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Rag TaleUnited Kingdom 2005
Directed by Mary McGuckian
Running time 122 minutes
The opening titles for would-be edgy urban films quite often have hand-held, quick cut, tonally-manipulated imagery of city life to suggest a hyperactive, fragmentary context for their story. This is the first one I can think of that continues the style throughout its entire length. Was there any need for this approach? Did the director fear that the story wouldn’t up stand if shot conventionally, was she afraid that it would look like (and it sometimes does, not a little because of the casting of Lucy Davis as a secretary) a feature-length version of The Office ? Few people, I imagine, will salute the choice, which, because it is carefully orchestrated, at least does not have the nausea-inducing effects of traditional wobble-cam but which nevertheless requires the viewer to willfully ignore it, hardly a logical choice in a visual medium.
A satirical drama written by McGuckian with improvised contributions from the cast, it tells of Richard Morton (Malcolm McDowell) of the London tabloid "The Rag" and his battle with his Senior Editor Eddy (Rupert Graves) who is having an affair with Deputy Editor M.J. (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is also Morton's wife.
The entire cast, many of whom improvised their dialogue, give excellent performances with Leigh particularly strong and, for once, Malcolm McDowell managing to find a role that give his one-note autocratic persona a measure of depth but as the story unfolds it becomes increasingly untenable (frankly I couldn’t understand the whole blackmail set-up or where the stake money come from) and what had been a reasonably engaging behind-the-scenes power struggle story descends into a florid soap opera. Probably by that time however, most audience will have bailed in favour of anything in which the camera was still for more than 5 seconds.