Sunday, May 26, 1974

Parlay Lady Lay

Pirates, as a series, could be the most oddball, ADHD adventure American audiences are ever going to get, or at least let's bloody well hope so. If you've heard the unanimous criticism of this one, that is of its being so convoluted as to make deciphering it beside the point, well, one can't proceed with even a minor discussion of it without acknowledging plain fact.

It brings you nine pieces of eight, all right. It brings you at least two more after that. It throws in one too many shifts in alliance, five or nine too many betrayals/comeuppances, and then discards them all. The total would be rubbish were it not such a trifle of a plot, trifle of a love triangle, though probably the Best Wedding Ever at the climax (climices?), and it's still so much to deal with that you despair early in following it. One could only be a churl, however, to make too much of that. American critics, for instance, distracted from their sugar-rush of an apparently very strong Cannes this year, are being awfully churlish. It's tedious, but here's a list of what keeps us in our seats:

- The best cinematography and set design of the entire series, and that's saying something. This is the kind of film that owns its epic scope instead of simply aspiring to it. From the marvelous Singapore sets and costumes to the round table room at the pirate conclave, it's all such obviously hard work, but they make it look way too easy.

- Johnny Depp in Davy Jones's Locker cum 2001: A Space Odyssey-style hallucination involving the rock.

- Geoffrey Rush's wild, wandering eyes and his scene snatching, focus purloining prancing.

- Keith Richards, having shown up requiring no assistance from makeup or wardrobe, offering his living room for the Pirate Conclave.

- Stumpy-Jam-Eater-Villain (East India Company Stooge) acquiring a role (and consequently real screen-time) in the action worthy of Tom Hollander.

- Did I mention the best wedding that will EVER happen?

- Reservoir Doggy-Style shootout.

And there are more. It's too long. Too convoluted. There's no need for another. Doesn't matter, there'll be more. Still, pack the kids into your land rover and hustle on down, abacus in tow. These are mad, bizarre films and they have a certain charm. I haven't been an evangelist for them, but I'm moved to point out their strengths. Strange though, that the more digitized the series has become, the less funny it's been, consecutively. There's a thought.