DIRTY WEEKEND FEATURE
enough and vitriolically enough, you cannot expect the response to be digniﬁed and ordered and nice.’
Perhaps so, but even if the content verges on mayhem, surely we should be able to expect the ﬁlm itself to be of a reasonable technical quality. Dirty Weekend is, however, the most technically inept ﬁlm to grace our cinema screens for many a year. It makes the $7,000 El Mariachi look like it was polished up on a Spielberg- sized budget. The poor lighting, shoddy editing and shockingly amateurish post-production dubbing are unforgivable. While the material and tone are the same in both Dirty Weekend the novel and Dirty Weekend the ﬁlm, the former is stylishly well written and the latter is a slur on the good name of British ﬁlm technicians.
‘lt was deliberately shot very simply, and in that case does have a slightly old-fashioned look,’ Winner replies in an attempt at justiﬁcation. ‘I felt that the strength of the dialogue, the emotion and the activities happening on the screen were so powerful that I didn’t want to frip it up as I’m very capable of doing with very fancy photography and camera angles and all the other things that one can do if you’ve been 37 years looking at images. I wanted to concentrate on the people and I felt enough was going on.’
Other criticisms have centred on one scene in particular, where Bella brazenly picks up a grossly overweight man in a hotel bar, accompanies him to his room, and proceeds to kill him by tying a plastic bag over his head. ‘What I wanted to do with Norman [bravely played by Michael Cule] was take a typical male/female interaction, a typical chat-up situation, and reverse the outcome,’ explains Zahavi, now awaiting the publication of her second novel. ‘In the normal case, if she is attacked, everyone is going to say, “Well, she asked for it. Why did she go up with a stranger?” But when she’s in the room, she says to him, “Mummy should have told you not to go with strange women.” Suddenly she has reversed the power relationship and the expectations of that situation.’
This is very true, and turning conventions on their head in this way is the very essence of Dirty Weekend. Someone going to the cinema expecting a straightforward kill-a-thon will be bemused, intrigued or downright disappointed with the movie, which rips apart taboos and has snatches of dialogue that resemble Steven Berkoff at his most stylised. Any scene in which a naked, twenty-stone-plus man slaps his rolling ﬂesh while brutally taking a scantily clad woman doggie-style is certainly not for the squeamish, yet it is probably the most effective in the ﬁlm, as far as the agenda goes. Because here Bella outwits her antagonist by using his own inclination for bondage against him; tied up on account of his perverted desires, she has him at her mercy. Elsewhere it is a gun, a knife, a car that is the weapon, not, crucially, Bella’s intellect, for as the ﬁlm develops, she becomes more cartoonish — a cross between an avenging harpie and the Seventh Cavalry.
Dirty Weekend is, when all is said and done, more interesting in the issues it raises than as a
‘Suddenly I was able to think the unthinkable — all the things that women would not dare even dream of doing, this fictional woman was doing on paper. I was able to let the female id run riot through the streets of Brighton.’ Helen Zahavi
piece of cinema. Controversy, a word much bandied about in the ﬁlm industry, is a healthy sidekick for any art form to have. And while Winner might not have been the ideal choice for director, he’s certainly in tune with the subject matter and had the stubborn audacity to
stand by a commercially dubious project he believed in. But he’s probably not top of the Christmas card list of the Brighton Tourist Board, that’s for sure.
Dirty Weekend opens in Scotland on Friday 29 October:
The List 22 October—4 November 1993 11