What’s on at the Arts Picturehouse Cambridge: From golf’s hilarious Phantom of the Open to The Worst Person in the World
Mark Walsh, in a column sponsored by the Arts Picturehouse Cambridge, looks ahead to what’s coming to the big screen.
The Phantom of the Open
To become a national treasure in Britain, it seems that you either need to be very good at a particular activity or incredibly bad at it.
You don’t have to be a Torvill or Dean, if you can channel the unchallenged mediocrity of Eddie The Eagle then the nation could still take you to their hearts. The Phantom Of The Open tells the story of another British sportsman for whom a complete lack of both talent and experience proved no bar to competing at the highest level.
Maurice Flitcroft was a shipyard crane operator facing the threat of redundancy, who saw a golf tournament on TV and inexplicably decided that he should switch careers. He determined to enter the qualifying tournament for the 1976 Open Championship, golf’s oldest and most prestigious tournament, but prior to teeing off hadn’t completed a single round on a proper golf course. When the application form demanded to know the handicap for any amateurs, Flitcroft simply declared himself to be a professional and gained entry without question.
What follows is a tale of such self-inflicted sporting calamity that could easily come off as mean-spirited in the wrong hands. But Flitcroft and his loyal, long-suffering wife are played straight with charm and sincerity by two of the country’s greatest acting treasures, Mark Rylance and Sally Hawkins. It’s based on a book co-written by Simon Farnaby (the trouserless politician from TV’s Ghosts) and Farnaby’s screenplay and Craig Roberts’ direction, supported by a cast including Rhys Ifans’ exasperated official, keep the story bouncing along admirably.
Especially enjoyable are Flitcroft’s increasingly ludicrous attempts to gain entry to subsequent tournaments; you won’t be surprised to hear that his disguises are as convincing as his golf swing. The Phantom Of The Open looks set to join the pantheon of great British comedy films, even if its subject was never in danger of any such success.
The Phantom Of The Open is showing from Friday, March 18.
Oxide Ghosts: The Brass Eye Tapes
We live in an age where news seems to have almost moved beyond satire, but that’s no fault of the satirists who’ve punctured it with their sharpened wit over the years. Possibly the sharpest skewer of the last few decades has belonged to Chris Morris, who started out as a trainee-turned-presenter at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire before joining the radio spoof news programme On The Hour and then its TV equivalent The Day Today.
But it was Brass Eye that represented his finest and funniest hour, using black humour to tackle an array of subjects and getting celebrities and politicians to discuss the issues surrounding them. But the issues were typically invented, such as a drug called ‘Cake’ from the no-longer-a-country Czechoslovakia, with celebrities condemning fictional accounts of drug dealing and animal cruelty to highlight their own narcissism and lack of fact checking in a condemnation of celebrity culture and the state of news broadcasting.
Michael Cumming has had a long career in TV direction, ranging from filmed inserts for The Word to Toast Of London. He directed the original six episode TV series and has compiled this fascinating behind the scenes look at Morris’ process, from the pair’s first meeting to the difficulties in pulling off such an audacious project. The film will only ever be screened at live events, so seeing it in the cinema is your only chance to catch it, but you will get a Q & A with Michael for your efforts as well.
Oxide Ghosts is showing on Monday, March 28
The Worst Person in the World
Joachim Trier is a Norwegian filmmaker who’s been building an impressive body of work over the last decade. Oslo, August 31st followed a recovering drug addict over a single day, Louder Than Bombs saw a father and his sons processing the grief of losing the mother of the family, and Thelma is a supernatural romance thriller with elements of horror. But he seems to have saved his best so far for a study of the absolute worst, but based on his previous work you might not be expecting it to be a romantic comedy drama.
Julie (Renate Reinsve) is turning thirty, without having found the direction in which she wants to take her life. She’s tried different jobs, haircuts and relationships without ever settling into anything, but over the course of the film’s twelve chapters, she attempts to define a new path for herself in love and work, and in the reflections of her relationships she begins to examine herself.
With most of the main awards being handed out this month, Trier’s film has managed to break out of the isolation of the Best International Film category, with Oscar giving him a nomination for the screenplay, co-written with regular partner Eskil Vogt, and BAFTA have nominated Reinsve in the Best Actress category. Trier is a talent to watch, and this unexpectedly sweet and beautifully observed film shows off his undoubted talents as both a writer and director with some brilliant visual set pieces.
The Worst Person In The World is showing from Friday, March 25.
Charli XCX: Alone Together
Not to try to make you feel old, but do you remember Myspace? It feels like a generation ago, but it was an internet platform that helped to launch a number of musical careers. Cambridge-born and Essex-raised Charli XCX started out there before a career that’s seen her release four albums and have five top 10 singles, but her pop career – like so many musicians – was stalled by the global pandemic.
Stuck in her LA home with nothing to do, she turned to music as therapy, announcing that she was going to make an album in forty days. She used the time to communicate with fans on social media and used the interaction to help shape the resulting album. Despite its narrow production window and unusual process, the resulting album How I’m Feeling Now was a Mercury Prize nominee in 2020. Alone Together documents the process, warts and all, of self-producing the album and the effect it had not only on her, but those around her.
Charli XCX: Alone Together is showing on Thursday, April 14.
Read more from Mark Walsh by visiting his author page