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Chop Suey


Stars: Peter Johnson, Frances Faye, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Jan-Michael Vincent, Elizabeth Taylor

Director: Bruce Weber

The critical adulation for the recent re-release of iconic fashion photographer turned moviemaker Weber’s 1988 ‘Let’s Get Lost’ which, as documentary biopics go, was rather impressive in charting the legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker’s transformation, aided by considerable alcohol and substance abuse, from James Dean look-alike to someone resembling Ray Liotta on a very bad day, must have encouraged the re-release of this singularly egocentric mishmash of sight and sound masquerading as a documentary.

The theme of this 2001 melange of Weber’s illustrated memories is perfectly summed up by a quote in his narration which he attributes to minor movie star and occasional photographer Roddy McDowall when, showing McDowall’s idealised portrait of Alain Delon, he says "I always thought this photo was about the photographer being in love with the subject." That single sentence describes a movie which, when it isn’t simply a homoerotic paean of adoration to teenage wrestling star Peter Johnson who (despite his frequently being pictured nude and in a variety of kitsch costumes, turns out to be straight and a father), is basically a paean to the director’s fawning over the famous. So we are treated to Robert Mitchum’s gravelly singing in a recording studio, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Jan-Michael Vincent and self-admiring ‘Vogue’ magazine editor Diane Vreeland, as well as a mini-biopic of lesbian cabaret singer Frances Faye and her gay lover-manager Teri Shepherd.

The best thing about it for me was the title which accurately indicated a plate of congealed and inedible leftovers. Although in fairness I should say that if they ever get around to awarding an Oscar for Best Sycophancy, Weber has it in the bag.

Alan Frank

USA 2001. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Colour.
98 minutes. standard. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 06 Jul 2008