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United Kingdom 1986
Directed by
Julien Temple
107 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Absolute Beginners

Based on the classic novel by Colin MacInnes, Absolute Beginners is on every level probably the most incoherent musical you are ever likely to see. The art direction has hybridized Guys & Dolls and New York à la West Side Story with London's Soho, 1958, the music is a mixture of 80s pop and 50’s rockabilly and the whole shebang is more a compendium of stylistically incongruent production numbers than a story told in words and song.

Eddie O'Connell plays a pop scene photographer, Colin, who loves Suzette (Patsy Kensit), who drops him to marry couturier and property developer, Henley of Mayfair (James Fox). Henley is in partnership with various dodgy entrepreneurs including Venice Partners (David Bowie) who use white supremacists oicks to get rid of the Indians and blacks in Colin's crummy but vibrant neighbourhood.

Absolute Beginners portrays the changing face of England in the late 1950s and for those who enjoy social history it is of some interest but in Temple’s hands it is also a vehicle for a Fellini-esque fantasy of sorts. In that respect it is both is an oddity in the annals of English film, better known for its staidness (despite its evident ambitions it failed at the box office) and has its moments of appealing visual artifice, like the Ray Davies doll's house style production number "A Quiet Life". British chanteuse, Sade appears, as do the Fine Young Cannibals, but overall the film's lack of narrative focus and wont of appealing characters leaves little to engage with, its cult status largely depending on its casting and nostalgia for 80s excessiveness.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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