Julien Temple’s Absolute Beginners was a critical and financial misfire when it was first released back in 1986. Rose tinted glasses could potentially make it a a long lust classic, but sadly Temple’s musical is still a narrative and storytelling mess thirty years on, but boy, does the film look good. However, a visual triumph does not a good movie make. In fact, if I were a pun-making man, I’d call it an absolute mess.
Temple’s film adapts takes Colin MacInnes’s book for the big screen and the plot sees Eddie O’Connell’s Colin romancing Patsy Kensit’s Crepe Sezette against the backdrop of a racially tense London in 1958.
The main selling points for Absolute Beginners are the set design and supporting cast and it’s difficult to decide which is the most impressive. The film’s Soho set is an absolute stunner but a cast that includes David Bowie , Ray Davies, Lionel Blair, Sade, James Fox and Steven Berkoff is nothing to be sneezed at. As for the film’s stars, O’Connell was a solid enough lead, while Kensit once again proves that she has always been a ‘Crepe’ actress.
Music is in Julien Temple ‘s DNA and he helped craft a variety of music flavoured films like The Great Rock And Roll Swindle as well as a variety of music videos (for David Bowie, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones). Absolute Beginners should have made him an auteur, but instead he was held accountable for bringing down production company Goldcrest Films. His career never really recovered and his subsequent career has been patchy, although 2000’s Coleridge/Wordsworth biopic, Pandaemonium is an interesting curio.
Absolute Beginners isn’t good, but it is a good-looking failure with some interesting music cameos. It likely has its followers, but a dud movie will always be a dud movie. At least the late, great David Bowie got a hit single out of it!
Absolute Beginners comes with a great documentary which features director Julien Temple, star Eddie O’Connell and Producer Stephen Wooley discussing the film’s successes and many failures. This is more entertaining than the film!