05 November 2007

David Mamet

Some years ago (longer than I care to remember) I picked up a couple of VHS tapes which had been remaindered in a media bucket shop in York (where I was teaching on an Open University summer school). They were The House of Games and Something Changed by David Mamet, whose work at that time I didn't know. They made an immediate impact on me: tremendous dialogue, tightly plotted, clever,spare, and obviously the latest manifestation of the American naturalist tradition. Since then I have sought out his work wherever possible. He's really good at creating menace, suspense, and mystery. But last night I watched The Spanish Prisoner for about the fourth time - and I began to wonder. His plots centre heavily on conspiracy against the underdog - and you are expected to believe that an awful lot of people are in on the act of creating alternative worlds which baffle the hero or heroine. Restaurants which disappear; squads of CIA agents who are all phoney; hoards of hoods dressed in rented cop's uniforms.

In this particular film there's another plot weakness. The hero is working on a secret formula ('the process') in a big business - yet we're expected to believe that there's only one copy of the formula in handwritten form in an A4 notebook. Come on David - get real!

But that's after four viewings. He's still good entertainment.

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