Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Stephen Poliakoff: Genius, or overrated?

Like Paul Burgin I am a huge fan of Stephen Poliakoff, and would rate his 2006 dramas Friends and Crocodiles and Gideon's Daughter among the best things I've seen on the telly since the 70s golden age of I Claudius, Bouquet of Barbed Wire and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin.

But I couldn't help but feel a little let-down by the two more recent films, Joe's Palace, which was shown a week ago on Sunday, and Capturing Mary which had its first airing last night.

While both were brilliantly well-acted, as you might expect from an ensemble cast including the likes of Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Michael Gambon, Rupert Penry Jones, Ruth Wilson and Kelly Reilly, the storylines were exceptionally thin and at times downright unconvincing - for instance when, in Joe's Palace, Sir Michael's character enlists the help of a girl from the local deli (played by Rebecca Hall) to uncover a secret from his father's papers that has eluded scores of professional historians.

I personally think Joe's Palace and Capturing Mary would have worked better as a single film, with the latter shown as flashbacks as Mary unburdens herself to Joe in between the requisite bonking sessions involving Penry Jones and Reilly. It would probably have had to be about three hours long, but would, in my view, have had a much more substantial feel to it.

Poliakoff is of course being commissioned by the BBC to come up with this stuff, but I do wonder whether they are in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, and whether the corporation might be better advised to cast its net a little wider when it comes to showcasing new drama.

Meanwhile, for anyone who loved Friends and Crocodiles and is also a fan of the seminal 1990s artpop duo Mono, here's a special treat.

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Liam Murray said...

Recorded and haven't yet watched 'Capturing Mary' but agree 'Joe's Palace' was a little thin.

There's always a certain whimsical atmosphere to his stuff and that's where the charm comes from - it needs a strong narrative underneath though and that's usually there too. Not sure it was with Joe's Palace.

Personal favourites were actually 'Shooting the Past' (with the peerless Timothy spall) and 'Perfect Strangers' - "If family trees were drawn not according to blood lines and marriage but according to people you actually had a spiritual connection, how different would yours look....?"

Anonymous said...

For me, 'Shooting the Past' was as much a let down as the other productions were for Paul and for much the same reasons.

I just began to silently groan, 'Oh get on with it' as the many, many, superficial turns in the story were 'demystified' and 'demystified' ad nuseum.

The admirable Timothy Spall... well yes, but we need more than endless panning of his face with a 'you don't know it all yet folks' sermonising intonation.

In the end, my credibility was broken and I would not have been neither convinced or unconvinced by any outcome; and meantime the tinkling theme tune just got plain irritating.

Anonymous said...

Life in Mono is still a cracking tune, though.

Interested readers should seek out a cheap copy of their only album Formica Blues which shouldn't set you back much above a fiver if you check out eBay or the Marketplace sellers on www.amazon.co.uk.