Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Mr Idi Amin May Have Been A Genocidal Maniac, But He Was No Fan Of The See You Jimmy Wig, And For That He Must Be Praised
As well as being Honorary President (Acting) of the Peebles Showboaters' Amateur Dramatic Society, it is my great pleasure to be Creative Director of the Peebles Stargazers' International Film Festival, which is Scotland's longest-running festival devoted to the films of Mr Burt Lancaster. This year, we have been screening a double bill of Elmer Gantry and The Swimmer, and I was happy to give the festival's annual lecture, The Politics of Zeal, which sought parallels between the "big tent" evangelism of Elmer Gantry and the Colgate Corporatism of Mr Tony Blair, and his eager apprentice, Mr David Cameron.
But as well as the films of Mr Lancaster, the Stargazers' festival has a "surprise movie". This year, it was the British premiere of The Last King of Scotland, which has its official premiere in London tonight. Without wishing to spoil the fun, I can confirm that it is a film in the modern style, with shaky camerawork and very loud drums in the places where actors might once have been asked to provide dramatic tension. The performances are good, with Mr Forrest Whittaker giving a decent impression of the charismatic despot, Mr Idi Amin.
Paraphrasing slightly, the message of the film seems to be that the hero, played by Mr James MacAvoy, should have stayed at home in Scotland and worked as a country doctor in Tannochbrae rather than fleeing to Africa to have Ugandan relations with the wife of Mr Amin, whilst also supporting a genocidal regime. This is hardly a moral with universal application, but it is not without merit.
My favourite scene was the one where Mr MacAvoy's peely-wally medic meets the Ugandan president for the first time. Mr MacAvoy, called upon to deal with Mr Amin's sprained wrist, steals the president's gun and shoots a cow in the head. Unsurprisingly, Mr Amin is a little peeved. Not being from Dalkeith, he is unused to people borrowing his firearms to murder cattle. A moment of tension ensues, until Mr Amin realises that the doctor is not just an idiot - he is a Scottish idiot. "Scottish?" says Mr Amin. "Why didn't you say? If I could be anything except Ugandan, I would be a Scot." There is a small pause. Then Mr Amin adds: "Except for the red hair."