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Rachel Maclean – Spite Your Face


Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh
Five stars

Pull back the gold curtain and you’re in another world for what might be a never-ending screening of Spite Your Face, Rachel Maclean’s troublingly incisive thirty-seven-minute film-based fantasia, which comes home to Talbot Rice after first being seen in Venice last year. Drawn from The Adventures of Pinocchio, the Italian folk-tale charting the adventures of the little puppet-boy whose nose grows every time he tells a lie, Maclean’s dark reimagining is as shockingly un-Disney in its depiction of greed-induced brutality as the moment when Bambi’s mum got shot.

Maclean focuses on the rise and fall of Pic, a shell-suited urchin who buys his way into a blinged-up wonderland of glam-tastic delights, only to discover his celebrity lifestyle is on credit, and has been built on the flakiest of falsehoods.

All of Maclean’s pop-cultural tropes are intact, from its candy-coloured kids’ TV animated back-drops, to its ugly excursions into Shopping Channel hard-sell. Maclean plays every part with face-painted, digitally and prosthetically-enhanced relish in a production which, like the Oliver Twist/Prince and the Pauper-based Please Sir…(2014), lays bare the gaping divide between rich and poor. Except here she goes in even harder, angrier and more ruthless.

Consumer culture is exposed as a bloodied act of self-harm, a self-loathing short-term hit that gives men in power especially the sort of nosed-up sense of entitlement that causes them to believe they can get away with murder. Maclean may have made her film on the back of Trump and co’s ongoing grotesquerie, but given everything that has happened in the world since then in terms of bloated rich men being caught with their pants down, Spite Your Face looks even more frighteningly of the moment. As Pic’s travails are looped without definitive beginning or end, it suggests a fable for a patriarchy that’s just crashed back down to earth. 

The List, March 2018

ends

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