Monday, 24 June 2013
FILM REVIEW: THE LOOK OF LOVE
Entrepreneur. Entertainment Impresario. Erotica purveyor. Paul Raymond wore many hats -- and one or two labels, not all of his own choosing -- during his reign as 'The King of Soho' in London, from the late 1950s until his death in 2008.
A real estate mogul, Raymond's interests included gentlemen's clubs and theatres which produced works of a more provocative rather than artistic nature. He eventually moved into pornographic magazines and was, at one point, Britain's richest man.
What he wasn't was a particularly good husband or father. This we learn as Michael Winterbottom's film, rich in spot-on but by no means distracting period detail, flashes back through episodes of Raymond's life, as the man himself (played by Steve Coogan) watches the VHS tape of a documentary of which he was the subject and reminisces on a life lived to the full if not entirely for the best.
A failing marriage to Jean (Anna Friel) when we first meet him (having already walked out on another before the film's story takes place), Raymond was very much a ladies man and as London began to swing in the early 1960s (the film transitioning from crisp black and white to colour), so did he; eventually divorcing Jean having fallen for Amber (Tamsin Egerton), a leggy performer in one of his shows and who would later become his wife and 2-I-C-of-sorts.
A neglectful father to his two sons (one from each of his first two marriages), Raymond was an over-indulgent one to his daughter, Debbie (Imogen Poots); making her the star of his productions when she had more desire than talent, grooming her to run his magazine, Men Only, and instructing rather than reprimanding her when her drug use is revealed. Debbie snorts cocaine likes it's going out of style, and not even marriage or motherhood can curtail her downward spiral.
Not that Winterbottom's film (nor Raymond's life: living until the age of 82 and dying of respiratory failure with a fortune at one point estimated at £650m) is a cautionary tale. In its colourful though surface-level study of Paul Raymond's world, The Look of Love could be accused of saying little more than success and money can not buy happiness but my word, what fun it is being unhappy when you're rich.
Steve Coogan, collaborating with Winterbottom for the fourth time, manages to make Paul Raymond much more than one of his comic characters but neither the screenplay (by Matt Grennhalgh, who also penned the young John Lennon film, Nowhere Boy) nor Winterbottom seem intent on digging too far beneath the surface of this charming but selfish man.
Raymond's son Howard by his marriage to Jean, who, while neglected by his dad, scored a tidy £78m after his death, is said to be producing a film about his father (The Look of Love's original title, The King of Soho, had been copyrighted by him). No doubt given their relationship, it will be a decidedly more warts-and-all study than Winterbottom's.
Not that The Look of Love is by any means a bad film. Winterbottom, who never makes the same film twice, and certainly not back-to-back, has produced one of his most polished-looking efforts, thanks in no small part to the cinematography (Hubert Taczanowski), costume design (Stephanie Collie), production design (Jacqueline Abrahams) and art direction (Carly Reddin): The Look of Love looks fab.