Sick Boy: It’s certainly a phenomenon in all walks of life.
Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: What do you mean?
Sick Boy: Well, at one time, you’ve got it, and then you lose it, and it’s gone forever. All walks of life: George Best, for example. Had it, lost it. Or David Bowie, or Lou Reed…
Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: Some of his solo stuff’s not bad.
Sick Boy: No, it’s not bad, but it’s not great either. And in your heart you kind of know that although it sounds all right, it’s actually just shite.
Trainspotting 2 was arguably a better visual experience than Trainspotting. The acting was spot on, it was nostalgic, funny and emotionally effective. Still, Sick Boy’s unifying theory of reality holds true. Trainspotting 2 was alright, but in the back of your mind you’re thinking it’s really shite.
Danny Boyle is a master of visuals and music. He knows how to stir emotion. He’s not afraid of violence, sex and body fluids in a very sterile age in filmmaking. In spite of his advanced age (believe it or not the guy was 40 when T1 was released), his musical tastes are solid and much more contemporary than mine. He clearly has tremendous affection for the characters Irvine Welsh invented and he made iconic, which not only made Boyle and Ewan McGregor A-List iconoclasts for two decades, but encapsulated the Brit-pop era. Trainspotting defined the era.
Trainspotting felt like it was shot out of a cannon. Though I wasn’t permitted to see the film in a theater, my mother, like many youngish expats living in Connecticut after years of boozing at Studio 54 and the Mud club had an itch to stay cool in spite of it all. As something of an Imperialism sympathetic romantic anglophile, our Range Rover blasted Iggy and Pulp in defiance of our Upper class suburban boredom. When HBO started playing Trainspotting in regular rotation, a new world opened before my eyes. Scotland, junk, Renton and especially Sick Boy began to inform my worldview. While most people remember the tragedy of the film it was lost on me. It was too fucking cool and stylish. The music was too good for me to be caught up in the morality of the tale.
Though I wasn’t popular, though it was all I desperately wanted, Trainspotting, my Kurt obsession and even my early devotion to Seinfeld coupled with a Gifted and Talented program IQ and poor grades confirmed that I was cooler than everyone else. Fast forward to my high school days living in New York, doing all matter of drugs developing even more esoteric tastes befriending beautiful young women who looked to me like a weird stoner brother, to college and obnoxiously pretentious alcoholism where I took pleasure in taking the piss out of people for the entertainment. I could not have been who I was without Danny Boyle, Irvine Welsh and Iggy Pop.
The problem with nostalgia is that it always feels stale. Nothing can ever be as meaningful as it was to you as a child. Even so, piss and blood aside, the culture is too sterile to make great film. While some people say what about Moonlight, I would argue it’s not even the best American film in a year of very bad films. Manchester by the Sea and Nocturnal Animals were way better.
Film is not entertainment, it’s ideology. When all the viewers share the same ideology, we get beautifully made films like Moonlight, that are about gay sex without sexuality. When all the greats seemed to have lost their fastball the past few years (Scorcese, The Coen Brothers, even PT Anderson), because in the back of your mind you’re thinking this is shite, what hope is there for movies?