A closer look at the action
Film - Philip Kerr stages a contest between an old man's bottom and a film. The bottom wins
Whenever I go to an art gallery, I almost always find the punters more interesting than the paintings. Occasionally, this also happens at the theatre, but it rarely occurs at the cinema - unless, that is, one is attending a film premiere. These are ghastly occasions, and I usually give the tickets to our children's nanny who, being an avid reader of Heat, at least recognises most of the micro-celebrities that turn up - many of whom seem to attend several such events each month.
At one such premiere, Nicole Kidman actually spoke to me. I think she said something like "Who are you?" At the time, I came away from our magical encounter thinking that she really is a beautiful person. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the tickets for such glittering occasions to give away, and most people have to make do with a trip to the local cinema, which, these days, provides little in the way of magic. Following last week's review of my local Odeon, I have been trying to think of a way to make cinema-going in general more enjoyable. I believe that Spencer Tunick (see Rosie Millard's column, 28 April) may have shown us the way with his "nude installations". My proposal is this: we should be naked when we go to the cinema.
The sight of Nigella Lawson and Kathy Lette stripping off for the opening of Charles Saatchi's new gallery on London's South Bank, and then the 500 who went naked in Selfridges towards the end of last month, has made me realise how much more fun it might be to go to the cinema if, for certain films at least, nudity were a condition of entry. Such films could be classed as NA, meaning Nude Audience. With so many dismal films on our screens, if we were naked we would still have something interesting to look at: each other. And frankly, an old man's bottom would be more interesting than the latest Steven Seagal film, entitled, with considerable understatement, Half Past Dead.
Seagal's films are always much less interesting than his life. He used to operate an aikido dojo in Osaka before moving to Hollywood to teach martial arts to movie stars. It is said that he broke Sean Connery's wrist during the filming of Never Say Never Again, and I must confess that, since then, despite his ridiculous ponytail and zero acting ability, he has occupied a special place in my affections.
One of Seagal's pupils was the Creative Artists Agency uber-agent Mike Ovitz, who has twisted a few arms in his time, and who, possibly to prove that he is The Man, and that he could make anyone a movie star, engineered a Stallone-type deal for the unknown Seagal to write, produce and star in Above the Law (1988). Several formulaic action flicks followed. Seagal kicked lots of butt, made lots of money, and married and divorced top babe Kelly LeBrock. Then, last year, it all started to go pear-shaped for the increasingly pear-shaped aikido star. (These days he looks more like Danny Aiello.) Seagal's former producer, Julius Nasso, brought a $60m lawsuit against him, alleging Seagal had reneged on deals to star in four more films after falling under the influence of a Buddhist spiritual adviser. Meanwhile, the federal officials arrested Nasso when wire-taps caught him talking with Mafia figures about collecting kickbacks (as opposed to roundhouse kicks) from Seagal. Sonny Ciccone, the Mafia boss, was heard demanding a payment of $150,000 for every action picture the martial arts expert made with Nasso. Subsequently, Seagal testified before a grand jury that members of the Gambino family were extorting money from him. Peter Gotti, the boss of the Gambino crime family, was convicted of infiltrating the New York waterfront and shaking down Seagal; Nasso has been committed for trial in September.
Now that's what I call a movie. It is certainly more interesting than Half Past Dead, in which Seagal demonstrates what it is like to be half-dead. This is quite the worst kick-ass picture since the hugely overrated XXX. That's the movie starring Vin Diesel, and not the bum-and-tit show playing at the Riverside Studios in west London. That, incidentally, is another show where the audience is more interesting than what's happening on the stage. Most of them are journalists, see. You can easily recognise them by their dirty macs.
Half Past Dead (15) is on general release