"Meretricious, self-important twaddle, and I would just like to say that I hated it first" - Mark Kermode, BBC Radio 5live
A film that takes 143 minutes to say the sentence "A shot rings out in north Africa, and echoes around the world."
Stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and a Japanese woman with no pants. It is "art with a capital F".
When Mark watched it in Cannes, with his friend David, the projector broke down. During the involuntary intermission, "We both turned to each other and said, 'is it me, or is this poo'." They were hushed into silence by surrounding critics who were insisting that what they had seen so far was something very special indeed. However, the realisation of how the Japanese woman with no pants was related to the man in Mexico with a rifle was enough to have the audience decrying the film in terms just as ferocious.
(Mark - in days before the Code of Conduct would have prevented such a thing - urged cinemagoes to rise as one at this devastating moment of revelation, and shout "No, no, and thrice no – I’m not having it.")
Nevertheless, the critical consensus on release in the US was that Babel was a masterpiece - but by the time it hit British cinemas, UK critics had rather taken against it, and there was something of a backlash. Mark was very keen to point out that, much like with the music of James Blunt, he had hated it only 20 minutes into its very first screening, and was lashing before there was any back to be lashed.