Sunday, November 04, 2007

City of Foreigners

Hmmmm. I believe CP Scott, editor of The Manchester Guardian for more than 50 years said "comment is free, but facts are sacred".

All right, all right, I know a storyteller is under no obligation to accept the constraints of a documentary maker. I wouldn't have mentioned Eastern Promises if the critics hadn't treated his fantasy as realism. 'This is the kerb-crawling reality. This is London,' declared the man from the Times. Cronenberg shows London as a 'magnet for hucksters, desperadoes and fortune-seekers; a militarised, relentlessly surveillanced police state in the making,' said the Telegraph. Our own Philip French was more restrained, but still saw it as a picture 'about the dark underside of globalisation and multiculturalism'.

But, Nick, they didn't. Philip French said "Eastern Promises is an exciting story about hypocrisy, decency and different kinds of honour, and about the dark underside of globalisation and multiculturalism." Story, Nick. That word alters the sentence. As for the Telegraph:

More than that, London is swelling -- furiously, fantastically. Its skyline is increasingly engorged, its climate heating up, its economy blasting on all furnaces, its population growing all the time. It's a Wild West of obscene wealth and desperate struggles; a magnet for hucksters, desperadoes and fortune-seekers; a militarised, relentlessly surveillanced police state in the making.

But that's given in preamble, Sukhdev Sandhu[1] doesn't say 'Cronenberg shows' this at all; he says it's the case. What he says about Cronenberg is quite different.

Strangely, Cronenberg and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, who made very good use of the capital's canals, gas works and terraced streets in their previous London-set drama Spider (2002), seem less interested - or at least are less successful at - evoking the feel or mood of its secret geographies here. But it's not clear that they really know what they do want to evoke.

Neither reviewer sees the film as a documentary nor do they say anything about London being "a city of foreigners." (Nick treated the film of Brick Lane as a documentary not so long ago. London is too big to be any one thing.)

The shorter Cohen is something like 'the middle classes are finally waking up to the country being swamped by foreigners. And they're right.' "You couldn't make it up", as Nick's new friend Richard Littlejohn says in his personal, humourless, version of the Fast Show. (A catchphrase every 30 seconds. A laugh a century, if you're lucky.) Beyond that, what is the point of today's piece? It's scaremongering with all mongering and no scare. "The trouble is the government doesn't know who they are, where they are, how long they will stay or when they will go." The government gets something right at last, say I.

[1]Sukhdev Sandhu is qualified to give an opinion on London as "a city of foreigners." He's written two books on the city: Night Haunts: A Journey Through Nocturnal London and London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City. He's also Nick's colleague on the New Statesman. Yes, he writes for the Torygraph, but 'said the Telegraph' gives Observer readers the impression of a 90-year-old colonel in Twickenham, not a Sikh from Hounslow with a PhD.


Blogger Matthew said...

He has somewhat strange ideas about class and class attitudes as well. Should we care that the British super-rich are being elbowed out by the foreign super-rich? Do all working class people really dislike immigrants that much? Are middle-class people worried about American and French immigrants taking their jobs (which is the sort of thing I presume he means). Are views that distinctive?

11/04/2007 04:18:00 PM  

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