The Look of Love: Blu Ray Review
Released by Madman Home Ent
"I'm Paul Raymond - and welcome to my world of erotica."
So announces Steve Coogan,straight down the barrel of the camera, at the start of his fourth collaboration with director Michael Winterbottomin this biopic about Paul Raymond, the Soho baron of smut and once Britain's richest man.
The notorious journey to infamy began back in 1958 when he opened a gentleman's club that none could resist - and Winterbottom charts this journey from the very beginning as it grew into an empire for Raymond, and one which was scattered with booze, birds and blow (well, a lot of hard drugs, but you need the alliteration, right?) along the way.
But it's Raymond's personal life which is laid relatively straight forwardly out through the 60s, 70s, 80s and up to his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots) and her death from an overdose in the 1990s. Along the way, it's a heady mix of sex, drugs and porn, but it's relatively lacking in insight into Raymond and remains simply a re-telling of his life rather than an interesting look behind the curtain. Anna Friel blazes a trail early on as his first wife Jean but she soon falls by the wayside when Tamsin Egerton's Fiona Richmond shows up and steals his affections. Though perhaps, that's somewhat unsurprising given how many women appeared to come and go in his life. Jealousies stir and Coogan manages to just about convince as Raymond (even though he does veer dangerously close to feeling like another Steve Coogan comedy stereotype - something which admittedly, it took a while for me to shake). Poots brings a fragility to the proceedings as the daughter who simply wants to impress her dad, but ends up falling into his world as she desperately tries to connect with him.
Winterbottom's wonderfully brought to life the swinging era with some great period detail, but some terribly corny, cheesy, almost Carry On like lines proliferate his leading man that you're never quite on his side. The Men Only shoots are stylishly recreated and evocative of the era and add a level of sleaze to the proceedings that's necessary, but Raymond is such a two dimensional character, it's quite hard to really feel for him when he inevitably finds himself on his own.
It's easy to see why Coogan was attracted to this character - there's certainly shades of his tabloid presence within and moments which border on parody - but Winterbottom brings little to the direction of this tale of excess and regret. Despite the mountains of merkins and bare flesh on show, there's little passion in this piece. It's a sleazy, simply told tale which lacks a real heart and poignancy that's needed to convince of the unfolding tragedy.