film-making talent. There appears to be a particular problem with lottery-funded projects, which all consistently have the same anonymous transatlantic quality – superficially British and “edgy” but played for safety and ease of access for US audiences. It has made celebrities out of no-marks like Guy Ritchie (even his one “good” film wasn’t actually very good) while ruining the careers of numerous talented individuals.

It does seem to me that whether you approve of subsidies or not, when they fail to lead to anything of either critical or public acclaim they should be reconsidered. Maybe we should try it the other way around, offering million pound prizes to the teams responsible for the most successful British film of the year? You might baulk at throwing public money at people who have already found success but how is using it to prop up a pile of hideous shite any better?

1 comment

  1. “I Want Candy” that came out last year was great fun. I recommend it.

    The problem with prize-based funding is that movies take a stack of money to make up-front, and no lender is going to lend hundreds of thousands of pounds out on a fractional chance of winning a million quid back. There are far safer investments!

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