sat 02/03/2024

theASHtray: Arafat/Peres, Orhan Pamuk and Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead | reviews, news & interviews

theASHtray: Arafat/Peres, Orhan Pamuk and Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead

theASHtray: Arafat/Peres, Orhan Pamuk and Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead

Yeah butt, no butt: our columnist sifts through the fag-ends of the cultural week

Shimon Peres: statesman, Laureate, and the 11th greatest Israeli of all time

Next week sees the release of Shimon Peres, the second instalment in Spirit Level Film’s The Price of Kings series. A president of Israel who refers to leadership as “not a very happy engagement,” a Nobel Peace Prize-winner who says he has never slept easy, Peres is about as good a subject for a political doco as you’re likely to get.

He’s the world’s oldest elected head of state (his political career having begun in the early Fifties!) and the only Israeli PM (two-and-a-half times) to have made it to the top step in their political pantheon. Most famously, though, he shares his Nobel laurels with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. All of which, somewhat astoundingly, ranks him only as the “11th greatest Israeli of all time” – though one suspects that list might also include Moses.

Arafat himself was the first subject in Spirit Level’s projected 12-disc study of leadership and its associated costs (directed by Richard Symons and narrated, unobtrusively, by Helen Bonham Carter) and Yasser Arafat is essential viewing for anyone who thinks he understands (or would like to) the nuances of the inglorious mess that has been the last seven decades in the Near East. Though few people go to this subject matter without a number of preformed opinions, whatever your political credo I dare say you’ll find it challenged by 80 minutes in Yasser Arafat’s company.

Doubtless Shimon Peres will be every bit as enlightening. Thursday’s London screening, at Cineworld, Haymarket, is by invitation only; but theartsdesk has two pairs of tickets going for the quick-fingered readers who can tell us in which country Shimon Peres was born. Send your answers to (subject: “Artsdesk competition”) by close of play Tuesday, to be in with a chance. I look forward to seeing you there!


Did anyone else find themselves just plain bovvered by Derek? Ricky Gervais’s new care-home “comedy drama” was neither dramatic nor really all that funny. It wasn’t even offensive – which might at least have entailed the secondary amusement of watching the infinite number of PC monkeys thrashing away at their typewriters in an attempt to have Insult, Inc. shut down.  Instead we were subjected to Ricky’s twonk congregation tripping over themselves in ill-disguised relief that he hadn’t upped and called for widespread euthanasia, or called anybody a “mong” again. 

I mean, I know what was wrong with it. What was wrong was that Ricky Gervais wasn’t Ricky Gervais. He didn’t say anything acerbic, he didn’t get himself into any laughably quotidian scrapes through his ordinary human inadequacy, and he couldn’t piss himself laughing at some moron for sitting in the custard… because he was the moron sitting in the custard. To get round this, the lines he would normally have delivered were instead portioned out to Karl Pilkington (miserablist truth-telling), the blonde nurse (touching moments), and the affable-but-inept “not-gay” chap who was visiting his nan (affable. But inept). And yet he was Ricky Gervais. He just couldn’t help himself (perhaps if someone else had directed? Or written? Or starred…?). Here was the “Are you ‘aving a laff?” facial moment; there was the “nah, forget it” hand-gesture. Certainly, he wasn’t some old simpleton called Derek – the result being that Derek, alas, simply wasn’t simple enough. Not enough to justify being that annoying, anyway. Or throwing himself in a pond.

I don’t know when last Ricky Gervais had to actually screen a pilot, but the “one-off” nature of what is already penciled in as a series rather suggests that Channel 4 were as unconvinced as everyone else that Derek was going to be on the acceptable side of unacceptable. Alas, they needn’t have worried.  


People do strange things in their consumption of culture. Like pretending it's real. Some people dress up and play Gladiator. Others go on pilgrimages to bits of Tunisia that are not Tatooine. I watched Leon when I was 14, and I’m still drinking milk from the bottle. And this stuff can get rapidly self-referential. Madame Tussauds now has waxworks of Marvel characters, and Shrek; there’s a Tom Phillips piece called Library at Elsinore, featuring books (existing ones) with Hamlet quotations for titles, which was later exhibited at Elsinore; and the Lord of the Rings “fellowship” famously all got matching tattoos, except for the one who made his stunt-double (another fiction) have it instead. That tattoo – “nine” in one of Tolkien’s fictional languages – now appears in other films.

Four years after publishing The Museum of Innocence, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk has more-or-less turned his Museum into reality. This is all the more twisty and turny since the collection he is bringing to life began, on paper, as a fictional tribute to a fictional woman, in order to write which the author began to collect very actual “memorabilia” (not my word, but a classic, given the circumstances). The result is a walk-through artwork – “a postmodern cabinet of curiosities” indeed – more like an installation than a regular museum, per se, and not just because some of the items are also of questionable veracity. The Museum of Innocence opens at the end of the week. theASHtray is predicting pilgrimages.


My barber and I were chatting the other day about A Serbian Film, horror-porn, and whether or not you should take your mother to see the latest Daniel Craig picture (you shouldn’t: trust) and then Phil says, just like that: “You need to watch the Zombie Ass movie.”

Now, I know our Oriental cousins take pride in producing some of the most absurdly stupid films in all existence, the central joke basically being that you can’t, in fact, be sure they’re not serious. But nothing, surely, compares to Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead. As the film’s own publicity insists (?!): don’t see this movie. Still, it’s only in the interest of bona fide criticism – not to mention good hair-salon banter everywhere – that I let you have a squiz at the trailer.

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