Friday Ephemera

Elsewhere (48)

Inspector Gadget on crime and, er, punishment:

In the last two weeks in Ruraltown, we have seen three men with a total of 78 previous convictions, convicted again for theft, domestic violence and vehicle crime… All three had previous records for ‘offences against the courts and police.’ All three had breached community sentences, been recalled whilst on licence or breached bail in the last two years. This kind of behaviour is now entirely normal for most of the criminal underclass in every town in Britain. None of these men received a single day’s custodial sentence. All three were dealt with by way of ‘community sentence.’ All three were happy to keep their freedom. One was arrested again within 24 hours for stealing cars. He didn’t even attempt to run away when patrols arrived.

Charles Crawford on the shortcomings of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy:

The good news is that it is pretty faithful to the original story, cramming a lot into the film while maintaining moody and sometimes tense mystery. The bad news is that it is pretty faithful to the book in having a feeble explanation of the reasons for the Mole’s treason. In fact it's even feebler than the book’s version which also has some facile anti-Americanising: “It’s an aesthetic choice - the West has got ugly.” Aesthetic? Ugly? Compared to the way of life behind the Iron Curtain? […] The wider failure of all the Le Carré spy books is also on display here: the reek of moral relativism (“we’re almost as bad as each other”) and lack of any significant substantive beliefs. By shrinking the world down to the mutual manoeuvrings of the rival spy agencies and their messy private lives, all context and purpose drain away - just as in the Godfather films the wider victims of the mafia families’ wickedness are never shown. If all you see is presented as ugly, why indeed be loyal to such an ugly world?

The Guardian predictably downplays the role of ideology and tells us, “One of the great strengths of Le Carré’s fiction is to show how blurred the moral line was between east and west.”

Mr Crawford also notes a key dramatic defect touched on recently in the comments here: 

The film’s main storyline weakness is that the four key suspects are seen as if from a far distance. You have no idea what their Circus jobs are or why they are important or what they are like, or indeed why they might be suspect.

Indeed. Smiley’s realisation of the mole’s identity is one of the film’s key scenes - and its most obvious miscalculation. A scene that should be emotionally and dramatically charged – and which assumes it is – isn’t. It just doesn’t hit the note. The soundtrack tells us an important insight is happening but the audience doesn’t share in the process, which is rather important if you’re expecting an emotional payoff. And a big part of the problem is that we don’t get to spend enough time with the suspects to earn any significant drama when the mole is revealed. The suspects are essentially bit parts, albeit well played. And so the denouement is much too flat and subdued.

And Peter Hitchens was also displeased by Tomas Alfredson’s much-praised film: 

As for Control, is it possible to believe that the director of the Secret Intelligence Service (at one point Cornwell says that he was so secretive that his own wife believed till the day he died that he worked for the National Coal Board) would have left his London flat full of charts and notes about a mole hunt in SIS, and that it would all still be there, untouched, months after his death?

As usual, feel free to add your own.