Hardly a day goes by without Tom Hiddlesbum getting his nethers out for the cameras. The Sloth wholeheartedly applauds this. Not because we are a perv, nor because we have any personal lecherous interest in Hiddlesbum, but because he is single-handedly flying the flag for equality. Discussing Crimson Peak, in which he got naked (albeit fleetingly) whilst his leading lady remained resolutely clothed, he commented “I was happy to do it. In many of these situations it is the woman who is more naked, and we wanted to re-dress the balance”. For doubters who dismissed this as a neat PR hook, last Sunday he was at it again, unleashing The Buttocks midway through The Night Manager, to the sound of tea being spluttered across middle England. Those of you who regularly follow The Sloth’s witterings will know equality is our favourite hobby horse, which we have previously discussed at length here.
So a new week, a new opportunity, this time in a late 1970’s tower block. High-Rise is based on the JG Ballard novel that portrays an idealistic social experiment gone horribly wrong. Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons) is a visionary architect who has designed a skyscraper apartment building where all social classes cohabit – the poorer at the bottom and the richer at the top, with himself in the grand penthouse. Hiddlesbum plays Dr Robert Laing, a new resident who, being middle class, is allocated an apartment on the middle floors. Meeting his glamourous upstairs neighbour Charlotte Melville (Sienna Miller), Laing is soon introduced to his fellow residents and joins their endless rounds of cocktail parties.
So far, so idealistic. But no prizes for guessing this will all go spectacularly wrong. Failing power supplies lead to unrest on the lower floors which, unchecked, quickly escalates to rioting and anarchy. At the same time, the upper floors ongoing partying descends into an orgy of debauched, Bacchanalian excess. Laing is our calm, rational Everyman, observing the chaos with growing horror as the entire block gradually implodes upon itself.
The Sloth hasn’t read the novel, so we can’t comment on how true/good/bad/ugly the film remains to Ballard’s original. It certainly paints a memorable picture with industrial-concrete-meets 70’s-shag-pile interiors (unbelievably fabulous – The Sloth is moving to The Barbican pronto) and captures the tense, fishbowl claustrophobia of living in such close proximity. It’s not easy viewing, the violence and excess reach truly nightmarish levels becoming ritualised and almost abstract, but the portrait of a selfish and volatile society is worryingly relatable to anyone who battles the London rush hour of a morning.
So does he unleash The Buttocks? Oh yes. Not only that but he gets fully naked, protected only by a towel clasped over his dignity, leading an impressed Charlotte to comment “you’re lucky, you’re one of the few people who look better naked”. Good effort, Mr H. Female actors the world over should be saluting you.