Out of puff

PUFF­BALL Di­rected by Ni­co­las Roeg. Star­ring Kelly Reilly, Mi­randa Richard­son, Rita Tush­ing­ham, Don­ald Suther­land, William Hous­ton, Os­car Pearce, Tina Kel­legher 18 cert, The Screen, Dublin, 120 min Don­ald Clarke in­ter­views Ni­co­las Roeg in to­day’s main pap

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Listings - DON­ALD CLARKE

WHAT IS the worst film ever made by a di­rec­tor of ge­nius? Francis Ford Cop­pola’s Jack cer­tainly takes some beat­ing (or, rather, it doesn’t). The wretched­ness of Ing­mar Bergman’s The Ser­pent’s Egg de­fies be­lief. Where to be­gin with the later trav­es­ties of Wim Wen­ders?

Well, you can see where this is go­ing. It gives me no plea­sure to re­late that Ni­co­las Roeg’s Puff­ball, an adap­ta­tion of a wry novel by Fay Wel­don, stinks like last week’s fish. If you found it ly­ing on your car­pet, you’d put it in the back of some­body else’s car and drive it to a re­mote in­cin­er­a­tion fa­cil­ity. Then you’d buy a new car­pet.

Writ­ten by Dan Wel­don, Fay’s son, the film finds Kelly Reilly’s un­likely ar­chi­tect mi­grat­ing to a re­mote cor­ner of Ire­land with her Amer­i­can boyfriend. In be­tween her ef­forts to re­build a metaphor in the shape of a de­cay­ing cot­tage, she man­ages to have some messy sex by the cow shed and con­ceive a child. This does not go down well with a neigh­bour­ing fam­ily of de­ranged women and, af­ter stir­ring a few caul­drons and don­ning some pointed hats, they set about plan­ning her down­fall.

What fol­lows is ugly, con­fus­ing and te­dious. Rita Tush­ing­ham and Mi­randa Richard­son, as mad mother and nutty daugh­ter re­spec­tively, de­liver per­for­mances of such rug-chew­ing broad­ness they de­serve to be seen in Cine­mas­cope.

In Wel­don’s book, the coven’s at­tempts to su­per­nat­u­rally in­ter­fere with the in­ter­loper had some­thing to do with the au­thor’s view that preg­nancy in­spires an au­to­matic jeal­ousy in women. Sadly, such pon­der­ings are, here, to­tally over­whelmed by the avalanche of bad ac­cents and in­co­her­ent plot­ting. The film also takes a most un­for­tu­nate at­ti­tude to its lo­ca­tion. The story has been re­lo­cated from the English West Coun­try, but, rather than in­tro­duc­ing some lo­cal mythol­ogy, the film in­sists on deal­ing in Nordic runes and sym­bols. More dis­tress­ingly, Roeg chooses to rep­re­sent the peo­ple of the Border coun­ties as gap-toothed, de­ranged hicks with no more intelligence than the av­er­age cow­pat.

One is, of course, aware that many of Roeg’s best films re­ceived evis­cer­at­ing re­views on re­lease. But, whereas small minds viewed Per­for­mance, Bad Tim­ing and even Don’t Look Now as the work of a dis­turbed mind, no sane critic de­scribed any of those films as bor­ing. Fans of Roeg’s clas­sics would be ad­vised to give this im­mensely te­dious fi­asco the widest of berths.

Ni­co­las Roeg and Don­ald Suther­land dis­cuss a scene from Puff­ball

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