The Big Picture

(Christopher Guest, USA, 1989)


The Big Picture is the kind of off-beat, satirical comedy that gets hailed as a "brave little film" (by Bob Ellis among others) – but probably only by skilfully buying into a certain contemporary mythology.

The film is a fable for those who think they know how deals are made in the mainstream film industry – the culture of Premiere magazine, the television series Naked Hollywood and David Puttnam biographies.

Director Christopher Guest and co-writer-actor Michael McKean are Spinal Tap alumni, and the film has many sharp, funny moments as it traces Kevin Bacon’s journey from film school to first feature via a jungle of agents, producers and script conferences.

But it’s also a fantasy, pitting (as ever) true art against base commerce. Funny how Bacon’s ultimate artistic gesture (presented without any irony by the film) seems to be an icky mixture of dewy-eyed Capra, ersatz Bergman à la Woody Allen, and an episode of thirtysomething.

But I guess that about sums up a certain brand of wannabe independent cinema these days.

MORE Guest: Attack of the 50ft Woman, A Mighty Wind

© Adrian Martin 1990

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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