Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ferry very good?

After the first, positive reviews of his film Somers Town, which was released last week, Shane Meadows is now beginning to get some stick from the critics. Well, it had to happen, especially as Meadows had never made any bones about the film’s financing by Eurostar.

For David Cox in today’s Guardian, this is unforgivable. Somers Town, he writes, is a terrible precedent in cinema history and a despicable sell-out. Unlike the more benevolent critics writing warmly about the film during the past week, he refuses to see is as anything other than a cheesy ad disguised as art. Which is also why he relentlessly harps on about the film’s oh-so flawed and flimsy plot (Eurostar employees do not get free Eurostar tickets!) – as though a lack in plot had ever kept a Hollywood movie from becoming a blockbuster (quite to the contrary, I would think), or a nouvelle vague flick a cinema classic.

I haven’t seen the film yet – but really, what do you expect from this kind of improvisation filmed in two-weeks on 16mm (and which even with its Eurostar funding hardly went beyond the low budget)?

Or is there summat else involved? From the start, Mr Cox's slightly over the top grudge against all things Eurostar seems to betray a hidden agenda. Halfway through the article, one is suddenly struck by his quaintly phrased praise of “those excellent ferryboats provided by P&O”, which he thinks the film’s protagonists ought to have boarded to get to France.

Now, that would have made the film more convincing! Only on P&O, though. In wellies and flat cap. Plus whippet.

If Somers Town is advertising disguising as art, surely here we have an instance of advertising disguising as journalism (and investigative journalism, too, as Cox apparently had to make a couple of phone calls in the course of writing his piece). The murky waters of the Channel are criss-crossed daily by dozens of ferries from a variety of lines – both British and continental – so there’s no need to be quite so specific. Why not refer to Transmanche Ferries or SeaFrance? This unwarranted foregrounding of the excellence of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. is suspicious to say the least.

It also seems to me that Mr Cox is idealising the pleasures of travel by ferry. I’m sure he’s never spent a cold night in a deep and dark December waiting in Dieppe for a ship that hasn’t even left Newhaven by the time you were meant to board it in France, navigated the pools of vomit on the staircases during a particularly rough crossing (or in the wake of particularly heavy boozing) or tried to doze away the endless hours before you get to Dover or wherever, wedged in a quiet corner between the toilets and the fruit machines.

Knowing full well that you still have several hours on a dodgy train before you get to London!

Believe me, the twenty minute Channel Tunnel ride beats the ferry every single time. Why should such a clean, swift and civilised service not be advertised? No need to be quite so irate, Mr Cox.

The title of this post? There is a Dutch transport firm that uses this slogan. I cringe every time I see one of their lorries on the motorway.


Geoff Coupe said...

Oh well, there you go - that slogan just makes me smile... I always take it as evidence that the Dutch can laugh at themselves, because many of them can't actually pronounce the English word 'very' as anything other than 'ferry'...

The Wife said...

I never actually associated the Dutch pronunciation of "v" with these lorries. For me, the slogan was just a rather cheesy and not very convincing attempt at wit.

But of course you're right! And of course I should have made the connection: after all, I come from a country that adores all things Dutch (except for soccer) precisely because of the particular timbre that the Dutch language lends familiar (in our case: German) words. Which is probably why the careers of certain Dutch entertainers - from Heintje to the much missed late Rudi Carrell - really only took off in Germany.