This week Joe West looks at Sherlock Holmes and male partnerships in film…
I spent an embarrassing proportion of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows trying to work out who was the most beautiful: Jude Law or Robert Downey Jr. That sounds like rather a homoerotic thing for a heterosexual man to state, but it is the truth. I admire them not in a particularly sexual way, but in the manner that one might appreciate a particularly gorgeous dog.
Downey Jr. has a nice sheen to his coat and the charm of a well used shoe. Law has a chin dimple you could lose your pinkie in and eyes the colour of an Italian lake. If I had to choose then Downey Jr. is probably more my cup of tea. And what a lifestyle choice that cup of tea would involve in the drinking.
Thankfully the film also made me consider more mainstream concepts which don’t read like fan fiction with an icky trajectory. Sherlock Holmes works so well on the big screen because it centres on two main characters that are rarely seen apart. Translating a narrative that focuses on a single character from the page to the screen can be problematic because you have to drastically alter the way in which the story is conveyed. This can lead to either lazy expository dialogue or a movie that is replete with tedious voiceovers which slightly miss the point of using a moving image in the first place.
There are plenty of great movie partnerships, or ‘buddy’ relationships. Some have even been extended across multiple movies and characters, which is quite odd if you think about it for more than a second. Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor are prime examples, playing off their interracial relationship which was initially seen as unusual but eventually became the norm. Films like Silver Streak and Stir Crazy paved the way for Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy to team up in 48 Hours and eventually for Mel Gibson and Danny Glover to reverse the age and race balance of this partnership in the Lethal Weapon series.
One of my favourite male relationships captured on film in recent years can be found in Christopher Nolan’s Memento. This high concept thriller, which hangs its non-linear narrative on the shoulders of partial amnesiac Leonard (Guy Pearce), has an ironically memorable pairing between its disturbed lead and the ever-present Teddy (Joe Pantoliano).
Teddy is the only one who actually has a grip on events in the film, and his familiarity towards Leonard becomes something of a running joke given that Leonard has to form a fresh opinion of him each time they meet. The fact that the viewer ends up developing more of a bond with Teddy than the perpetually ignorant Leonard puts an unusual twist on the male-male relationship. While in other buddy films an awkward distrust between two culturally different men eventually develops into mutual respect, this pleasing narrative arc cannot exist in Memento and so the hackles are always up and the animal instincts still throbbing beneath the surface throughout.
And if you are interested, here is the list of the ones that I find the most attractive out of the above pairings:
I promise you that this is a moustache thing, not a racial thing. I can’t relate to the moustachioed men.