The Look of Love: Paul Raymond Biopic Is So-So In Soho

The Look of Love, which opens in cinemas today, considers the life of Paul Raymond, the late ‘King of Soho’. Raymond built up a huge West End property empire using profits from porn mags and strip clubs, most famously enshrined in the Raymond Revuebar. Here, Londonist reviewers Ben Fowler and Harry Urgent give their separate impressions of the new film:

The problem with being as prolific a director as Michael Winterbottom (twenty-two features since 1995) is that some of your output is going to feel somewhat slight. This, a broad biopic of so-called ‘King of Soho’ Paul Raymond (Steve Coogan), is unlikely to be filed alongside the director’s more memorable work.

Beginning in the 50s as Raymond opens London’s first strip bar, it treads familiar riches-to-rags ground. As Raymond’s success balloons through both his clubs and magazines, he leaves his wife (Anna Friel), hooks up with one of his performers (Tamsin Egerton) and over-indulges his daughter Debbie (Imogen Poots). It’s Raymond’s relationship with his daughter that forms the ostensible backbone of the film; as he nurtures an apparent lack of talent, she slips into a lifestyle of all-night partying and mammoth cocaine binges. But due to the film’s fleeting nature, we never really feel Debbie’s life slipping through her father’s fingers, even as the script’s framing device has Raymond looking dewy-eyed at interview footage of her testifying to her love for him.

Winterbottom’s films have often played fast and loose, but in doing so with rather traditional biopic material it tends to skate over any real feeling. There’s a certain pleasure to be had in looking at Soho through the ages – there are glimpses of Bar Italia and Foyles as Raymond surveys his empire – but it’s largely left to the film’s set design and fashions to tell the story. It might, for instance, have been interesting for the film to look at London’s changing censorship laws over the years, but instead the script moves swiftly through Raymond’s major life events without pause for thought. It’s a light sort of film, but it’s difficult not to feel that, in its insistence in avoiding the sort of heavy-handed sentimentality usually found in biopics, Winterbottom might have failed to pierce as deeply as he needed to.

By Ben Fowler

Taking the trademark pencil moustache of the wartime spiv, a former black marketer of many pseudonyms settled on the suave ‘PR’ that would change the face of the skindustry from static nude tableaux to full-on striptease and become the monogrammed acronym of ‘pubic relations’ on his expensive gold bracelet.

Imogen Poots is utterly outstanding as daughter Debbie, but Steve Coogan skims over the sinister depths of Paul Raymond as though he is playing an extension of his fictional Alan Partridge or the functional addict of his laudable 24 Hour Party People (Tony Wilson) role. His portrayal of Raymond in later life is much more convincing, after his empire successfully embraced the pink pound and the lap-dancing phenomenon, but is threatened by the emergence of lads’ mags and the beginnings of the Internet.

By the 1990s the Revuebar had deteriorated into a stop-off for the crawls of stag and hen parties, a shadow of its former glory that is segued through a series of glitzy montages shot at a theatre in Clapham. Among many continuity errors, the audience extras obstinately stay the same while the sets glide effortlessly through the decades. Coogan’s nonchalance often comes across as first take ‘getting into character’, not helped in a 1980s scene, as he strolls past a Soho hairdressers that was only opened a decade after Raymond became a recluse.

In Baby Cow Productions’ comprehensive analysis of the ultimate profit-driven sadness of Paul Raymond’s life, we are ultimately served overcooked mince that could have been rare sirloin. Bosom buddies Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom have cherry picked this empire-building tragedy from the solid foundations of writer Paul Willetts’ immersive 2010 biography Members Only, which digs deep into the machinations of the impresario’s whole life. The author plays a cameo as Lord Longford, recreated from a lost TV interview with Raymond, but much of his book’s thorough research is distorted in a formulaic film.

By Harry Urgent. Author note: In the late 1980s the reviewer was assistant to glamour photographers Nick Gurgul and Steve Colby, who worked for Debbie Raymond when she ran the magazine business. In the early 1990s he had his own studio on Archer Street, right opposite this Soho empire.

The Look of Love is released in UK cinemas on 26 April.

See also: A tour of Paul Raymond’s Soho.

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  • George Mciver

    Dont waste your money on this very poor production…buy one of the many books..they are ALL enjoyable

  • Darpa

    Obama Tell US You Are Online Adv. Alien Tech. Invisible Micro-Implanting all Citizens For Alien Wars!
    I’m US Gov. Darpa microed Lee
    Half-Wit Howard W. Raymond, Jay Leno CA Said Obama Pays them In Drugs and (2 Mil A YR.) Using Porn AT&T Jay Leno Wifi Service For Darpa Micro Implanting US, Vets, Obama Haters, Christians and Republicans. Howard Raymond said he loves implanting and microwave torturing US citizens for Obama for money or drugs (this guy is very mental) He laughs at torturing Republican Christian tax payers that pay his salary and drug selling to citizens for Darpa Warfare and legalization research, surveillance, wifi harassment or demonic torture. You are micro implanted and don’t know it! Darpa (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) Adv Alien Tech. Invented the internet!

    Turning up the microwave here to take a million to stop posting from Obama or himself A US Gov. Darpa Agent!
    Raymond is a Gov. porn wifi hijacking bully Darpa Queer. This halfwit and his Democratic Agency should be tortured to death for what they do to people. Howard told Obama to tell US they are Alien Tech. invisible microimplanting USA! Howard said Obama would wifi kill him if he didn’t take 2 million a year for selling US Freedom
    I am implanted by the Antichrist-Invisible Micro Implant from Computer in 3 seconds! You Won’t Believe This But It’s True!
    Howard said thousands of agents install a Darpa Invisible Adv. Alien Tech. micro program not a real rfid chip in your right eye retina from your computer or cell and believe it or not forms an invisible cell phone connection and an invisible cam that can view you at any angle, record, harass or wifi torture you.
    US Gov. Darpa Non-Native Criminals Take Over USA Take Away Constitutional Rights And Brand US Citizens Terrorists!

    D. Thornton 72691 Eagle Rd. Palm Desert CA. 93360. Howard Raymond 72310 Blue Ridge Ct., Palm Desert. CA. 92260. Hates everyone because he said he has brain damage from his parents drugs habits when he was born. He stated he loves hate and wifi torture and worships Satan as a City Water Inspector with ass Aids and worms because he was hated first for being born gay and retarded by his mother and father in London that hated each other. Howard is giving me Obama Microwave death threats 2 years. It’s not a physical visible micro but an invisible internet program stuck in your eye from computer or cell invisibly without your knowledge ! If I stop posting US Gov. Darpa Howard Raymond Darpa micro wifi implanter says I will get 1 million dollars from the President!

    Obama Immune to All Laws and Raymond is Government, he said he loves wifi torture and selling people! A Darpa Gov. Retarded Gay Palm Desert, CA. Waste Water Inspector Howard W. Raymond son Of Paul Raymond (King Of Porn) said some US Military Bases are being US Darpa certified now, invisible micro implanted-trained, for world and alien microwave war and attacks in progress, Good natured Alien’s and their colonies now worldwide! Howard said Obama has been microwaving them some 1 million dead, some are not good guys they don’t like to be shot down by dumb Earthlings for War Technology. esp. for retina implanting computers. US Darpa Tech. can’t make their own, too high tech. for Wifi Wizard! Howard said Obama will use a Darpa CA. Military Base for Darpa Microwave Headquarters!

  • Darpa

    Jay Leno’s Obama’s ATT Cell Tower Service Microwave Torture USA Club. Leno’s Darpa Wifi Eye Micro Torture Programs Service with help from Palm Springs CA. Microing US Citizens Online By Cell Phone Invisible Right Retina Eye Porn Slave Micro ATT- YKCWB EXCEDE Obama President Of DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is using US Gov. Darpa Adv. Alien Tech. micro mind programing. Billionaire Howard Raymond son of King of Porn Paul Raymond 72310 Blue Ridge Court, Palm Desert, CA . 92260 Darpa using ATT are online right retina eye slave microing USA invisibly from your computer from porn and Gov. sites. Darpa Adv. Alien Tech. microing your right eye retina forms an invisible cam and cell phone connection that can view you at any angle, record, harass or wifi torture you. ATT cell wifi talk to you like a cell phone in your ear live 24 hrs. a day.

    He takes all his hate for mankind all out on me. He needs mental help he said he hates because his mother hated him for being gay and she caused his mental damage because she and his father late Paul Raymond did drugs when pregnant with the child. He knows he is mentally damaged and scared to get help.

    So he hates me 4 years torturing me with wifi and his gay personality because he said he loves me and I don’t like men or gay men for sex. I am a man, I like women. He wants help and David Thornton his half brother won’t help him. David left him 3 years ago for microwave wifi torturing me. He never leaves his room for fear of torture victims and someone taking him and his money. Howard should not be allowed to use Darpa microwave wifi torture weapons on the public, myself.
    Howard is not well and loves to microwave torture me, He is one of yours get him over here or get him off. Howard is a coward he won’t torture any one close to his area he laughs about it and says he is Obama immune.