out of Five
Running time: 98
Impressively directed and nicely structured, this is an engaging and enjoyable documentary that serves as an affectionate celebration of one of Britain's most colourful characters.
What's it all about?
Directed by Jes Benstock, The British Guide to Showing Off is a documentary portrait of British sculptor and performance artist Andrew Logan, focussing on the Alternative Miss World pageant that he created in 1972. The film details Andrew's family background and his emergence onto the swinging London art scene in the 1960s before tracing each successive pageant from 1972 onwards as if flipping through a scrapbook.
The film also follows Logan and his longtime partner as they attempt to organise the 2009 Alternative Miss World pageant (Logan's 12th), taking it from conception through various stages of marketing and financing to inviting the various guests and staging the show itself. In addition, all of this is interspersed with various talking heads, including Brian Eno, Simon Callow, Richard O'Brien and Ruby Wax (who's recruited to co-host the 2009 show) as well as assorted family members.
Fortunately for Benstock, each of the eleven previous pageants (each one featuring outrageous costumes and frequent nudity) was well documented (filmmaker Derek Jarman entered the early contests and shot some of the footage) and he's also been granted access to an impressive archive of photographs, TV clips, posters and so on. In addition the pageant scenes are presented via some delightful Terry Gilliam-esque animated sequences and there's a superb soundtrack courtesy of Mike Flowers.
Logan is an engaging and entertaining presence throughout, whether interacting with various marketing experts, relaxing with friends or pottering about the museum he created out of a squash court in the Welsh village of Berriew. The obvious affection everyone has for him is utterly charming and there are some telling moments, not least when he vetoes a marketing exec's idea to have a displayed text vote for the pageant, saying that the votes will be counted the old-fashioned way and announced at the climax of the show, ensuring that everyone is in it right up until the end.
The film is packed with great anecdotes (Logan's casual revelation of where he first met Tony Blair is very amusing) and there are some delightful archive appearances from people like Divine and Richard O'Brien. There are also some wonderful little accidental touches, such as Brian Eno's scene-stealing cat (in fact, the film is worth seeing for Brian Eno's cat alone).
In short, The British Guide to Showing Off is a well made and extremely entertaining documentary that delivers an important message and paints an engaging portrait of a true British eccentric. Recommended.
The British Guide To Showing Off (15)