Castaway 3 aka Amsterdamned United

April 18, 2009

I was off around London Town yesterday; a casting for a commercial. If you read my blog every now and then you may be familiar with how this goes for me. If not and you’d like to know, look here. This one was for a car commercial for Holland; to be filmed in Amsterdam. Great! It’d be like a mini holiday. For one day I could be a drug-taking sex tourist, who also nips into Anne Frank’s house.

I won’t get it. I had to wear a shirt and a tie and a jacket but not a suit. When I got there I was told I was an important man on his way to a meeting at the G20… yeah, that’s me. When the casting director commented on my long-haired slightly beardy look, I pointed out that the man who had gone in before me had a big beard. She told me it was because he is  appearing in a Russian play. I said I was writing one. She said “really?” I won’t get it.

So then I killed my day by wandering the streets, going to the pictures, going into cafes, pubs, and of course, the Trocadero. Still haunted, still a place of living ghosts and zombie kids. And Pasaje del Terror isn’t even open yet.

I saw my first film of the day in the Trocadero. Crank; High Voltage. This is the sequel to Crank, a film I haven’t seen. But I have seen Transporter 1 and 2, and here’s daft old me thinking the Crank ones would be more of the same. Well, in The Transporter films Jason Statham plays a man who says little and drives around a lot. He fights, he drives, he fights, he scowls, he drives, he fights… but there’s also a quiet, troubled side to him. And his best mate (if you can have mates in the existential world of fighting/driving/scowling movies) is a French cop who likes to cook. Oh, and all the ladies wander around in high heels and long coats, which they whip open to reveal guns in suspenders; you know the kind of thing. The Transporter films are half French half American, and somewhere along the way Luc Besson (Nikita, Leon, Angel-A) plays a part. They’re fun, sexy, violent, charming, action-packed (PeeWee), and, in a daft way that shouldn’t make sense in films where everyone dies the most brutal and imaginative death possible, their heart is in the right place.

In Crank; High Voltage, Jason Statham talks a lot and calls everyone a ****.

Still, it passed some time.

Though when I came out of the darkened cinema, to enter the darker Troc, it wasn’t even 2pm.

Good. Chance to get another film in at the pre-5pm cut price deal available to all those with nothing to do.

I wandered until 3.55pm. In and out of Fopp, in and out of a pub, in and out of a Japanese fast food place.

My second film was going to be either The Damned United or In the Loop. Well,  years ago I was offended by Armando Iannucci… Oh damn, I guess I can’t write that without going into it, and it’s all so absurd, and if he ever read this and saw it as a reason for not seeing his no doubt very funny and clever and good film, he would rightly think of me as a mad man, but I can’t help it. Things stick and eat away at my soul. Here goes… a crazy little story… true too…

Me and Trev walk through Soho. Outside a cafe sits Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci. We’ve never met Armando, but we’ve met Steve often enough to say hello. And so we say hello. To both of them, but we don’t know Armando and he doesn’t know us. This and that gets said, and Steve asks what we’ve been up to. We say we recently did a gig where we had a few thousand students swinging  their pants and Armando says “that’s how Hitler started.”

Now, no doubt Armando was just trying to be funny and friendly (as I was with my misfired “writing a Russian play” line earlier). But I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t say anything, the remark hung there in the air, and a moment or so later we said goodbye and walked away.

To this day I fester over Armando’s Hitler comment. And if you think I’m joking, ask Trev. Trev by the way, is much more easygoing. I like all of Armando’s work, particularly The Day Today, all the Alan Partridge stuff and Time Trumpet. But Hitler never made people swing their pants. Did he? Am I like Hitler? For years I’ve pondered and fretted over this. And now, if someone shouts “swing your pants” to me in the street, rather than smiling lamely I lose the plot and bellow at them “Who do you think I am? Bloody Hitler?”

So, I pick The Damned United. A film where one man lets a perceived insult fester year after year (did Don Revie snub Brain Clough… did Don Revie say “that’s how Hitler started?”) Heck, I’m so mad (as in crazy, not angry) that I’ve made myself the anti-hero Clough to Armando’s thuggish Revie.

Go and see The Damned United. Even if you don’t like football. Even if you didn’t like Red Riding (by the same writer, David Peace). In fact, all the more reason to go. The Damned United makes Red Riding look like a murky brown thing that’s damp and smelly and should be put at the very back of a cupboard you’ll never go back to. The Damned United crackles with style, wit and fervour from the beginning; an exterior shot of the walls of Derby County Football club, windows in the wall where a press conference is taking place. Outside, the weather is hell, rain pouring down. But the lighting comes from within. The lightning flashes are cameras going off, photographing Cloughie. There is a greater charge in this room than anything God up in his clouds could muster.

Go and see The Damned United. Even if you don’t like football. It’s not about football (well, it is, but you know…) Like Peter Morgan’s other films (The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon, The Deal, The Queen) it’s about battles and fights and love and, if not death, respect. Unlike the two way battles of Blair/Brown, Blair/Queen, Frost/Nixon, Idi Amin/Mr. Tumnus, this is a three way love/hate affair between Brian Clough, Peter Taylor and Don Revie. And even if Clough is sometimes what Jason Statham might call a ****, he’s a lovable one, and a forgivable one.

It’s a shame the Clough family are unhappy with this film. I can understand why, and if I was a member of the family I think I’d be furious with a film that takes great liberties with the truth about a dead relative. But I’m not. And if they can take any consolation, and I doubt they can, I came out of the film thinking of Brian Clough as a great and likeable man; a man who achieved great things. Sure, as hubristic as hell, but also a man who would get down on his knees and ask for forgiveness. Hubrism and humility; there’s a mix.

So, one more time, go and see The Damned United. If you do, I’ll go and see In the Loop.

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9 Responses to “Castaway 3 aka Amsterdamned United”

  1. Trevor Neal said

    Maybe I am more easy going – only because I can’t remember anything – I’d completely forgotten about that incident – well actually I can remember some things- like I can still remember that Hitler did a lot of bad things – which is a good thing to remember – well not a good thing exactly – maybe “useful” is the word. So I’m not easy going about that. But I can forgive Armando Iannucci. At least he said something funny. I probably just grinned like an idiot and mumbled something well meant but ultimately insulting – like I did when I met Simon Pegg.

  2. Simon Hickson said

    You can’t remember because it was so harrowing you have pushed it far far far back into your subconscious. Only Uri Geller would be able to get it out of you now.

    What did you say to Simon Pegg?

  3. Katie said

    Now I’ll never be happy until I know what Trev said to Simon Pegg.

  4. Edward Higgins said

    Good luck with the advert.

  5. Bruce said

    We’re currently pitching ideas to a client for a new business. The sales guy said they are going to try it out in Austria first and then go Pan European. “Just like the Nazis” I said. Unlike Armando (and fortunately for me) this went down very well.

    Pop by for a coffee when you’re next in Soho.

  6. Simon Hickson said

    Made me laugh out loud. And, in this case, it IS just like the Nazis!

  7. Barrie said

    Enjoyed the story sounds like a Curb your enthusiasm moment – Perhaps he was ‘borrowing’ a line from Arnold Brown who used to come on stage to applause and said ‘don’t clap, that’s how the Nazi’s started’.

  8. Simon Hickson said

    That’s a great line. Cheers Barrie. I now see Armando’s comment in a whole new light and thanks to your comment my grudge is lifted and I can begin to live my life again.

  9. Simon Hickson said

    Oh, I’ve had to think long and hard about this one. Well, for about 15 minutes.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Armando’s joke and Arnold Brown’s are not the same. Yes, Hitler and the Nazis are synonymous, but clapping and swinging your pants aren’t. Here’s why:

    Clapping is universal, swinging your pants is act-specific. Everyone claps everything; music, comedy, political speeches, award ceremonies. But no one would swing their pants at a Arcade Fire gig or a Chris Rock concert or a BNP rally. I hope.

    Clapping was invented in 1731, swinging your pants was invented in the 1990’s. Hitler would never have seen anyone swing their pants. Anyways, swinging your pants involves the use of both arms. It is physically impossible to swing your pants and sieg heil at the same time.

    It’s so troubling. I really have no option other than to reinstate the grudge. I wish I didn’t have to. I’ve enjoyed my fifteen minutes of peace and one-ness with the world, but now it is back to a life of ceaseless misery.

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