Sunday, April 10, 2011

ffearless, ffatal, and ffantastic

A few weeks ago, I was invited by my friend Eric to a screening of ffolkes, a 1979 thriller about terrorists threatening to blow up two oil rigs in the North Sea. (The movie was released in Britain as North Sea Hijack.) It was being shown for its comic value by a group of young film enthusiasts, and it didn’t disappoint.

Roger Moore, between James Bond movies at the time, stars as Rufus Excalibur ffolkes, aptly described by Wikipedia as a “misogynist freelance marine counter-terrorism consultant.” (David Plotz says, “About that double, lower-case F — a few snooty British names have it, apparently because of a misreading of the Old English capital F.”)

One of the film’s official taglines called him “the man who loved cats, ignored women and is about to save the world.” Also apt. It’s hard to imagine that Wes Anderson and/or Owen Wilson didn’t see this at some point in their younger years. Moore starts the movie wearing a Where’s Waldo? hat and matching sweater and scarf that would have made him perfectly at home on Steve Zissou’s vessel. And his ragtag collection of underlings wear matching black wetsuits that say “ffolkes’ ffusiliers” on the back, a sartorial sameness that isn’t the only thing they share with Dignan’s group of amateur criminals in Bottle Rocket or Zissou’s crew in The Life Aquatic. (The scene that made me laugh hardest features the men training on a makeshift boat on the grounds of a castle. Their pudginess, and lack of precise timing — Moore blows a whistle to signal them to abruptly freeze; the result is a series of faltering stops — slayed me. It might have been meant to; it’s very difficult to tell where the movie is earnest and where it’s intentionally campy.)

Wait, I lied. The biggest laugh for me and everyone else in the room came when ffolkes solemnly told someone, “Both my parents died tragically in childbirth.”

What? Someone at imdb explains how the line made sense (more or less) in the movie’s source material, a novel by Jack Davies, but really, it’s much, much better dropped in here without context.

Another UK tagline for the movie read: “When the next 12 hours could cost you 1,000 million pounds and 600 lives, you need a man who lives second by second.” (The “thousand million” formulation is also good for several laughs throughout the movie, as if the characters are children trying to make a number sound large.) Anyway, it’s true — if you need a man who lives second by second, you need ffolkes. Just be warned that for some of those seconds, he is swigging whiskey from a bottle and/or intently doing needlework that features the image of a kitten.

Here, enjoy the trailer:


Blogger Barbara Carlson said...

What would Dickens think?

8:51 AM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

I have heard of this film, I must see it.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Barbara Carlson said...

Are my Comments invisible? Or just dumb? Let me know and I'll stop.

11:40 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

Hi Barbara. Your comments are neither invisible nor dumb. I just don't often respond to comments on the site unless they're direct questions of some type, or the post dictates some kind of ongoing conversation/debate in the comments.

11:48 AM  

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