Chris Morris’s Four Lions has debuted to uneasy but strong reviews at the Sundance Film Festival. It may be the most eagerly awaited English-language comic project on the planet. Morris is a unique figure—a secretive, almost reclusive English radio and TV writer who occasionally emerges from hiding to spray vitriol at the Establishment and, generally, the self-satisfied and delusional. His series The Day Today and Brass Eye cannot be watched without the viewer being astonished that such jokes and surreal images ever made it to air. Even to think of them makes one redden in shame for the masses of herd-followers who think of Conan O’Brien as hip and transgressive.
Morris’s most recent finished work, the six-part Nathan Barley (2005), arguably reached down to hit targets that were slightly beneath him (and his collaborator, the critic Charlie Brooker). I guess I can understand a couple of moralizing comics wanting to puncture (Canada’s own!) Vice magazine empire, but the lightly disguised vendetta seemed like a bit much coming from a creator capable of eviscerating corporations, governments, celebrity in general, and any number of global institutions without breaking a visible sweat. On the other hand, Nathan Barley‘s plentiful potshots at the internet hype machine and the twerpish little creatures who drive its noöspheric hamster-wheel have never seemed more relevant than they do in the age of the “social media” professional (2009-????).
Anyway, now Morris has taken on a worthy opponent: terrorism, and the West’s reaction to it. A couple of years back he uncharacteristically showed his hand by engaging in a brief feud with Martin Amis. I’m declaring myself firmly on the fence on that one: I don’t find anything very edifying about a contest in which one side is shouting “fascist” and the other “racist”, with the winner to be decided by means of a decibel meter. I still can’t wait to see Four Lions. Here’s a clip that hit the Web Friday.