Gilbey on Film: Curious collaborations

Our critic picks five unlikely couplings from the world of cinema

The past few days have felt like a variation on one of those "key parties" that provided such grisly amusement in Ang Lee's The Ice Storm; all weekend there were two needy partygoers left vying for the single set of car keys languishing in the bowl. Then Gordon Brown excused himself from the undignified dance, volunteering an as-yet-undecided junior to take his place in Nick Clegg's groovy waterbed (to stretch the Ice Storm analogy). Once we become accustomed to that idea, it was time to grapple once again with the spectre of a Clegg-Cameron love-in ("Clegg to be Cameron's deputy PM", tweeted Mark Thomas after chucking-out time at the Lib-Dem meeting, "though in Eton they still call it fagging"). Ever since the early hours of 7 May, this country has been forced to consider the prospect of strange bedfellows in all their permutations.

So now we know it's Cameron and Clegg. Or Cameron and Osborne, with Clegg on the Z-bed. But let's be optimistic, if only for the sake of variety. Offbeat collaborations can sometimes yield unforeseen advantages. Don't press me on the details right now, but take heart instead from the list below of random, film-related odd-couplings or unusual rapprochements. All have produced ripples of pleasure, even if some of them might appear initially to go together about as well as Adam Boulton and Alastair Campbell.

Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl

Olivier's disdain for his co-star in this 1957 film (adapted by Terrence Rattigan from his own fizzy play The Sleeping Prince) is by now notorious. Judge for yourself if the rancour is kept entirely off-screen when the picture is screened this week at London's BFI South Bank as part of a season celebrating its cinematographer, Jack Cardiff (who would rank as a legend even if he had shot nothing but his Powell and Pressburger hat-trick -- A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes).

David Lynch and a $45m science-fiction shaggy-dog story

New light is shed on the folly of Lynch's Dune by this six-minute excerpt from the video diary of one its stars, Sean Young. Sting chows down in the catering tent, Jurgen Prochnow trips up, Francesca Annis flashes her underwear and Young provides some distracted theories on what she considers to be Lynch's failure of nerve.

Bill Murray and Emily Dickinson (and others)

The reigning genius of US comic cinema reads poetry to New York construction workers. Obviously. Like the man says -- "A pretty nice piece of bliss..."

Lynne Ramsay and the pop promo

A season of Ramsay's work would barely fill an afternoon. Good job it's all so original and absorbing. While we await her film of Lionel Shriver's novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, here are two different edits -- one here, another here -- of her video for the 2005 Doves single, "Black and White Town." Her mastery of the shorter form remains as assured as it was in early shorts like Gasman and Small Deaths; this promo plays like an x-ray of the people who pass before the lens. Ramsay proves the adage that most of a director's work is done in the casting. Look at these kids' faces, at once lamblike and yet so hard and angular they could have been bashed into shape on an anvil. Also, watching this makes you realise what a vital influence she has been on fellow Brits: the most visually striking films of the last two or three years -- Red Road, Fish Tank, Hunger, Better Things and Helen -- have all followed in her trail.

Blondie and Bond

Debbie Harry gives it the full Shirley Bassey in Blondie's live romp through "Goldfinger" for German TV in 1977. Feisty fun, though it lacks the daredevil thrill of Tommy McCook's reggae twist on the evergreen Bond theme. (As a not-unconnected bonus, here are Arctic Monkeys with "Diamonds Are Forever" from Glastonbury 2007.)

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Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

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Leader: The unresolved Eurozone crisis

The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving.

The eurozone crisis was never resolved. It was merely conveniently forgotten. The vote for Brexit, the terrible war in Syria and Donald Trump’s election as US president all distracted from the single currency’s woes. Yet its contradictions endure, a permanent threat to continental European stability and the future cohesion of the European Union.

The resignation of the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, following defeat in a constitutional referendum on 4 December, was the moment at which some believed that Europe would be overwhelmed. Among the champions of the No campaign were the anti-euro Five Star Movement (which has led in some recent opinion polls) and the separatist Lega Nord. Opponents of the EU, such as Nigel Farage, hailed the result as a rejection of the single currency.

An Italian exit, if not unthinkable, is far from inevitable, however. The No campaign comprised not only Eurosceptics but pro-Europeans such as the former prime minister Mario Monti and members of Mr Renzi’s liberal-centrist Democratic Party. Few voters treated the referendum as a judgement on the monetary union.

To achieve withdrawal from the euro, the populist Five Star Movement would need first to form a government (no easy task under Italy’s complex multiparty system), then amend the constitution to allow a public vote on Italy’s membership of the currency. Opinion polls continue to show a majority opposed to the return of the lira.

But Europe faces far more immediate dangers. Italy’s fragile banking system has been imperilled by the referendum result and the accompanying fall in investor confidence. In the absence of state aid, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, could soon face ruin. Italy’s national debt stands at 132 per cent of GDP, severely limiting its firepower, and its financial sector has amassed $360bn of bad loans. The risk is of a new financial crisis that spreads across the eurozone.

EU leaders’ record to date does not encourage optimism. Seven years after the Greek crisis began, the German government is continuing to advocate the failed path of austerity. On 4 December, Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declared that Greece must choose between unpopular “structural reforms” (a euphemism for austerity) or withdrawal from the euro. He insisted that debt relief “would not help” the immiserated country.

Yet the argument that austerity is unsustainable is now heard far beyond the Syriza government. The International Monetary Fund is among those that have demanded “unconditional” debt relief. Under the current bailout terms, Greece’s interest payments on its debt (roughly €330bn) will continually rise, consuming 60 per cent of its budget by 2060. The IMF has rightly proposed an extended repayment period and a fixed interest rate of 1.5 per cent. Faced with German intransigence, it is refusing to provide further funding.

Ever since the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, declared in 2012 that he was prepared to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency, EU member states have relied on monetary policy to contain the crisis. This complacent approach could unravel. From the euro’s inception, economists have warned of the dangers of a monetary union that is unmatched by fiscal and political union. The UK, partly for these reasons, wisely rejected membership, but other states have been condemned to stagnation. As Felix Martin writes on page 15, “Italy today is worse off than it was not just in 2007, but in 1997. National output per head has stagnated for 20 years – an astonishing . . . statistic.”

Germany’s refusal to support demand (having benefited from a fixed exchange rate) undermined the principles of European solidarity and shared prosperity. German unemployment has fallen to 4.1 per cent, the lowest level since 1981, but joblessness is at 23.4 per cent in Greece, 19 per cent in Spain and 11.6 per cent in Italy. The youngest have suffered most. Youth unemployment is 46.5 per cent in Greece, 42.6 per cent in Spain and 36.4 per cent in Italy. No social model should tolerate such waste.

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has often asserted. Yet it does not follow that Europe will succeed if the euro survives. The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving. In these circumstances, the surprise has been not voters’ intemperance, but their patience.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump