Today marks the day Kate Bush is returning to the stage after thirty five long years away. As a devoted fan I thought that of all days this would be a good one for taking another look at that strange film she made a while back….
Firstly, critically this is more than just a little bit flawed, and I shall address its issues, but just to make my bias completely clear I’ll say that I have been a fan of Kate Bush for years. In fact I have more respect for her work then I do practically any other artist across history. So, when I say that this is worth a watch you know where I’m coming from. However having set this up to sound like a terribly flawed piece of work that only a fan could love, I have to say that it does have several commendable things going for it. Firstly, there is the music. It’s the main driving force behind the film, which at times isn’t too much more than a series of linked music videos, and there are some great songs here. The Red Shoes (which is the album that this film draws from) isn’t one of her strongest works in my opinion, but it does have some excellent tracks which are a real selling point here.
The other two big draws are Miranda Richardson’s performance and the visual exploration that the film undertakes. Bush is almost as well known for dancing and music videos as she is her songwriting. This is an artist who wants to find new ways to tell her stories visually and that does appear here with pretty much every sequence having some unusual and interesting take on it. However… given how expressive she is with her body, face and visual touches, I actually am left hoping for more here. What she does is great, but this was an opportunity for her to really push what could be done when images are set to music, but instead we just have a collection of interesting moments. Still, it’s worth checking out for what is there.
As I said, the other main selling point here is Richardson. She is fantastic and brings an energy and sense of fun to the film which otherwise would feel somewhat dry. In stark contrast Bush cannot act. The moment that music plays she comes to life, but when she is faced with delivering dialogue… it’s not so good. Thinking about the dialogue, it’s not too badly written but it is very simplistic. That’s OK though as it’s secondary to the rest of the film and not all that important. What is important is the story, and the film’s biggest failing is that the song’s often feel like they are unconnected to the plot, or are being sledgehammered into the plot in some vaguely meaningful way. It would have perhaps been better if the film had had Bush write original music for it, rather than making do with her current album. That having been said, there are some fun scenes, interesting ideas and of course there’s great music here which does make this a curiosity piece that you could check out. Fans should watch it regardless, but if you’re new to Kate Bush and want to seek it out, then you should find something of interest here. After all there always is something interesting going on in Bush’s work.
What is the film’s greatest strength? It’s songs… although some of the visual ideas here are interesting too.
Its greatest weakness? Kate Bush’s acting, unfortunately.
Would I see it again? Yes, I’ve seen it a number of times and I’m sure I will return.
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