Dead Babies

by ALEXANDER WALKER, Evening Standard

Surely this year won't throw up a worse film. Even with 11 months still to go, any bets would seem safe. This doomed version of an early Martin Amis novel should have been aborted before birth. It opens with a nightmare about someone's rotten teeth falling out. What follows is as painful to watch as having teeth pulled.

A country-house party of posturing manics, effete English toffs, degenerate hippie Yanks, a blond sicko with pins and rings all over his face, a dwarf who crams his suppurating feet into platform brogues: these gruelling bores do nothing all day and all night but scream at each other, wash down a pharmacy of pills, kill the cat, expose their full frontals to the cows and tremble at the threat of a Charles Manson-like murderer stalking their carnival and turning it into carnage.

When someone spoke the line 'It isn't over - it hasn't begun' he was answered with a collective moan from film critics who felt our own life expectancy being palpably shortened by the pitiful exhibition of faux-hedonist camping and cavorting.

God knows who thought this druggy drag show was cutting-edge cool: its non-stop narcissism has been the cliché material of so many youth-cult binges that writer-director William Marsh could only have found moths lying in wait for him when he went to open Martin Amis's musty closet.

Apart from him, I am not naming a soul in it, for which generosity I expect grovelling letters of thanks from the cast (and their agents) when they have had time to recover from this and their other notices.

The only interest I am bound to declare in it is, it pains me to say, a financial one. On reading the production notes, I discovered that I am a shareholder in the company which coproduced it, Civilian Content.

Since last April, Civilian Content has controlled the Film Consortium group set up in 1997 by Culture Secretary Chris Smith with £30.25 million of public money from the National Lottery and it was the confidence expressed in Civilian Content's future judgment which contributed to the new British Film Council's refusal (so far) to publish the KPMG accountants' report into how this lacklustre consortium had performed up to then.

It is reported that Dead Babies has so far been booked into only three cinemas. I compliment the others on their concern for their audiences. This catastrophe has no National Lottery money in it, but there is dosh from the European Script Fund and Media Programme.

So if you don't get a Lottery handout at the front door, go around the back for a bit of EU charity. The long free lunch for dud filmmakers continues ... the rest of us foot the bill.

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