Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Look of Love

Directed by Michael Winterbottom and written by Matt Greenhalgh, The Look of Love is the story about British pornographer and real estate entrepreneur Paul Raymond as he brings the world of sex and strip clubs to London’s Soho section where he gains notoriety and such in his tumultuous life. Winterbottom collaborator Steve Coogan plays the role of Raymond as it explores the man’s rise and fall where he would endure lots of highs and some incredible lows. Also starring Anna Friel, Imogen Poots, and Tamsin Egerton. The Look of Love is a pretty good though messy film from Michael Winterbottom.

Paul Raymond was famous for bringing sex into the Soho section of London as he created the softcore porn magazine Men Only and staged lavish shows with naked women as the center of attraction. Yet, the film is about Raymond’s rise to notoriety where he is attacked left and right from all sorts of people for his exploitation of women. Still, Raymond is a man who wants to have fun but also struggled with keeping up with the times and trying to help his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) to gain a career despite her lack of talent as she would tragically die of a heroin overdose in November of 1992. The film is largely told from Raymond’s perspective as he looks back on his life just after the death of his daughter as the film is told from the late 1950s to Debbie’s death.

Matt Greenhalgh’s screenplay does have a narrative that is straightforward though it is very messy at times while it tries to be both a comedy and a drama where it ends up being uneven. There’s also some stuff that relates to the illegitimate son that Paul had many years ago that his siblings didn’t know about as it’s only shown in one scene but it’s a scene that feels very awkward with the rest of the narrative. Still, Greenhalgh does create some unique characters in not just Paul and Debbie Raymond but also the two wives that Paul married as the first in Jean (Anna Friel) and the second in a young dancer/model in Fiona Richmond (Tamsin Egerton). Jean was this woman that supported Paul from the late 1950s to the early 1970s where she left him following his affair with Fiona.

The film’s strongest point for much of the second half is Paul’s relationship with his daughter as he wanted to support her in every way where they party together and also do drugs together. While Paul does drugs for fun where his affairs with other women would drive Fiona out of the way. Debbie’s drug use becomes something bigger as she did it to numb the pain over her lack of progress to make it as her father would be the only other thing to comfort her. Even as Paul would lay his hopes on Debbie to take over his empire unaware of the tragedy that is to come.

Michael Winterbottom’s direction is pretty stylish in the way he presents the film from the 1950s to the early 1990s where much of the film’s 1950s sequence is presented in black-and-white to showcase the air of sophistication in the film. Notably as the nudity is presented with a sense of class and nothing really overt while some of the direction is still intimate with hand-held cameras and such to play into that craziness. Even as the film returns to color in much more lavish ways for the scenes set in the 1960s and 1970s where it was a time of hedonism as the nudity itself becomes outrageous. Winterbottom does find time to give the audience a break from the decadence of the film while infusing it with some style in some montages on the way Men Only is created and re-invented as the years go by along with some of the stage shows that Raymond would present in his career.

Things do slow down for the film’s third act as it concerns Paul and Debbie’s relationship where much of the camera work is straightforward with bits of style as the scenes in the late 80s and early 90s rely less on visuals and more about the story. Even as it plays into the tragedy that is evident in the first scene of the film as Paul watches an interview that Debbie did for TV as it prompts him to look back at his entire life. Despite some of issues with the script, Michael Winterbottom crafts a very compelling film about the life of Paul Raymond.

Cinematographer Hubert Taczanowski does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the black-and-white look of the scenes set in the 1950s to the lavish colors and vibrant lights for the scenes set in the 1960s and beyond. Editor Mags Arnold does brilliant work with the film‘s editing with its approach to montages and arrays of stylish cuts to play into that world of hedonism. Production designer Jacqueline Abrahams and art director Carly Reddin do fantastic work with the set pieces from the loft that Paul lives in to the clubs and such that he runs in Soho. Costume designer Stephanie Collie does fabulous work with array of costumes that were displayed on film from the hot-pants that Fiona wore to the dresses that Jean wore as well as the clothes that Debbie wore in the film.

The hair and makeup design work of Fiona Leech and Laura Schiavo is amazing for the array of looks that were created in the film to play with the craziness of the times. Visual effects supervisor Marc Knapton does nice work with the minimal visual effects for the set dressing of London in those times as well as the roof of Raymond‘s loft. Sound editor Joakim Sundstrom does terrific work with the sound to play into the sound effects that occurs on stage as well as some of the craziness in some of the film‘s locations. The film’s music by Antony Genn and Martin Slattery is superb as it’s mostly a mixture of playful jazz music with some orchestral pieces to play into some of the drama while music supervisor John Coyne brings in a fun soundtrack that plays with those times from the music of the 60s and 70s that includes pieces by David Bowie, T. Rex, Hot Chocolate, and other acts.

The casting by Jina Jay is wonderful for the ensemble that is created as it features some cameo appearances from such Winterbottom regulars as Keiran O’Brien and Shirley Henderson as a couple of friends of Raymond from the 50s/60s, Mark Williams as a Follies stage director, David Walliams as the outgoing Vicar Edwyn Young, Stephen Fry as a barrister, Matt Lucas as the famed drag actor Divine, and Liam Boyle as Paul’s illegitimate long-lost son Derry. Other notable small roles include Matthew Beard as Paul’s son Howard, James Lance as Paul’s lawyer Carl Snitcher, and Chris Addison as Men Only editor/photography Tony Power who would introduce Debbie to cocaine. Tamsin Egerton is excellent as Fiona Richmond as an aspiring model who would become Paul’s muse in the late 60s/early 70s as well as a controversial columnist who later leaves Paul after too much partying.

Anna Friel is fantastic as Paul’s first wife Jean as a woman who had been supportive of his ventures only to leave him after his affair with Fiona as she later returns to him when Debbie gets married as she would be involved in a lavish nude spread for his magazine. Imogen Poots is remarkable as Paul’s daughter Debbie as a young woman eager to make it as a singer/actress only to succumb to addiction as she clings to her father where Poots is really the star of the film. Finally, there’s Steve Coogan in a marvelous performance as Paul Raymond as the man who would bring sex to London as someone that wants to give people a good time while he loses himself in his hedonism while becoming troubled by the losses he suffers where Coogan proves to be strong as a dramatic actor while still being very funny.

The Look of Love is a very good film from Michael Winterbottom that is highlighted by the performances of Steve Coogan and Imogen Poots. While it’s a flawed film that has issues with the tone of the screenplay. It is still an engaging film for the way it explores the life of Paul Raymond and how he brought sex to London in the late 1950s making him one of Britain’s richest men. In the end, The Look of Love is a stellar film from Michael Winterbottom.

Michael Winterbottom Films: (Rosie the Great) - (Forget About Me) - (Under the Sun) - (Love Lies Bleeding) - (The Family (1993 TV film)) - (Butterfly Kiss) - (Go Now) - (Jude) - Welcome to Sarajevo - I Want You - (With or Without You) - Wonderland (1999 film) - The Claim - 24 Hour Party People - In This World - Code 46 - 9 Songs - Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story - The Road to Guantanamo - A Mighty Heart - Genova - The Shock Doctrine - The Killer Inside Me - The Trip (2010 film) - (Trishna) - (Everyday) - (The Trip to Italy) - (The Face of An Angel)

© thevoid99 2014


ruth said...

This does look like a stylish movie and I like the cast, the subject matter doesn't interest me that much though.

thevoid99 said...

It's not a perfect film in comparison to some of Michael Winterbottom's other films but it has enough style and good performances to win people over though it does get repetitive with the partying.