The Man Who Bought Mustique

2000, Movie, NR, 78 mins

Review

MAN WHO BOUGHT MUSTIQUE, THE
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If Joseph Conrad were writing celebrity profiles for Vanity Fair, Colin Tennant would be his ideal subject. In 1958, Tennant, aka Lord Glenconner, bought the tiny Caribbean island of Mustique for 45,000 pounds. Five years later, Tennant left his family seat — a rolling, 9000-acre estate in Peeblesshire, Scotland — moved to Mustique and set about transforming it from a three-mile stretch of derelict beach into a glittering tropical sandbox for the likes of Mick Jagger, Bryan Ferry, David Bowie and Tennant's old friend, Princess Margaret, to whom he deeded a chunk of Mustique as a wedding present. The island and Tennant's lavish parties quickly became the stuff of legend, and Tennant, dubbed the "Jet Set Monarch" by the press, ruled over it all like a latter-day Lord Jim. Director Joseph Bullman and producer Vikram Jayanti recently found the spry, 73-year-old Lord Glenconner living on nearby St. Lucia, where, surrounded by framed clippings of his past glories, he now oversees festivities at the restaurant he owns. Tennant agreed to a film about his tenure as "King of Mustique," and the timing couldn't have been better. For the first time in seven years, he and his wife — a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret who spends most of the year in London — were about to return to the island he once owned for a visit by Mustique's resident royal. And from the first shot, it's clear who's really in charge: Tennant, whose petulance must be seen to be believed, easily wrests control of the film from a cowed Bullman. He sets up shots, bosses other participants out of frame, yells "cut" and demands retakes, all the while swanning about Mustique like a pasha, throwing tantrums, abusing his hirelings and not caring a fig who he insults as he prepares for an elaborate al fresco lunch with the Princess. Bullman retaliates by refocusing his film: It becomes less about Tennant's life and more about the difficulty of making an objective documentary about so pissy a subject. Unfortunately, frustratingly few details of Tennant's life are actually revealed. Public scandals and personal tragedies are mentioned in passing, and it's never clear exactly why Lord Glenconner was forced to relinquish his fiefdom, only that he's still deeply bitter about having been forced to do so. Nevertheless, the film, like its subject, is a hoot, both shamelessly entertaining and bursting with personality. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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