I trust Mark Kermode for two reasons – The Ninth Configuration and Dougal and the Blue Cat.
You are more likely to be aware of the Dougal movie than The Ninth Configuration. It is a magnificent feature-length display of Eric Thompson’s imagination, the man who scripted the French children’s series The Magic Roundabout by watching the original in silence and working out what plot he could attach to the onscreen antics. Who would expect the line “I bet this never happened to Sergei Eisenstein” to crop up in a work considered to be most suitable for the under-fives.
The Ninth Configuration, written and directed by The Exorcist’s William Peter Blatty, and set in an asylum for military men who have suffered breakdowns, includes a soldier who is attempting to put on an all-dog version of Hamlet and is infuriated to be sent a dog with a lisp.
As this makes abundantly clear, Kermode is a man of incredibly good taste and he is now the first person I turn to for film reviews because he really seems to care. When he is outraged or infuriated by a film it is because he respects cinema both as an art form and an entertainment form.
It is also very clear that he loves movies. He doesn’t merely criticise, he illuminates. I am wary of listening to critics before watching a film, but his reviews of both First Man and A Star is Born added to rather than subtracted from the films I saw. Kermode is right, the theremin is the loneliest sound in the world.
When he is outraged or infuriated by a film it is because he respects cinema both as an art form and an entertainment form
On hearing that Simon Mayo was departing from Radio 2’s afternoon slot, a great pity, I was relieved to hear that Radio 5 Live’s Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review would be continuing. When Kermode celebrates a film, I know my time will not be wasted should I go and see it. I may not agree with his verdict, but it is unlikely that it will have been 90 minutes wasted or seven hours wasted if it is one of those bloody superhero movies that leaves burning CGI scars on my retinas. He is as entertaining when petulant, frivolous and grumpy as he is when effusive. His Danny Dyer impersonation bears little resemblance to Danny Dyer, but its childish sneeriness has become as much of a delight for listeners as when Mike Yarwood did his Denis Healey. Should Dyer ever find his way to one of Kermode’s rockabilly nights I imagine there would be a scuffle that could dent a quiff.
The intensity of his love for cinema means that those films that fail to meet his expectation, especially by those he admires, are viewed as a very personal act of betrayal. This is why he is trustworthy, in the way that critics like Dilys Powell and Philip French were. Kermode’s recent review of the latest Halloween, as series of films that I have a great, but ultimately decreasing, fondness for, spurred me to the cinema. He was right when he said, “Jamie Lee Curtis is hustling her way through the movie like she owns it, and she does.” He makes you want to go to the movies. Jaws 4, the milksop final tooth in the balsa wood coffin of the shark franchise, was adorned with the tagline “This time it’s personal”, and for Mark Kermode, it always seems to be personal. The result is usually more rewarding than watching Michael Caine on a Bahamas holiday.