~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, December 17th 2012
It’s a tough time to be a film reviewer. It’s bad enough that our poster-quote-providing duties have been usurped by every blogger who can sit through an “Alvin And The Chipmunks" sequel and then type the word “fantastic” with a clear conscience, but now Booker-winning authors are muscling in on our territory, too. Exhibit (a): “Midnight’s Children”, which is currently being advertised all over London with the following endorsement: “I am very proud of this film—Salman Rushdie.” Hmmmm.
To be fair, Rushdie knows a thing or two about advertising. Before he made his name as a novelist he wrote copy for Ogilvy & Mather and then Ayer Barker Hegemann, so he must have thought this through. But is his own pride in the film really a recommendation? Just last week, I was very proud of my daughter’s performance in her school nativity play, but I wouldn’t expect the general public to shell out to see it. Perhaps if Rushdie had nothing to do with the adaptation, and was nonetheless proud of the film which his book had inspired, then his pronouncement might carry some weight. But in fact Rushdie is the screenwriter and the narrator of "Midnight’s Children", and he worked closely with its director, Deepa Mehta, so all he’s doing is congratulating himself and his friend for having done such a cracking job.
Could this be the start of a trend? It’s accepted practice for authors to rave about their own books pseudonymously on Amazon, so maybe the logical next step for them is to do so under their own names. And why shouldn’t non-authors get in on the act? Maybe the contestants on "Strictly Come Dancing" should award themselves marks out of ten according to how pleased with themselves they are. Maybe restaurant patrons shouldn’t care whether their food is tasty or not, they should just ask whether it gave the chef a rosy glow of accomplishment.
From the perspective of someone who didn’t help to make “Midnight’s Children", though, the film is drab, plodding and distinctly televisual, so Rushdie might not be his own most reliable critic. I suppose the only way we can gauge his self-appraisal with any confidence is if he tells us how proud he is of the rest of his oeuvre. He should have his books reprinted with their own special Rushdie Rating on the cover.
"Grimus"—"I’m thoroughly ashamed of this novel."
"The Ground Beneath Her Feet"—"I’m not one to boast, but this novel is a work of genius, and Bono agrees."
"The Satanic Verses"—"I admit this novel isn’t for everyone."
Nicholas Barber is a film critic for the Independent on Sunday and film previewer for Intelligent Life. His recent posts for the Editors' Blog include Slobs in perfect T-shirts and Bring back the lyricist