East Is East

wr. & dir. Damien O'Donnel
str. Om Puri, Linda Basset, Jordan Routledge

One version of the event: A charming little film form the land of something and something else. Sensitive performances and great craft make the film more than a mere tele-movie. A gem of a movie, and an insightful one at that.

Version Two: Sure, fair enough, You've got a point. On one level its all a sitcom and a bit of a tele-movie, but hell, this sort of kitchen sink drama is done so well by the brits that you might as well let 'em wallow in their particular skills and let us instead focus our attention on our respective jobs. Like not making any more films about a night in the life of a group of inner-city twenty-somethings. Somewhere, my suburban dog is annoying the neighbours with her starved whine and wondering where in the good-goddamned I am. Living the life puppy. Acting my age.

So, East is East, a film made of seemingly generic parts yet quite a lovely little effort nonetheless. Oooh, I really don't like that phrase, "little film". I might as well just tap it on the head and then set it out to SBS pasture. "There you go little one, find a nice timeslot and charm the middle-aged with your thorough yet sensitive depiction of a struggle no doubt totally removed from their own situation". Still, that's what it is, and for many that suggestion of compact entertainment is a real turn-on. If you stumbled out of Gladiator into a film like this you could easily take its lack of tigers and chariots as a sign of real artistic integrity. "Oh, I'm so sick of these big-budget Hollywood spectacles" she cries, casting a wide but snug blanket. "I just want something which doesn't blare away at me". So every week the wares are brought into the market, the shiny product and the delicate art. Ah fuck it, money and noise are beautiful, were beautiful, still can be beautiful, must be beautiful, can never be beautiful again. Money and noise are Spectorsound, and "Da Doo Ron Ron" flattens any elegant symphony that dares to cross its rambunctious path.

The problem is that neither Gladiator or East is East are meaty enough on their own to write about at any great length unless I resort to penny-a-word plot description or an interview with someone who once got Oliver Reed a cup of tea. It's a pretty fundamental split down the middle. The posters and Lowing reviews will tell you what you're going to get for both films. Be excited or provoked, relatively. Be bought or sold. And then if you want both, you take a day off work and spend some time with the people.

In retrospect, I had a better time at East is East than at Gladiator. I felt cheated after Gladiator, a sort of miserable 4 p.m. at Fox Studios with overcast weather kind of piss and moan that just irritates your companion and resorts to a speedy break-up. East is East is perhaps a simpler film to pull off, but it lacks that essence or indefinable spirit that we're all chasing in every movie and are privately disappointed not to find in almost everything we take in every day of our cinema-going (and otherwise) lives. We're just nice about the rest of bullshit we paddle through, taking down the good performances (the best moments of East is East) or the special effects (one guess) to tide us over until we get to a film life The Straight Story. Then words just won't cut it. Or perhaps just my words.

Adam Rivett
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