Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Porn Again

THE LOOK OF LOVE (2013)

"Not bad for a boy from Liverpool who arrived with 5 bob in his pocket." Rejoicing in his own notoriety, Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan) had problematic relationships with his wife, lovers, sons and daughter.

MICHAEL Winterbottom's biopic of erotica magnate Paul Raymond (nee Geoffrey Quinn) focuses on the years between 1958 and 1992. Portrayed in flashback, it opens with Raymond (Steve Coogan, essentially playing himself) viewing old videotape of daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) after attending her funeral. The film shows his start as a seaside act through launching "sophisticated" strip clubs and revue theatres, allowing him to expand a property portfolio and indulge in a cocaine-fuelled playboy lifestyle. These heady events also include leaving wife Jean (Anna Friel) for aspiring actress Amber St George/Fiona Richmond (Tamsin Egerton), and producing a publishing empire aided by Tony Power (Chris Addison).

Written by Matt Greenhalgh based on Paul Willetts' book Members Only: The Life and Times of Paul Raymond, this Winterbottom/Coogan vehicle depicts a cautionary tale with all the effectiveness of Alan Partridge. Once the richest man in Britain, Raymond as a screen character is left vaguely flapping at his fragile reality, not understanding how a daughter who has everything materialistically could die from a heroin overdose (bleakly, Debbie is shown sniffing a line of cocaine - supplied by her father - as she gives birth). Greenhalgh's previous biopics on John Lennon and Ian Curtis had grounded specifics, but Raymond's episodic life is further undermined by its unnecessary comedic tone and casting, such as David Walliams as Reverend Edwyn Young, Simon Bird as Jonathan Hodge, and cameos from Matt Lucas, Dara O'Briain and Stephen Fry. Raymond is no Hugh Hefner, a consistently dull self-made businessman/smut peddler with double standards, who resisted his classification as a pornographer. 

First appearing in 1935 as a pocket-sized male humour publication, Paul Raymond re-launched Men Only in 1971 as the start of his top-shelf line which would encompass Club International, Razzle, Escort and Mayfair

Speeding through the swinging 1960s and coke-covered 1970s, THE LOOK OF LOVE is as flaccid as a television variety show, lacking cinematic scope and spectacle (only Poots and Friel leave any real lasting impressions, while others seem content in how cheeky they're being). Raymond's greatest legacy swims against the prudish tide of English decency, accumulating his wealth from a subject matter which has always been treated as a bad smell. While Paul Thomas Anderson's extraordinary BOOGIE NIGHTS celebrates the American porn industry with a zeal which also illustrates a cohesive extended family, THE LOOK OF LOVE shows a country replete with shallow entertainments, fractured relationships and festering regrets. It's a shame, as Raymond's journey can be seen as a microcosm on how culture slowly turned women into commodities.