Monday saw DocoDomsy and I in London, for the exciting premiere of a brand new movie.
We were at the ICA for the press screening of a film by Ivan Massow, entrepreneur and the ex-chairman of said august organisation. It’s his first movie, a riff on reality TV and celebrity called Banksy’s Coming For Dinner. The screening was perfectly timed, of course, with Banksy’s takover of the Bristol City Museum making headlines everywhere.
The concept is simple, yet becomes increasingly mind-bending as soon as you put a little pressure on it. Massow has organised a dinner party, hosted by Joan Collins, with guests including past-it girl Tamara Beckwith, and comedian Stephen K Amos. The guest of honour, and the whole point to the film, is Banksy, showing up for the first time on camera. He is pixellated and subtitled throughout, and his voice is put through a voice-changer. The fun of the movie and the idea comes out of this clash of personalities – and the fact that the main star of the movie is the guy that is never properly seen or heard, and would normally not be seen dead at these kinds of events.
So does it work? Well, for the most part, yes. It’s very, very funny for a start. It’s cut to a typical reality show template, where one event is covered in a multi-camera shoot and then carefully bolted together afterwards. You get a lot of pregnant pauses, faux pas, and reactions that are clearly taken out of context. But this all adds to the fun of the thing.
And I should say before I go any further that it’s a mockumentary. Everyone here is playing to type, off a script, and to a certain extent also playing a caricature of themselves. The fact that they all do it so convincingly is part of the film’s charm.
There are extensive clues throughout that the film is not a document of a real event. The staff, for example, are played by quite recognisable actors, including Nickolas Grace and Helen Lederer in a cracking turn as a slightly batty chef. It’s rather telling that Banksy is very derogatory towards Tracey Emin – spouting opinions that are pretty much identical to Massow’s own on the subject. And don’t get me started on openly gay comedian Stephen Amos suddenly having a model girlfriend called Naomi…
As time goes on, you become increasingly aware that the whole thing is an elaborate trick, a Russian dollhouse of ideas nesting together, layers of meaning popping into view, constantly surprising and amusing.
I’d recommend Banksy’s Coming To Dinner, especially if you’re a fan of toe-curling reality shows, and the kind of improv comedy that Christopher Guest does so well. It’s smart, thought-provoking and laugh-out-loud hilarious.
I think Massow’s missed a chance though. He’s offering it as a download or DVD, when surely it’s ideal home would be one of the smaller BBC channels, or More/E4. At just over an hour, it
would need trimming to fit into the broadcast hour slot, but that could be pretty easily done, to my mind. Perhaps he’s tried, without success. In which case, I think that it’s the broadcasters that are missing the opportunity.
And does Banksy really come to dinner? Well, that would be telling…