Sunday October 14th 2012
Criticism is a fucking bitch. I know that. And it’s bad enough when you’ve got a healthy mix of devotees and detractors, eagerly debating the merits of your short film, book, feminist blog post, whatever. It’s another entirely when your second film as a writer (and first as a producer) is currently tracking at 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and opened last weekend to a £433 screen average. That’s the situation that Cryodon-born filmmaker Davie Fairbanks currently finds himself in, and he’s not taking it well.
Back in August, Leigh Francis’s Twitter feed turned into a sort of one-man hate machine, wishing ill on critics up and down the country who failed to recognise the comedic genius of Keith Lemon: The Film and had the temerity to make their displeasure known to the nation. And unlike The Knot, that film at least had the silver lining of an opening weekend that saw the film debut above every other new entry at the UK box office. It’s no surprise that the reaction on Fairbanks’s Twitter account has been a little stronger.
It all began Sunday before last, when a site by the name of London Film Fanatiq (finally, a movie blog with a name worse than Ultra Culture) ran a less than flattering review of the film under the laboured heading ‘Clarke’s latest is (The K)not suitable for anyone’. Fairbanks responded by taking to the site’s Facebook page and posting the following:
‘You shouldn’t call yourself a film fanatic, you’re quite clearly a sad jumped up cunt that should climb up his own arse and die rather than give your ill-advised opinion to the world.’
Not exactly Cowardian as comebacks go, is it?
A flamewar predictably raged on Twitter, with Fairbanks calling various other people names and martyrishly retweeting all the hate that was subsequently aimed at him. At one point, he wrote…
… before preceding to write 117 other tweets in response to critical maulings of the film. That day alone. Many recipients were even invited to ‘meet’ Fairbanks in Leicester Square after that evening’s screening of The Knot. And of course, the countless excoriating replies that followed only pushed Fairbanks further onto the defensive. Soon the film’s haters were branded ‘keyboard gangsters’ and ‘bandwagon jumpers’ — presumably attacking the film not out of any legitimate critical complaint but instead because of some unexplained personal vendetta against its makers.
Sadly, he wasn’t the only one failing to turn the other cheek. Beneath the film’s Time Out review, producer Enrico Tessarin wrote:
‘And here we go. The typical dismissive review, coming late at night as expected… last night, for the third night in a row, we had a screening with 110 people where everyone stayed, laughed again at the right times, clapped at the end and, belive it or not, stayed for an extra one and hlf hour to listen to a Q&A. and the comments are on facebook and twitter. Perhaps if you care to make yourself known a the next screening, we have another one tonight, I’d love to buy you a beer and tell you about how we are going to make an arthouse film next…’
Can the bit about the 90-minute Q&A possibly be true? God help us if it is.
Meanwhile, over on Philip French’s review at The Observer, a woman by the name of Bernadine Lawrence wrote:
‘Maybe you ought to “review the situation” if you can’t even be bothered to watch films you’re supposed to be reviewing, Mr French. The Knot is hilarious and audiences are loving it! Pack your popcorn and have a good laugh!’
She was soon revealed to be the director’s mother.
Other dismissive comments on both reviews appear to be from people involved with the movie, or else friends of the filmmakers. And really, I suppose, who can blame them? The instinct to become overly protective when a loved one is attacked — or at least perceives that they’ve been attacked — is perfectly understandable. But there’s also a tragic inevitability in watching these people wade into the fray, apparently oblivious to the fact that their obvious bias towards the film makes their opinion largely redundant.
Then again, having not seen the film, so is mine. And perhaps there’s some speck of truth to this assertion, posted by the aforementioned Mrs. Lawrence below Peter Bradshaw’s one-star review of The Knot:
‘We Brits like to knock each other down. Big Up the UK Film industry! Pack your popcorn and have a good time!’
Pack your popcorn indeed.