Roger L. Simon

British snuff flicks

Presidential assassination movies are pretty routine in film history. One recent one – In the Line of Fire – is darn good. But assassination flicks about real living Presidents are rare indeed. In fact, I can’t think of a single other one beside the new British docudrama Death of a President to be premiered at the Toronto Festival next month. Peter Dale, the head of More4, which is televising the work, has this to say:

“I’m sure that there will be people who will be upset by it but when you watch it you realise what a sophisticated piece of work it is.”

Oh, really? I guess, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, that depends on what your definition of “sophisticated” is. I haven’t seen the film, of course, but at first glance this seems a kind of upmarket political porn. I would ask Messrs. Dale and Range (the filmmaker) how they would feel about viewing a “sophisticated” docudrama of themselves being assassinated in 2007? Horrifed, perhaps? Maybe scared out of their knickers that someone would be encouraged to follow the film’s example? In the UK, where such things are subject to much more stringent legislation, they might even be advised to sue the filmmakers. Bush has no such luck in this country.

Meanwhile, Dale and Range will go on to get the pats on the back from le tout London, maybe even a rave review in the Guardian (or respectful if the film is aesthetically mediocre). Nice work, fellas. Good career move.