Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise Review

Gary Couzens has reviewed the Region 2 release of Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise, a low-budget comedy directed by Danny Boyle and starring Timothy Spall as a sleazy salesman.

Manchester. Pete (Michael Begley) is on his uppers, with girlfriend Sheila (Katy Cavanagh) making ends meet by working as a strippagram. However, her being hired for a vacuum salesman’s retirement party gives him a contact and the firm hires him. The trouble is, his mentor is Tommy Rag (Timothy Spall)…

In 2000, Danny Boyle made a big-budget Hollywood production in the shape of The Beach. After such a large-scale, complex shoot he evidently felt he needed a breather. So he made two shortish films quickly and cheaply on digital video, back to back with much the same crew, notably regular Dogme DP Anthony Dod Mantle, both from scripts by Jim Cartwright. (The other one, Strumpet, I’ll be reviewing separately.) Both debuted at festivals before showings on BBC2.

Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise is a broad black comedy given a lot of energy by Timothy Spall’s performance. He’s played some grotesques in his time, but Tommy Rag tops the lot: a man who lives in his car, on a diet of “puffa puffa rice” and whisky, a man with no scruples about what he has to do to make that sale. “I’m not leaving until you sign,” he says to one customer. Of course he’s up for Salesman of the Year. It’s not one of Spall’s more subtle performances, but it’s good fun. Michael Begley, basically playing his straight man, does well not to be blown off the screen. Katy Cavanagh has a couple of good moments but isn’t on screen for very long. Several familiar faces from Manchester-based TV programmes turn up in supporting roles, as does Cartwright’s son James.

This may have been a battery-recharging exercise for Boyle, but this is really a writer’s film. Cartwright is primarily a writer for the stage – he wrote the screenplay for the film version of his biggest hit, Little Voice, but his only previous original script was for Vroom, Beeban Kidron’s little-seen fiction directorial debut from 1988. There’s something more than a little theatrical about Cartwright’s work here, including some rather over-ornate turns of phrase and some longer than normal speeches, including one by Tommy Rag which explains the title. That said, the dialogue does fit in with the larger-than-life tone of the piece, and it’s nice once in a while to listen to dialogue that’s more than simply functional.

Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise is a minor piece, though an enjoyable one. Whether someone will want a permanent copy of it on a bare-bones DVD is another question.

2 Entertain have released Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise on a single-layer DVD. Unlike other releases from this distributor, the disc is encoded for Region 2 only (not Region 4 as well).

As this was a production primarily aimed at TV, the transfer is as you might expect: in the ratio of 1.78:1, anamorphically enhanced. Given the sub-standard definition DV source, it has that familiar rough and ready look, with a yellowish-brown cast to the image. There’s considerable grain, especially in the darker scenes. Needless to say this won’t be one to show off your DVD player, but it looks pretty much as it was surely intended to look.

The soundtrack is Dolby Surround (ProLogic), as it would have been on its TV broadcast. The surrounds are mostly used for music, but there are some directional effects to left and right.

The DVD has twelve chapter stops and no extras. Given the television origins, a trailer may not have been made, but a commentary could have been a good addition. As it is, unless you’re a fan of Boyle, Cartwright or Spall, I wouldn’t recommend this disc at full price. Wait until it turns up in a sale.


Updated: May 19, 2006

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