Saturday, 14 July 2012

Killer Joe


I went to the cinema to watch a new release and here’s how the story began: a young man owes a few thousand dollars to a drug dealer who will break every bone in his body, before killing him, unless he repays the money by Wednesday. Already I see the plot is flawed: he won’t be able to reclaim his money from a corpse. But I am missing the point of the film which (call me slow-witted) becomes clear only towards the end: the point is to cram as much graphic, sadistic violence as is possible into 102 minutes of expensively crafted cinematography - and then persuade people to buy tickets.

Unremitting violence unhindered by human compassion is not my idea of entertainment yet there are those who think otherwise. Well, maybe I’m just not the target market. But then I wasn’t the target market for the film I’d seen before that either, the one in which all the characters were lovelorn 20-somethings floundering in a shallow pool of self-obsession. I suppose such subject matter is interesting if you’re, well, 20-something. Perhaps I should stick to films aimed firmly at my sector of the market – whatever that may be: and therein lies the problem. The film industry has its sights set on all its various market segments up to a point – children, family entertainment, teen humour, twenty-somethings, thirty-somethings etc. - but then, around middle-aged bloke (MAB), it all starts to lose focus. I think the film industry and I both need some help.

A universal understanding of what constitutes a MAB would be a good start. Is it literally a bloke who has reached the middle of his lifespan? If so, a previous generation which lived to an average age of, say, 56 would have achieved middle-age at 23. Nowadays we live longer and it would be nearer to 40 (giving us more time to go to the cinema). But those are averages: specifically it makes even less sense. Those who die at 100 would not reach middle-age until 50 and those who die at 20 would get there at 10. By these calculations the definition of a MAB becomes a constantly moving target which even the most accomplished marketing people would find very tricky to hit.

This one-dimensional classification clearly won’t suffice, since MABs may not be simply defined by arithmetic. There’s no denying that ageing brings with it recognisable physical and mental characteristics which surely merit inclusion in the equation. Among these a particular ‘state of mind’ can be observed, mid-way between youthful exuberance and elderly rigidity: a transitional phase during which the brain’s decision-making process is modified by experience causing attitudes to become entrenched. It’s difficult to quantify empirically but not so hard to spot intuitively. I have heard it said that you can recognise its onset when your broad mind begins to swap places with your narrow waist. If this is true then I, for one, should be very vigilant indeed.

But even if MAB recognises himself the film industry is missing a trick: it really should be shipping him a steady stream of suitable product – just as it does for other sectors. So, to help both parties out, I propose that the film industry tags a classification to the end of its titles which reflects the intended audience. It could start with CO for Children Only, FF for Family Fun, TH for Teen Humour and so on ending with AC for All Comers. At least then MABs could work out which ones we need not bother seeing and the industry might realise that it’s portfolio is light in the MAB department.

And the film I saw? I can’t bring myself to recommend it but try listening to this instead:
 It’s the classic tune of the same name, written and performed by Benny Golson.

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