• David Parkinson

Parky At the Pictures (29/10/2021)

(Reviews of The Football Monologues; The Nowhere Inn; We Need to Do Something; The Rescue; and Quant)


Even though something approaching normality has returned, not everyone is keen on sitting in cinemas, whether they've been vaccinated or not.


Consequently, the streaming platforms are continuing to show new releases, albeit in smaller numbers, as the distributors seek to return to single ticketing after a prolonged period of all in for the price of one. In addition to subscription sites like Curzon Home Cinema. MUBI, Netflix and the BFI Player, the likes of iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Sky Store, Virgin, Microsoft, Vimeo, Google Play, Rakuten, BT and Playstation will be staying open for business. Whatever choice you make, stay safe. Remember, Covid's not gone away yet!


THE FOOTBALL MONOLOGUES.


When it comes to the beautiful game, Greg Cruttwell should know his stuff. The actor founded Balham Blazers FC in 2001 and he has since steered the senior team to considerable success in his role as chairman, director of football and manager. Moreover, he co-devised the TV show, Football Genius, although those with longer memories will know that this is really little more than a rejig of the old BBC series, Quiz Ball (1966-72). Consequently, Cruttwell is perfectly placed to write and direct The Football Monologues, which adopts an Alan Bennettesque approach to playing, coaching, administrating and following the national pastime from the grassroots up.


Divided into three segments dotted across the piece, each vignette is delivered to camera in a relatively confined space in a confidentially chatty manner. The format is necessarily constrictictive, although more opened out than the obviously influential BBC Talking Heads episodes.


First up is Frank (Brian Bovell), a cab driver who had played and managed in the lower leagues before becoming a scout. He reels off the names of the talent-spotters he's known in and around London before lamenting the fact that the kids of today have no respect for their elders. For all his disillusion, however, he still cares and is genuinely moved by the story of the teenage Portuguese prospect who went off the rails after his younger brother proved more talented and broke into the Arsenal first team.


His passion for the game contrasts with the half-hearted manner in which Lucy (Siobhan Bevan) packs a bag ahead of a team tour. She started as the only girl in a boys XI coached by her father, but lost interest when playing set her apart from her mates. At university, however, she has rediscovered the game, even though she readily admits it's more about the social side than the sport because she can't rouse herself to work hard enough on the pitch to fulfil her potential. For all her ladettishness, however, Lucy is struggling to get over the fact that her mother has found a new chap and that her father can't resist baiting him as a glory-seeker because he supports Liverpool without having a geographical or family connection to the club.


Domestic issues also prove a distraction to Colin (Mark Hadfield), as he prepares to referee a park match. A mild-mannered man who can't understand why players and spectators get so agitated during games, he regards the green sward as a kingdom over which he wields supreme power for 90 minutes at a time. Away from the field, he's more ineffectual and winds up in a neck brace after trying to intervene in a dispute between his wife Elaine's sister and her abusive husband. But he's pained more by the loss of a longtime colleague, who has gone to officiate `in the Heavenwide League'.


While Colin is lost in his wistful memories, everything about football feels excitingly new to Amelia (Candida Gubbins), a middle-aged single mum who has become a Dulwich Hamlet supporter through her new relationship with Dom. Initially, she had gone to games to reinforce the bond, but she had quickly become hooked and now looks forward to the pre-match burger and the banter with another die-hard couple. She disapproves of those who go to Champion Hill while supporting teams higher up the ladder, but is proud to announce that there is no hooliganism at the ground, in spite of terrace chants about not surrendering to `the Tooting scum'.


Pride also courses through Gordon (Stephen Boxer), as he extols the virtues of Sandersbrook United. He has his favourites, particularly the lad he reckons is the best ginger-haired goalkeeper in Under-12s football. But he's not afraid to tear them off a strip if they're not playing to standard. His half-time talk during the cup final was peppered with harsh words. However, they had their effect, as the team roared back to take the trophy that Gordon cradles in the car park and dedicates to the memory of the wife he had lost just 10 months earlier.


By contrast, it's the existence of a spouse that is proving problematic for club chair Kimberly (Emma Amos), as she is having an affair with the married manager of the first team. A local businesswoman, she had helped out at all levels before taking over in the boardroom. She had raised hackles by appointing the unproven Gavin, but her faith had been rewarded, as the team had climbed the league. Unfortunately, Gavin had also climbed into her bed and replaced Dildo Dave. In an ideal world, the fuss would die down and she and Gav could keep having a little extra-time fun after another romping victory. But Kimberly has been around the block enough times to know that things don't always work out the way you want them to.


Mark (Samuel Anderson) is just beginning to realise this harshest of truths. Backed to the hilt by his dad, he had seized every opportunity going through the ranks and had signed a professional contract. For a few years, he had walked the walk and had enjoyed the lifestyle that comes with being a footballer. But his form has been patchy coming into a game that's going to be televised by Sky and there's no guarantee he'll start. A cocky kid has been needling him in training and the boss has warned him to pull his socks up. Any hopes that Mark would be inspired under the lights come to naught, however. Indeed, his future hangs by a thread after he nutted the manager after being substituted at half-time. After seeking psychological help, however, he is hopeful that he can turn things round, with the support of his family.


Samuel Anderson sounds very much like a footballer crippled by doubts and trying to gee himself up for the big match in front of the cameras. But the dressing-room fracas and the subsequent suicide attempt feel a little far fetched. The same is true of the knife death of the Lisbon kid who failed to make the grade. But even Alan Bennett is prone to a touch of the melodramatics from time to time.


Cruttwell is on surer ground with Brian Hadfield's whistle-blowing milquetoast and Stephen Boxer's grief-channelling widower. Not that Anderson and Brian Bovell don't give commendable performances, as does Siobhan Bevan as the party animal who takes her talent for granted and shares her father's struggle to keep a sense of perspective. But the standouts are Candida Gubbins and Emma Amos, as the loved-up duo whose passion isn't exclusively for the game.


Cruttwell's direction is as functional as Nathan Webber's static cinematography and blocky editing. But the writing is more noteworthy, as it incisively exposes the gulf between the superstars prancing on Match of the Day and the workaday folks for whom football is a way of life. The odd line feels scripted, with even gems like `No way José Mourinho' landing a little awkwardly. But there's an eloquent authenticity to the shared confidences that will ring bells with anyone who has been involved with the game at one level or another. All that's missing is the football widow who doesn't know the difference between Klopp and the Kop, the bigot who boos players taking the knee, and the old pro complaining how things have gone downhill since their day. Maybe they can cameo in injury time on the DVD.


THE NOWHERE INN.


Early on in Bill Benz's The Nowhere Inn, a chauffeur (Ezra Buzzington) has to concede to his passenger that he has never heard of St. Vincent. For someone who was once such a music obsessive that they compiled their own weekly charts, it comes as something as an embarrassment to admit that the driver is not alone, as keeping tabs on cinema past and present leaves little time or space for anything post-Oasis. Based on this mockurockumentary, Annie Clark has carved herself a canny musical niche that could well allow her to branch out into acting. But, to these jaded eyes, it's hard to see this mishmash of satire, skit, promo and pop psychology appealing to anyone other than existing fans.


Having been abandoned in the middle of the desert while reading Maggie Nelson's The Art of Cruelty in a stretch limo, Annie Clark decides to ask friend Carrie Brownstein - a former partner who is also a guitarist with Sleater-Kinney and the star of the TV comedy show, Portlandia - to make a documentary profile to make a connection between her off-stage self and her St. Vincent alter ego. It soon becomes clear, however, that her bandmates Toko (Toko Yasuda), Neil (Chris Aquilino) and Robert (Drew Connick) regard tour bus Clark as a radish-eating, Scrabble-playing bore and Brownstein realises she has her work cut out making her BFF look like a rock star, when even Holly (Rya Kihlstedt), the journalist following Clark for a magazine profile, considers her only useful to record a phone message to persuade her girlfriend not to dump her.


Cross after not being recognised by a venue security guard, Clark decides to let her St. Vincent persona take over in order to salvage the movie. She becomes a prima donna backstage after a gig and makes Brownstein blush by insisting on frolicking on the bed in black lingerie with her girlfriend Dakota (Dakota Johnson). Already worrying about the chemo her father (Michael Bofshever) is undergoing, Brownstein wants Clark to dial down the diva act. But she insists she's being true to herself, as she is both Annie and St. Vincent, whether she's meeting a fan who gets over-emotional while explaining how the music saved her life or striking guitar poses on stage in thigh-high orange boots.


Persuaded by her uncle not to quit the project after a humiliating songwriting session, Brownstein agrees to do a formal interview with St. Vincent and Dakota. The latter is clearly smitten and is shocked when her lover announces that they will have to break up in a few months time because she will need to feel sad in order to write some new songs. When Dakota storms off, St. Vincent declares that only things she can control will make it into the documentary and Brownstein has to play ball to avoid disappointing her dad.


She grins and bears a clan get together in Texas, during which St. Vincent milks a cow and bakes a pecan pie, while everyone else grabs an instrument to play in the family band. However, when Brownstein takes her friend to the prison where her father is serving time, St. Vincent refuses to co-operate. Then, following a performance sequence in which Clark struggles to reach St. Vincent through a series of stage curtains, Brownstein confesses to no longer knowing what's going on when she's informed that someone else is now going to play her in the film.


Confused when she realises that everyone who has been in the film has been hired to play a role, Brownstein staggers out of the studio. St. Vincent invites her to take a ride in the white limo. As they head into the desert, St. Vincent declares that it doesn't matter if anyone else knows who she is, as long as she does. Brownstein tries to figure out what is going on, as St. Vincent questions whether Brownstein needs to discover herself. Suddenly dressed in different clothes and a St. Vincent wig, she bolts from the vehicle into the distance.


Back in the studio, St. Vincent calmly walks away from a back projection set to an interview chair and laments that the film didn't get finished. As her gaze fixes the camera, St. Vincent avers that Brownstein (and perhaps Clark) lost sight of what they were doing, whereas she never did. A post-credit shot provides a final twist, however, as Clark ducks out of her close-up to seek Brownstein's approval behind the camera.


One can only hope Clark/St. Vincent got what they wanted out of this slick, smart and smugly self-reflexive enterprise. She and Brownstein impeccably play the roles they created for themselves as co-writers, while they make some thought-provoking points about fame, identity, friendship and sacrifice. The supporting cast does a sterling job in helping the pair blur the lines, as they seek to show the flipside of the rock chick coin from Brady Corbet's Vox Lux and Alex Ross Perry's Her Smell (both 2018). For all its knowing, demythologising cleverness, however, the film is haunted by Clark's throwaway admission, `I'm not for everybody.'


Production designer Grace Alie, cinematographer Minka Farthing-Kohl and editor Ali Greer do commendable work and it's interesting to see Bobcat Goldthwait among the executive producers. But Bill Benz - who is making his feature debut after working on such TV sketch shows as Portlandia and Adult Swim - sometimes struggles to pull it all together. He seems to find it particularly difficult hitting a tone during Brownstein's scenes, with the result that she sometimes seems to be in a different picture. But maybe that's the point of what is essentially a vanity project - if that's indeed what it is.


WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING.


Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the bathroom, along comes Sean King O'Grady's We Need to Do Something to remind double-vaxxed Halloween cinema-goers about the nightmare of being trapped in a confined space with their nearest and dearest. Adapted from a novella by Max Booth III, this is a mixed rattlebag of jolts and japes. But the lack of context and the sketchiness of the characters means it often feels thrown together.


Trapped by a fallen tree in the bathroom they use as a safe haven during a ferocious thunderstorm, Robert (Pat Healy) and Diane (Vinessa Shaw) inspire little confidence in offspring Melissa (Sierra McCormick) and Bobby (John James Cronin) that everything will be okay. Despite the return of power, tensions rise between the parents, as Robert has a drinking problem and suspects that Diane has taken a lover. Moreover, the pink-haired Melissa is desperate to reach her goth girlfriend, Amy (Lisette Alexis), as she has a horrible feeling that they have done something to bring about the storm.


With their efforts to break down the door proving fruitless, the family members strive to remain calm, as Diane plays cards to keep Bobby occupied and tries not to laugh when Melissa teases him that he's a tiny old man rather than a tweenage boy. As no one's phone is working, it's impossible to know what is happening beyond these four indestructible walls and it's only a matter of time before they realise no one is coming to rescue them.


A frantic battle with a snake that creeps through the partially open door leaves Robert guzzling mouthwash to calm down. But an encounter with a talking dog that snuffles under the tree results in the family retching on morsels of the tongue that Melissa yanks out during a protracted struggle. She manages to keep the most down, but Diane is concerned by the wound on her daughter's wrist, which she insists was caused by Amy's cat.


A shower and a sleep makes no one feel any better, as flashbacks show Amy informing Melissa that she has returned from the dead and used to cut herself to cope with her demons. Wisely, Melissa says nothing about this or the fact that Amy had used the tongue of their exhumed pet, Spot, to cast a spell on Joe (Logan Kearney), a classmate who had caught them kissing. When the rattlesnake gets back into the bathroom after Robert tries to force Bobby through the gap in the door, Melissa apologises to her brother for the getting him bitten because their predicament is all her fault.


Diane assures her she isn't to blame, but the family falls silent after Robert hears a voice calling from downstairs and seemingly catches a glimpse of something monstrous before closing the door as a shot rings out. He refuses to divulge what he has seen, but taunts Diane about why her lover has abandoned her. Melissa pleads with them to stop squabbling, but plunges back into a memory, as Bobby slips away, to recall how she and Amy had killed Joe and cut each other's wrists during a ritual as the storm started to rise.


Having blinded himself by sucking some patches he found in the medicine cabinet, Robert tries to throttle Melissa for cursing the family. Diane leaps to her daughter's defence. But, in punching her husband, she unleashes the snake from under a bucket and it latches itself to Robert's face. Pulling it free, he bites of the head and uses the torso to thrash Diane before Melissa puts him out of his misery with a shard of the mirror that he had shattered to carve up Bobby so they could eat.


While Melissa sleeps, Diane chips away at the cement between the tiles. She reaches some plasterboard and kicks her way through. As Melissa wakes, Amy appears before her, bleeding profusely from the gashes on her arms. Something shoots out of her mouth and down Melissa's throat, as they are momentarily conjoined before Amy vanishes and Melissa feels free of the evil entity that had been inside her. However, as her bloodied mother returns, she fears the worst and a roar causes the screen to red out.


Credit to the cast for committing so wholeheartedly to playing ciphers in such a bonkers storyline and to O'Grady for attempting something so ambitious first time out. But, by refusing to explain anything about the storm or the forces that Amy has summoned, Booth is able to play by his own rules and spring any surprise whenever he wishes. Consequently, there's no accumulation of suspense or dread, just lots of dead downtime between the shocks.


The snake is just about plausible (even though it rattles up more plot solutions than scares) and who can resist a re-animated dog with the voice of Ozzy Osbourne? But Booth and O'Grady would rather tantalise with unseen demons beyond the door than trust the audience to confront the grim truths about Robert's drinking, Diane's infidelity and Melissa's readiness to embrace the darkside.


Amy Williams's production design, Jean-Philippe Bernier's cinematography and Shane Patrick Ford's editing are all solid enough. But the effects are as unpersuasive as the scenario, which might have played on the audience's fears more effectively this time last year, as the pandemic drove people into confined spaces and a terrifying sense of uncertainty. It's worth a look if you feel like an All Hallows' chuckle, but you'd be better off following the 2011 `Night of the Hurricane', as it passes over Stoolbend in the `The Hurricane' episode of The Cleveland Show, through Quahog via the Family Guy instalment, `Seahorse Seashell Party', and on to Langley Falls for the `Hurricane!' chapter of American Dad.


THE RESCUE.


Having scaled the heights with the Oscar-winning Free Solo (2018), documentarists Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin plumb the depths with The Rescue, which recalls the two-week operation to recover the Wild Boar football team that had become trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non cave network in Northern Thailand. Artfully combining found footage, talking heads, dramatic re-enactments and computer graphics, the co-directors piece together a remarkable story with insight, clarity and compassion.


While the rest of the world was focussed on the 2018 World Cup in Russia, 12 members of the Wild Boar football team and their 25 year-old coach went underground to celebrate a birthday. Unexpectedly heavy rainfall caused water levels to rise in the cave network and, when the task of recovering the boys proved too much for Thai Navy SEALs whose expertise lay elsewhere, British caver asked a couple of friends to fly to Chiang Rai province. Without hesitation retired fireman Rick Stanton and IT consultant John Volanthen took a plane to place skills that had led them to be branded nerds at the disposal of the rescue unit.


It quickly became clear that the locals and the US counterparts under Master Sergeant Derek Anderson didn't have the experience to lead the operation and British consul Ben Svasti had to persuade ministers and army officers alike that Stanton and Volanthen were the trapped team's last chance. During their first recce mission, the pair found four pumping engineers who had been left behind during an evacuation and the problems they encountered in diving the frightened men back to the surface alerted them to magnitude of the task facing them if and when the kids were located.


Fortunately, the entire party was spotted alive and well on the 10th day of the operation and Thai doctor Pak Loharnshoon was detailed to remain with them to maintain their well-being and spirits. Stanton, however, had realised that the only way of retrieving everyone was by sedating them on the swim back to the base camp in Chamber Three.


He put the idea to Australian doctor friend Richard Harris and, despite grave misgivings, he agreed to fly to Thailand to supervise the effort. However, the dangers facing the team were made apparent when ex-SEAL Saman Kuman perished after running out of oxygen during a dive. In a deeply moving moment, widow Valeepoan Kuman fights back the tears, as she expresses her pride in a national hero.


Knowing they couldn't rely on troopers or volunteers, Stanton and Volanthen drew up a list of caving specialists and Chris Jewell, Jason Mallinsen, Craig Challen, Jim Warny, Connor Roe, Mikko Paasi and Josh Bratchley responded to the call without hesitation. With Josh Morris now acting as translator-cum-mediator, plans were made for the rescue attempt. A dry run was mocked up away from the press cordon broadcasting every development to a waiting world. Yet Harris remained unconvinced, until he ventured out to the Wild Boars and realised that their oxygen levels were dropping rapidly.


Gauging the dosages that would be required to keep each child anaestheticsed for the two-hour duration of the swim, Harris took inspiration from the doctor father he had visited in his nursing home before heading to Thailand. His calculations proved as effective as the breathing apparatus devised by the rescuers and the first four boys were extracted on 8 July.


Four more were freed the following day, although problems with rising water levels and an ill-fitting mask added to the stress of the last run. Jewell lost contact with the guide rope and followed an electric cable back to Chamber Four, where he was met by Harris, who escorted the last boy home. Even then, there was a tense wait for Loharnshoon and his three fellow SEALs to return. Yet, while everyone was celebrating, Harris received news that his father had passed away and it took him a while to realise that the lessons he had learned from him had enabled him to do his bit.


Thai nurse Amp Bangngoen recalls how proud she was of Stanton, who reveals that Prince William had advised him to marry her while presenting him with his MBE. Footage shows the boys with their saviours and the message that humanity works better in unison comes across loud and clear, as it did in Angus Macqueen's 17 Days Buried Alive, a 2011 documentary about the rescue of the trapped Chilean miners.


Antonio Banderas headlined Patricia Riggen's dramatisation of that operation, The 33 (2016), while Tom Waller wasted no time in producing The Cave (2019) about the Tham Luang incident. Subsequently, Ron Howard was reported to have cast Viggo Mortensen, Colin Farrell and Joel Edgerton in screenwriter William Nicholson's Thirteen Lives, while Netflix is also currently working on a mini-series inspired by the events. They will have to go some to surpass Vasarhelyi and Chin, however, who not only managed to secure access to the major players in the rescue, but who also coaxed some of them to participate in the reconstructions to give them added authenticity.


Editor Bob Eisenhardt merits enormous praise for the way in which he stitches the various elements into a seamless whole that is as notable for its restraint as its realism (that is, until an execrable rock song about not giving up plays over the closing credits). It helps that Stanton, Volanthen and Harris are so modest about their capabilities and their achievement, and the same goes for their fellow volunteers. Indeed, the co-directors make a point of emphasising how many people from around the world gave their time freely to lend a hand in the nick of time, as the monsoons came. As COP26 opens in Glasgow, one wishes that the same communality of purpose could be harnessed in the effort to arrest climate change.


QUANT.


Another day, another documentary about a fashion icon. Having once run her own label, actress Sadie Frost is in a better position than most to appreciate the workings of a notoriously unpredictable and unforgiving industry. Yet, her directorial debut, Quant, feels more like an over-excited fan letter than a cogent insider insight into the perils and pitfalls of operating a business whose fortunes are almost entirely dictated by things as capricious as timing and taste.


Born in London in 1930, Mary Quant enjoyed an idyllic childhood with Welsh teacher parents who gave her and brother Tony the freedom to explore their Pembrokeshire environs. As something of a tomboy, Quant had an innate understanding that the clothing she was expected to wear didn't suit her and, having recovered from the horror of turning 13, she started hitching up the hem of her school skirt so she could run for the bus.


Playing Quant in ill-judged series of reconstructions, Camilla Rutherford complains the Christian Dior's New Look was aimed at the chic denizens of Paris rather than ordinary women. Thus, having spent a short time making hats for duchesses in Mayfair, Quant drew on the artistic training she had received at Goldsmiths College, London and started creating her own designs. Together with fellow student Alexander Plunket Greene and coffee bar owner Archie McNair, she opened the Bazaar boutique on the corner of Markham Street and the King's Road in 1955 and quickly discovered that there was a market for the kind of attire she wanted to wear.


Considering themselves outcasts in Austerity Britain, Quant and Plunket Greene brought a splash of colour and a hint of Mod modernity, as they experimented with fabrics and hues in launching the pinafore dress, shorter skirts and coloured tights. Fashion author Terry Newman notes a connection between Quant's clothing revolution and the emergence of the Women's Movement and the introduction of the contraceptive pill. But it took the Swinging Sixties for the Vidal Sassoon-coiffeured Quant to expand beyond Chelsea, as the mini skirt made her a household name.


While they're willing to accept that she named the style after the popular Mini car, historians debate whether André Courrèges or John Bates beat Quant to the look. However, Frost doesn't consider this a discussion worth having and she whisks us on Dave Davies of The Kinks and Pete Townshend of The Who, who informs us that his bandmates used to copy the fashions sported by their audience.


Jasper Conran and model Clare Hunt recall the zest of Quant's fashion shows, which were stage-managed by her husband. He prompted her to invade America and model-cum-Beatle-spouse Pattie Boyd reflects on how outmoded New York fashion had become, especially once the Carnaby Street ethos lauded by designer Zandra Rhodes crossed the pond. However, she hid in the aeroplane lavatory in order to avoid the waiting press and son Orlando Plunket Greene concurs with other talking-heads that his father enjoyed the PR side much more than his mother, who was content to linger in his shadow until she felt ready to contribute.


Following digressions on models and photographers, Hamish McNair describes how his father had to keep reminding Quant about balancing the books. Indeed, it was McNair's idea to licence the brand, although the hands-on Quant was reluctant to restrict her control over accessories and cosmetics. Charlotte Tilbury sings her praises in this regard, while former assistant Sara Hollamby enthuses about the famous Quant make-up box with a mirror in the lid.


As Hot Pants hit the market, McNair drove the licensing push made by Mary Quant Limited and the pressure grew on Quant to keep coming up with marketable ideas to keep what Conran calls `the machine' going. However, the optimism that the clothes had represented dissipated as the decade soured and tastes changed with the arrival of hippie culture. As the 1970s dawned, Quant and Plunket Greene relocated to the country, prompting an embarrassing interlude on cows, with Frost keeping the camera close to Rutherford's lips. However, we do get a peak of the Sassoon cut, when the archive footage clearly shows that Quant was wearing her hair longer by this time.


Motherhood didn't inhibit her ambitions and Quant moved into fragrances. Indeed, as associates Heather Tilbury Phillips and Derry Curry recall, there was seemingly no aspect of modern living that Quant didn't touch. Very much a woman challenging men in their own domain, she resisted the notion that she had become mainstream, even with the advent of punk. Once again, however, rather than addressing Quant's reaction to the shift or how she was viewed by the new generation, Frost ducks away and focusses on something else.


As her clothing became more classical, Quant dipped into nostalgia by designing the Daisy Doll range. Illustrator Joan Corlass remembers the collaboration with pride, while journalist Brigid Keenan recalls rubbing Quant up the wrong way when badgering her about a 40th birthday profile, when she had been knocking five years off her age to hide the fact she was older than her husband, who had guided her into a brave new world of home furnishings.


Academic Roger Tredre suggests the company over-reached in its licensing ventures, although they reinforced the fact that Quant was big in Japan. But McNair began to find running the empire burdensome and his retirement in 1988 was followed two years later by Plunket Greene's death at the age of just 56. A decade later, Quant retired from her directorship, although she continues to advise the brand, which maintains 100 shops in Japan. The website makes much of her maxim, `Be free, be yourself.'


Mary Quant is clearly a remarkable woman, as well as an influential artist, whose legacy continues to impact upon contemporary fashion. It's a shame, therefore, that she's sold so short by this adoring, but frustratingly uncurious homage. Ably abetted by editor Liz Deegan, Frost seems content to tick off landmarks and drop names without ever showing an inclination to delve beneath the brightly coloured surfaces. Consequently, Quant exists in glorious isolation, as though she was the only fashion designer working anywhere in the 1960s.


This lack of couture context becomes more glaring as Frost seems to lose interest in her subject and the worlds in which operated in the gloomy 1970s and greedy 80s. She may as well have been living on the moon for the interest Frost takes in her retirement. The director could claim that she is merely being discreet and this may well be the case where Quant's absence from the on- and off-camera speakers is concerned. But it ties into the film's obsession with youth and beauty and the unmissable (if perhaps unintentional) sense of disapproval that Quant lent her name to roller blinds, carpets, paints, kitchenware, wines and duvet covers in order to keep the cash rolling in.


Interviewees like Dennis Nothdruft, Edward Enninful, Jill Kennington, Clare Hunt, Tony McGee and Mark Fast typify the reverential tone that is reinforced by the meticulous choice of illustrative material. The Rutherford inserts are calamitous, however, especially a closing shot of her switching off a light. How much more valuably the time might have been used if Frost had interviewed the curators of the record-breaking 2019-20 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. This means well and has its neat touches, most notably in the coda about the `buy better, buy less' mantra of the post-consumer age. But it falls a long way behind the standards set by such similarly toned actualities as Lorna Tucker's Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018) and P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes's House of Cardin (2019).

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