Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970)

I took advantage of a bad cold to finally relax and watch this film. An oddity from 1970, this film takes a cynical look at advertising, politics and the often thin line between them. Co-written by Peter Cook, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and director Kevin Billington, it's no surprise the satire bites. The film is also stocked with terrific mainstays of British acting including Arthur Lowe and Denholm Elliott; and that's not even mentioning the role played by recent Nobel prize winner, Harold Pinter. As the superb review at IMDB says:

"... it is a truly wonderful thing to behold Peter Cook, Denholm Elliot and the great Harold Pinter (as an fantastically smarmy TV talk-show host) appearing in the same frame trying to out-smarm each other. It's a three way draw. Brilliant."

But the reviewer is also correct that the overall effect is unsuccessful. While Peter Cook is unsettling and surreally charming as Rimmer, there's also a remoteness that keeps the characters from ever becoming engaging, although Denholm Elliott very nearly succeeds in making the too-easily-corrupted Peter Niss, if not sympathetic, at least believable. Given the current climate of bald-faced media manipulation by politicians, this film seems far ahead of its time. The ease with which the sociopathic climber Rimmer succeeds, moving from deceit to dissembling to outright murder (and perhaps more chillingly, from ad exec to eventual dictator), hits a little too close to home to be very funny anymore.

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