This is brilliant film, imaginatively directed, well paced and it was as if Andy Serkis was born to play Ian Dury, one of the most unusual of pop stars who carried the on the flame of Englishness in contemporary music from Ray Davies and Richard Thompson through the punk/ new wave era and passed it on to Morrissey. It’s the use of language and syntax for its own sake that marks these writers out. Words as conveyers of feeling through their sound as well as their literal meaning.
Dury’s well documented struggles with disability and what that meant in the context of brutal institutionalisation as a child, and then as an artist and musician are well documented here, but are put in the context of Dury as an errant father and a man who personified the concept of ego centric and self absorbed man who had a very high opinion of himself.
People are by and large a product of their environment, and given Dury’s brutal upbringing in a boarding school for the disabled which was based on the premise of society leaving them flailing on the floor (“You get yourself up. No one else will”), added to his father’s strangely Walter Mitty existence and any absence of a Mother meant that Ian Dury was a very angry man for a lot of his life. And not very nice to boot.
The direction of the film was fantastic, with just enough use of surreal passages to complement rather than drive the story.
As in last years Bronson, the director deploys Dury on stage with excerpts from his life first from the audience and then segueing into a conventional way of doing things.
Peter Blake’s opening sequence is a real evocation of the era and as soon as Serkis appears on the screen he is Ian Dury in a way that is very unusual in cinema as generally you are aware that you are watching a portrayal. Not here. Serkis must be a shoe in for the BAFTA’s with this amazing performance.
Ian Dury was very angry. I can empathise. I have been back in the wheelchair for the last six weeks with all the looks ranging from pity to contempt that comes with the territory. That’s if they look at you at all. The old chestnut of talking to the person pushing as if you’re not there is a perennial irritant.
Once at a gig, this stupid thoughtless person asked his mate with a broken leg what it was like sitting with the spastics complete with sound effects. Twice. But the one that takes the biscuit happened recently.
(There is someone at the door. I go to answer. It’s a bloke from Scouts with some uniform for Conor. I haven’t turned down Spotify, which is playing Blockheads. The track finishes and I notice the guy’s ostentatious lapel crucifix as the track changes to the start of Plaistow Patricia. Check it out and you will see why there was an excruciating silence and then an embarrassing end to the encounter).
Anyhow. I was conducting a transfer of money for the Guardian and Cled was waiting patiently as I struggled with counting the money out. Sometimes the old motor skills can be a bit lacking. Cue a sixty odd year old woman who comes forward from the back of the queue, takes hold of my hand and counts the money out whilst saying, “There you go” as if I was a nursery school kid and she was the ever so patient and helpful teacher.
I felt like singing the chorus from Dury’s controversial contribution to the UN Year of the Disabled, Spasticus Autisicus, followed by a resume of my CV topped off with a challenge to debate the role of Magical Realism in the contemporary novel. But such is life. I have been frogged marched across the road when I didn’t even want to cross, barged in Tescos and have a bloke threaten to kill my guide dog so it’s all in a days work when you’re disabled.
Dury’s disability was pretty severe and when it takes nearly an hour just to get out of bed and sorted in the morning it becomes highly frustrating and makes you think of what you would be doing if it weren’t for these pesky problems.
But the film is the thing. Superb entertainment and a celebration of a real English genius