Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Four Lions: Urban Village Idiots

Before saying anything about Chris Morris’ new film, Four Lions, we have to get our heads round a basic question, “Is Al-Qaeda supposed to be funny?” If there really is a war against terror on, surely it could be, however disturbing the humour. Nobody walked out of Will Hay’s The Goose Steps Out (1942) because there was a war on — quite the reverse. However if you can’t or won’t see the funny side of Jihadism, this film is, frankly, not for you. Whether it should have been funny or not, thirty punters in Wycombe on Friday found it hilarious, with a steady stream of chuckles, and a belly laugh every twenty minutes or so.

Four Lions tells of the everyday lives and activities of four dim Jihadists, as they bungle and bomb their way around South Yorkshire, confusing themselves and occasionally foxing the neighbours. The surrreal humour is pure Spike Milligan. Our heroes’ Jihad is internal, mainly against their own stupidity.

It culminates in a tacky and mainly incompetent bid for immortality in London. Nothing in the Al-Qaeda lexicon is sacrosanct — martyrdom videos, training camps in Pakistan, explosions in public places.
It is necessary to suspend disbelief about the characters, who are very much cardboard cutouts; but then this is not a sympathetic exploration of the psychology of martyrdom so much as a rollicking send-up. As a matter of public policy, is this a fit subject for parody? Well, as a matter of public experience, what did for Mrs Thatcher was Spitting Image, not Michael Foot. Any young man joining Al-Qaeda after Four Lions is bound to take the rehtorical world of the organisation with a pinch of salt, and to feel that bit sillier and more exposed. It might even put him off. It’s a very different approach from the Government’s all-too earnest Violent Extremism programme, but probably more effective.

And anyone who can induce a couple of paroxysms of helpless mirth in three dozen of their fellow citizens about a thing like this on a Friday night in Wycombe can’t be all bad. Four and a half out of Five stars.


Acetate Monkey said...

Although I don't know too much about either of them, your post reminded me of Zizek's reference to Marx in the title of his book "First as tragedy then as farce".

In answer to your rhetorical(?) question, yes whilst tragic and appalling, the farcical nature of jihadism is something which can deconstruct its 'monster-under-the-bed power.

The concentration camp interment and termination of the Jews, whilst standing out as an awful moment in history, was humorously yet sensitively addressed in Life is Beautiful. A truly brilliant film (not sure of its score on the +ometer).

If ever there was a man to do it well, it would be Chris Morris who has ably (and controversially) demonstrated such ability in the past. Whether 'Urban Village Idiots' can see the message however has been called into question before with the handling of his BrassEye paedophile episode.

Frugal Dougal said...

Bishop Alan, you say that nothing is beyond parody: given some of the sacrelige that's been peddled about Jesus recently, is Mohammed parodied?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks a/m for the Life is Beautiful link. Scores high on +ometer! It's at least ten years since I saw it, but I remember it turned on the humour of the main characters, even in appalling circumstances. Chris Morris' stuff is edgy (compliment), and I found some of Brass Eye a bit OTT, but he certainly reached paces other people don't.

FrDl: I suppose pretty much anything can (intellectually) be parodied; But should it be? I didn't say everything was fair game, just that enemies in a war could be and had been in the World War II UK cinema.

This particular film didn't have anything to do with the Prophet.Films like Elmer Gantry or Leap of Faith don't parody Jesus, just some of his followers.

paul said...

About sixty of us guffawed our way through this in Stratford Picture House, east London. We were a decent cross-section of one of the most religiously-plural and multi-ethnic neighbourhoods in the UK, too.
Were we also a self-selecting bunch of film-buffs who were going to 'get it'? I s'pose so, but hey!...

I tend to think of Chris Morris in genius terms. He really understands how medium and message can get conflated to depress available meanings and oppress discourses. Thank God for him.

I shall give it a 4.5 out of 5 on my -ometer, also, and never regard sheep as trip-hazards in quite the same way, ever again!...

acetate monkey said...

Five months down the line and I finally watched it last night on rental. Brilliant. Amongst everything else, you are rapidly becoming a kind of Jonathon Ross/Barry Norman replacement for film recommendations. All the ones you've rated that I've watched have turned out to be fab. Thanks for putting this on my radar.

saziyana said...

I have heard about this movie and i was excited to watch its trailer.So i surfed and found out a site where i watched its trailer and i must say this movie gonna be very interesting movie.I must recommend all to watch four lions movie 's trailer.

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