Film 2018: Moulin Rouge!


I’ll be honest about it straight away: I think Nicole Kidman is absolutely gorgeous and in Moulin Rouge! she is stunningly gorgeous. I used to have a stock phrase about someone being a combination of ‘Michelle Pfeiffer, Isabelle Huppert and the redhead from behind the Deli counter in Sainsburys’ (you should have seen her!) but after seeing Moulin Rouge! I reluctantly relegated Ms Pfeiffer in favour of Ms Kidman (although the phrase never scanned quite right after that, even though it syllabic metre didn’t change).

So you know where I’m coming from when I start to talk about Baz Luhrman’s 2002 spectacular, the only musical in my DVD collection, though it’s hard to think of this as a musical, even though there’s practically more singing than there is speaking. Made at the beginning of one century, it’s set at the end of the century-before-last, Paris, 1899, the Bohemian quarter of Montmartre, the infamous French cabaret theatre of the Moulin Rouge (the Red Windmill), birthplace of the Can-Can.

The story is simple. Penniless writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) comes to Montmartre to join the Bohemians and to write. He is absorbed into writing a revue titled ‘Spectacular Spectacular’, to be sold to Harold Zigler (Jim Broadbent), manager of the theatre, which will star his leading performer, the courtesan, Satine (Kidman). By error, Christian gets a private aftershow meeting with Satine, who believes his to be the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) whom she has to seduce into financing the proposed show. The pair promptly fall in love.

To escape the Duke’s suspicions, Christian hastily outlines a spectacular musical set in India where a courtesan promised to a rich but evil Maharajah falls in love with a penniless sitar player (so not at all analogous then) and, in accordance with the dictates of romance, refuses the Maharajah for him. That is, until the jealous Nini drops a poison word in the Duke’s ear, after which he insists on the show ending in a more logical and realistic manner, i.e., she marries the rich guy who can provide her with lifelong luxury, comfort and wealth.

Since the Duke holds the deeds to the Moulin Rouge and can shut the theatre down in a flash, the satanic yet paternal Zigler persuades Satine to go to the Duke. For Christian’s protection, since the Duke will have him killed should she see the writer again, she convinces her love that she never cared for him, that she is, was and only ever will be the courtesan, interested only in the highest bidder.

A despairing Christian breaks into the theatre and disrupts the performance. He coldly castigates Satine on stage as a whore, flings money at her, to ‘pay’ for their time together and is about to leave when she starts singing their ‘secret’ song, a promise to one another of eternal love, which brings him back.

But the joy is momentary. Satine has tuberculosis and expires on stage in Christian’s arms. A year later, the despairing Christian writes the story, which is the framework for the film. The end.

If you were to ask me to come up with one word to succinctly describe Moulin Rouge! it would be overblown. If you were to allow me two, then I would say that it is gloriously overblown, deliberately, determinedly and uproariously so. The basic idea behind the film was to attempt to translate a Bollywood spectacular into Western terms and whilst I’m not familiar with Bollywood films myself (except in as they are the basis for Clive James’ excellent novel, The Silver Castle), Luhrman has made a bloody good job of it.

Everything is done to excess, a great, overtly and overly theatrical excess. There isn’t a moment of naturalism in the film’s near-two hours length and the staging, especially of fin-de-siecle Paris, shows no allegiance to physical reality, especially in its CGI depictions of the city ranging in a single swoop from the (newly-constructed) Eiffel Tower to the hill of Montmartre.

The performances are equally absurd, and all the more effective (as it always is) for the utterly straight manner in which the cast play their roles. There is not the least wink to the audience to say that, yes, we know this is a load of OTT guff, which would spoil things in an instant. This unreal world of fantastically heightened emotions is completely real to the people in it and they inhabit their parts perfectly.

Of course, the true act of genius behind the film is not just the ease and naturalness with which everybody breaks into song without the least warning, continually, continuously and over and over, which is just an exaggeration on the standard Hollywood musical trope, but the selection of the songs themselves. In order to make Christian look as if he was genuinely ahead of his time, all the songs are genuinely anachronistic, coming from the mid to late Twentieth century.

Indeed, apart from the silk stocking and lingerie-clad Kidman herself, that was what first attracted me to the film. We were on honeymoon on Madeira and I was randomly checking out TV channels when I found an extended scene being played in English. It was Christian and Satine’s first meeting, and it was highly-stylised and oddly attractive already even before I burst out laughing as Christian, in a tone of voice that suggested he was making up the words as he was going only, started quoting Elton John’s ‘Your Song’!

The anachronism was hilarious, but that just scratches the surface of Moulin Rouge! It’s stuffed full of things like that and some of the selections are gloriously off the wall. Some are used in big set-pieces, such as the one early on when the theatre opens, and a crowd of choreographed men in tuxedos and top hats advance on a host of the ‘dancers’, in frills, corsets and garters, the men singing ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (here we are now, entertain us…) and the women ‘Lady Marmalade’ (voulez-vous couchez avec moi, ce soir?).

‘Like a Virgin’ also gets an absurd run-out, complete with dancing waiters, sung improbably by Jim Broadbent, who is awfully good in everything he’s asked to do. And there is an astonishing tango sequence, late in the film, that takes as its cue the Police’s ‘Roxanne’. But most of the others appear in snippets, often hurled around and mixed, fragments that are both decoration and architecture in the film’s pursuit of its ultimately tragic conclusion. And not just sung: the screenplay gleefully chucks in countless song-titles with Love in their title, as ordinary conversation.

The effect is hilarious, as songs that are well-known in one context or style come hurtling at you in a completely different context and an arrangement that rips up the original. And the effect is all the more prominent for having the actors conspicuously do their own singing. Kidman’s the only one with a halfway decent chance of holding her own in a ‘real’ musical, with a sweet, note-carrying voice that is nevertheless too thin, and McGregor’s good enough not to send you screaming out into the night if he ever did karaoke at your local pub, whilst Broadbent never hits bad notes, but these are not professional singers, and it is all part of the film’s atmosphere to allow the songs to be given this slightly raw performance, the only natural element in the entire film.

I love Moulin Rouge! for all these things I’ve said, but I would still hold it in high regard if it were instead a piece of crap that starred Nicole Kidman at this time and in those costumes. The film unashamedly exploits her beauty, with the added bonus of the fact that she really is a damned good actress, and knows exactly how far to go in sending up herself and everything she is doing. You may disagree with me as to how she looks, and I’m not saying that I have to mop up pools of drool after each watching, but I could sit and stare for a long time without noticing there’s a film going on around the lady if that film were rubbish.

A happy, funny, lovingly-created experience. My Sunday morning has been duly enhanced. So will yours be, if you watch this.

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Film 2018: To Kill a Mockingbird


They say that Great Books cannot be adapted into Great Films, that the latter come from average books at best. Given the difference between the two forms, and that Film necessarily involves a simplification and streamlining of a story whose greatness lies in its complexity, it’s a workable rule of thumb. But it isn’t a universal rule: To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful example of a film that is as great as the book it adapts. The two stand side by side.

Harper Lee’s novel, which most people believe to be autobiographical, was published in 1960 and filmed only two years later, with Gregory Peck in the leading role of Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer in the Alabama town of Maycomb in 1932.

Atticus is a good man, a decent man. He’s a widower bringing up two children, Jem, aged about 12, and Jean Louise (known as Scout) aged 6. Both book and film are seen through the eyes and understanding of Scout, though neither shies away from plain and often painful recounting of the adult events that are its story.

Atticus is asked to defend a black man, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), who is accused of raping and beating a white woman, Mayella Ewell. In the South, in 1932, the outcome is foregone. Justice is only for White Folks. Atticus is taking on a cause, whether he will or no, in demanding equal treatment, equal justice for a black man, especially one who has lusted after a white woman.

Peck accepted the role the moment he was asked, and many people have said afterwards that he is, in a sense, not acting in this film because he was Atticus Finch, that Atticus Finch was who Peck was in real life. If that’s so, then the highest of credit to him: Finch is not angry, aggressive or idealised. He is simply what I said above, a Good Man, honest, straightforward, realistic but committed to what he believes is right.

His is the leading role – there are no other ‘stars’ in the film though Robert Duvall makes his debut in a minor yet crucial role – but the film is seen from Scout’s viewpoint, a little girl growing up in a tired, hot Southern town, in the Great Depression, with nothing to do all day but play, and slowly learn. Scout’s straightforward in her own way, often disastrously, having yet to learn any of the filters adulthood places on us. She, Jem and Dill, the boy visitor they befriend (who, astonishingly enough, was in real life the boy Truman Capote) are fascinated with the nearby Radley property, and the reclusive Boo Radley, about whom so many wild stories revolve.

The film lets itself revolve around this three and their gallivanting for its first hour, with Tom Robinson and the case impinging only at moments. The film changes, though, on the eve of the trial, when Robinson is brought back from the jail in another town where he’s been incarcerated for his own safety. Immediately, a lynch mob gathers. Atticus has put himself on guard, in front of the jail, refusing the mob, about twenty strong, to take Tom and hang him, but he is only one man, whose principles are not enough to hold off the bigoted.

However, in the only scene that rings a little of wish-fulfillment rather than the truth of small southern towns in this are and this frame of mind, the appearance of the three children, throwing Atticus into fear for them, weakening his stance fatally, proves to be the save. Oblivious to what is around her, Scout recognises and addresses one of the leaders, the father of one of her classmates, and her insistence on his replying to her turns the tension into embarrassment, kills the momentum and has the mob turn and go home.

Now the film turns to the trial. The Courtroom is crowded, and segregated, whites downstairs, coloureds upstairs. The children insist on watching: they go in with the blacks. And Peck performs the role of his life, quietly, gentlemanly, ruthlessly drawing out the lack of any forensic evidence that Mayella was sexually assaulted, and the heavy implication that she was beaten by a left-handed man. Her father, Bob Ewell, a bitter, vicious, drunken stereotypical bigot, evil for what he is out of no conscious choice, is left-handed: Tom Robinson cannot use his left arm at all.

On the stand, the truth plays out. Bob Ewell expects his word to be taken because he’s white and Robinson’s a n****r (the word is used three times in the film, twice by Ewell, once in innocence by Scout, who is instantly and strictly forbidden its use in a manner that reminds me of the one time I used that word in childhood, little older than her, and how I was firmly put in my place). He’s sneery and snide, an ignorant poor white who’s going to put one over on a jumped-up, well-mannered, fancy dressed lawyer with his tricks and twistings.

Mayella, in contrast, soon shows herself as lording over the negro – who, naturally, she calls ‘Boy’ – but is clearly telling a story she’s been told to say. The sharp-eyed will notice that when she’s told to put her hand on the Bible and swear to tell the truth, she doesn’t touch the book, just holds her hand above it and nods the ‘oath’. And when Atticus has trapped her into knowing, she starts screaming at the jury in expectation, refuses to speak more and tries to run, rather than tell another lie.

In complete contrast, Brock Peters invests Tom Robinson with an immense natural dignity, and a degree of pain. He knows his place, knows better than to be uppity, is not in any way uppity, but he is honest and truthful, and this is plain as can be.

But it’s not enough. It probably would never have been enough, given the where and the when, but in cross-examination (the prosecutor is played by William Windom, his debut, and a far cry from his role in My World – and Welcome to it!) he kills his case when he begins to say that he had helped Mayella Ewell because he felt sorry for her.

The verdict is as we have expected all along. Atticus is hopeful: there are good grounds for appeal, which won’t be heard here. Robinson is silent when he is led out: later that night, Sheriff Heck Tate brings Atticus the news that Tom is dead, that he broke away and ran, that the Deputy shot to wound but missed his aim.

The film never suggests there is anything doubtful at this account, but it doesn’t need to: it knows that we who are aware of this time and place will automatically suspect worse things than despair. The film was produced on the edge of the civil rights era in the States, when far worse did happen and is still in many cases unpunished: like M.A.S.H. being set in the Korean war to be a commentary on Vietnam, To Kill a Mockingbird comments on the forthcoming struggle.

But before this, we have my favourite moment of the film, at the end of the trial. Once the verdict is rendered, the white folks start streaming out, the Court clears itself, Atticus is left alone downstairs, collecting his papers. On the balcony, the blacks have not moved. They sit in silence, overlooking all, until Atticus closes his case. Then, from the edges to the centre, they all come to their feet, stand in respect. The Reverend Sykes, who has appointed himself guardian to Scout, Dill and Jem, admonishes the little girl: “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passing.”

But Tom is dead. Atticus drives out to his widow’s home to break the news. Jem, who we can see visibly growing up throughout these later events, who we can see growing in admiration of his father, and determination to be like him, insists on going with him. Thus Jem is there to see Bob Ewell, drunk and sour, convinced of a superiority over the black people because of his skin when he is no better than dirt in the highway, spit in Atticus’s face, and to see Atticus’s long, slow response, which is to wipe his face and leave.

Even here, Bob Ewell’s viciousness is fueled. At Halloween, as Jem escorts Scout, still wearing her parade costume of a rigid ham, through the woods at night, the pair are followed and attacked. Both are flung down, Jem to a broken arm, Scout protected by her costume. We see what happens indirectly, not through Scout’s eyes, but as brokenly and incomplete as she sees.

A strange figure carries Jem home. Scout is embraced by her scared but relieved father. Heck Tate finds the body of Bob Ewell, with a kitchen knife under his ribs. The man who intervened, who carried Jem hope, hides behind the bedroom door. Scout looks at him a long time, our eyes on her face, as she slowly works out who the stranger is, and softly says, “Hey, Boo.” Mr Arthur Radley, her father confirms.

Now she sees him, despite his wild yet shy appearance, Scout has no fears of Boo Radley, the monster. She takes his hand, encourages him to stroke Jem’s hair, then leads him outside to rock on the porch chair-swing. Atticus is preparing for Jem’s charging, though it’s a clear case of self-defence, but for once Heck Tate is ahead of him. Jem didn’t kill Bob Ewell: he fell on his own knife.

That’s as much a lie as Tom Robinson’s guilt: we all know who saved Jem and Scout, who relieved Atticus of fear. And the shy Mr Arthur Radley cannot stand the spotlight of being the hero. So, Bob Ewell fell on his own knife: a life for a life. And Scout summons up the metaphor, that to expose Mr Arthur like that would be like shooting a Mockingbird, a bird that doesn’t raid or harm, and only sings. Scout walks Boo Radley home to his door and he goes inside. Her adult narration accompanies her run back to her house. Though it’s unsaid, we understand that she will never see him again in her life.

To Kill a Mockingbird affects me deeply. It’s a story of a great wrong, avenged but not punished, and it presents as its hero a good, decent man of a kind I would always hope to be. It’s been criticised for perpetuating the cliche of the white man helping the poor, stricken blacks, which I suppose is true but which I cannot accept as diminishing the film.

Looking back over the past six months, and ahead over the six months to come, I don’t think I have any other Great Films, not in the sense of this. I would argue that La Dentelliere is a Great Film, but it is a private and a personal film. To Kill a Mockingbird is a statement, one that we need all the more as the gains of the last sixty years start to slide away from us. But it’s also a film about people, and in the end that’s the only way that statements can be properly seen: in the people they are about.

 

Film 2018: Summer Things


I know I said that I was going to choose a serious film this week, as I reach the halfway mark, but in this current spell of astonishingly hot and dry weather, under uninterrupted blue skies that destroy all sense of time in the day, each hour displaying the same light, be it six in the morning or nine at night, what more appropriate title to watch today than Michel Blanc’s 2002 light and superficial holiday story, Summer Things?

The film, a French – British – Italian co-production, stars Charlotte Rampling, although she’s really the leading light in an ensemble cast for a story that intermingles the experiences of five couples (though you can stretch that to six if you will), all Parisians, on holiday for a week in Touquet (Le Touquet-Paris-Plage), in northern France. I found it interesting that the French title, Embrassez qui vous voudrez, translates in babelfish.com as ‘Summer Things’, though the literal translation of the words would be ‘Kiss who you will’.

The set-up is as follows: Elizabeth (Rampling) and Bertrand (Jacques Dutronc) are a prosperous couple, he a successful Estate Agent, she a ‘busy’ housewife. They’re going to holiday because she needs a break. Their 17 year old daughter Emilie (Lou Doillon) is going on her own vacation to Dunkerque, with her friend Nina, but actually she’s sneaking off to Chicago with her short-term boyfriend Kevin (Sami Bouajila), who works for Bertrand but who’s creaming off commission in order to pursue the wild and extravagant Emilie because he’s obsessed with her.

Elizabeth and Bertrand’s friends and neighbours, Veronique (Karin Viard) and Jerome, are much less rich, though Vero is obsessed with keeping up with their friends. She insists on their going to Touquet at the same time, with their 16 year old son, Loic (Gaspard Ulliel) but he and she are horrified to find themselves in a distant caravan, because that’s all Jerome can afford.

Because Emilie is not going, and because her best friend Julie (Clotilde Courau), an unwed mother with a perpetually crying baby who is also Bertrand’s former lover, is broke and can’t afford a vacation, Elizabeth invites Julie away with them, which Bertrand uses as an excuse to drop out, remain in Paris at work and indulge himself with his young lover, employee Rena, aka Nanou (Mickael Dolman), who may be transgender.

At Touquet, Julie immediately falls for and spends her time with Maxime (Vincent Elbaz), an out-and-out shit out to screw as many women as he can, a slimeball capable of seducing the hotel receptionist, tying her up naked and blindfolded on his bed and then forgetting her for eight hours, only to be discovered when he brings Julie back. Who, incidentally, isn’t bothered, and indeed invites the furious, embarrassed and now-jobless lady to stay for a threesome.

Intermingled in all this becomes Lulu (Carole Bouquet) and Jean-Pierre (Michel Blanc), a married couple also vacationing in Elizabeth’s hotel. She’s a successful business lawyer, he a news stringer. They love each other but he’s horribly insecure, paranoid, insanely jealous and suspects her of shagging everything in trousers that moves. Especially Maxime, which is painfully ironic because Lulu can’t stand him. A chance sharing of a table in a crowded bar introduces Lulu to Elizabeth, Vero and Julie, and leads to a rapidly growing friendship between Lulu and Elizabeth.

That’s our five couples, but I said you could stretch it to six. Loic, going for an ice cream, bumps literally into Carole (Melanie Laurent), and the two spend time together, some of it kissing, despite the fury of Carole’s dickhead elder brother Romain. Indeed, Loic does lose his virginity this week, but you’d be a tad surprised as to who it’s with.

Actually, I’m not going to go into how things spill out over the course of the film. It’s complicated, sophisticated, sometimes a little world-weary, light, superficial, indeed it’s all things French. It’s a film made for hot Sunday afternoons and not wanting to think too hard. Yet it’s not an utter souffle of a film, thanks to the excellence of a well-chosen cast, especially Rampling, who is the spine that holds things together. Each of its ensemble members are sharply defined. You could say that, with the exception of Lulu, who really does get put through it by the monstrous yet pathetic Jean-Pierre, none of the characters are sympathetic, and in a different frame of min, you could seriously loathe this film and wish deeply unpleasant outcomes on pretty much all of them, just because they deserve it.

Yet the film’s charm is to make you, if not sympathetic then at least tolerant of them all, in the weaknesses and foibles. Bertrand may be a louche drunk but he’s self-aware to an extent no-one else is. And Blanc, who was both writer and director, lifts the cloth just enough, and at the exactly right times, to show that each of these superficial creatures has a darkness behind the eyes. Vero, with her furious refusal to accept being flat broke, her constant complaining to, at and about the pathetic and suicidal Jerome, finds herself in charge of Alice, Julie’s baby, and visibly changes: we are given little by way of clues because (good storytelling) these people don’t tell each other what they already know, but we get enough to see that there has been a baby, a girl, who died. Vero becomes attached to Alice, enough to admit to being broke and slam Elizabeth for being blind to it.

The film ends with a garden party to which everyone we’ve met from Touquet is attended, even Carole and Romain. Various things happen. Endings occur or are implied. Things fall out, largely, as you’d like to see them, though Maxime gets away with everything, just when you think that castration with a rusty knife ought to be on the table, and Julie (who is astonishingly pretty) still loves him, still deludes herself and still causes an immense amount of affection for someone who makes Emilie look as deep as a character from Dostoyevsky.

It’s a likeable film. It dates from that brief period of interest I showed in French films, though why I chose that and not another, I have no memory, except that I was already impressed with Karin Viard from Delicatessen. I should watch it more often. Next time really should be a hot Sunday afternoon.

Film 2018: The Adventures of Baron Munchausen


When it came to going to the cinema when on holiday in the Lakes, Zeffirelli’s in Ambleside constantly disappointed. But I would always divide my week away between Ambleside and Keswick, and I didn’t even know there was a cinema in Keswick until the day I climbed Blueberry Fell and Walla Crag, walking out of the town down a street I’d never ventured so far along before, discovering a little but proud cinema. And by an ironic coincidence, what was it showing? Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Incidentally, though I didn’t learn this until this decade, I also walked down the street where Robert Neill had lived until his death in 1981.

I went that evening, an old-fashioned picture house with a big screen, ideal for the expansive nature of this film, of Terry Gilliam. I drank everything in with great enjoyment, and rolled back to my guesthouse in the quiet evening air, well satisfied.

That said, Munchausen is certainly the most problematic of Gilliam’s Trilogy of Imagination. It’s long, with a tendency to ramble a bit, it blurs the line between fantasy and reality and it tends to go for spectacle rather than structure. Of it’s two predecessors, Time Bandits is clearly the greater influence: both films are primarily episodic, and Gilliam repeats the trick of the first film, in which Kevin’s toys all appear, in mutated form, throughout the film, whereas in Munchausen, the members of a cast of players become most of the characters in the Baron’s story. And there are some memorable guest stars having some self-indulgent fun.

What Gilliam does is to put onto the screen (not for the first time) some of the incredible and unbelievable tales of the real-life Baron, a teller of tall tales, who remains popular on the continent even to this day. Gilliam puts this into the context of a siege by the Grand Turk, battering an unnamed coastal city whose ‘mayor’, Horatio Jackson (Jonathan Pryce), is a man of reason and rationality.

Gilliam signals where his loyalties lie by having Jackson demonstrate rationality to the absurd point of ordering an unusually heroic officer to be executed for demoralising the ordinary ones! To the extent that the film is an opposition between Imagination and Reality, one side’s clearly not going to get an even break.

In the midst of bombardment, a troupe of players under Henry Salt (Bill Patterson) are putting on a surprisingly lavish ‘Adventures of Baron Munchausen’ stageshow when it is denounced and interrupted by an elderly gentleman claiming to be the real Baron (John Neville), and the show being a pack of lies.

The Baron claims to be the cause of the Grand Turk’s attack and relates an absurd story of a bet with the Turk, his near-execution and his subsequent stripping of the entire Treasury – all perfectly legitimately but not taken well – leading to the present attack in an attempt to recapture him. The tale features the Baron’s legendary servants, Bertholt (a perpetually sarcastic Eric Idle), who can run at incredible speeds, Albrecht, of super-strength, Gustavus, of incredibly hearing and lungpower, and Adolphus, of incredible eyesight and accuracy.

Of course, everyone denounces it as rubbish, especially 9 year old Sally Salt, daughter of Henry (a wonderfully written and determined performance by 9 year old Sarah Polley). But when Sally loses her head at the latest attack, which has brought the Angel of Death to take Munchausen’s soul, she runs out to the ramparts, screaming at them to stop, only to witness the Baron fly towards the Turks riding on a mortar shell, and fly back riding on a cannonball!

No-one believes her, of course.

However, the Baron undertakes to lift the siege by leaving the city (in a hot air sailing ship whose balloon is constructed out of ladies’ silk knickers – thankfully, this is not set in the modern day or he’d need the entire city’s worth) to find and bring back his amazing servants. Unsurprisingly, Sally has stowed away.

It’s taken a long while to get here, and though it’s been fun to date, those who criticise Gilliam for a slow start are not without a point, because this is where the story really begins, and here is where Gilliam can gleefully abandon the fetters upon his imagination that a ‘real’ setting imposes. The only representative of rationality present is young Sally, who brings every bit of a 9 year old’s unimpressedness into trying to keep the Baron on point, and the object of the quest – saving everybody from being killed – as an objective. Never has the familiar line, ‘Can we go now?’ been so aptly repeated, and Polley brings everything to it.

We go by the Moon, via the King and Queen of the Moon – the King is Robin Williams, credited as ‘Ray D. Tutto’ (King of Everything) – and their entirely separable Heads and Bodies. Williams hams it up something rotten, Valentina Cortese does the same with a greater degree of subtlety, and there’s this hilarious gag where, the Queen’s head having come to save the Baron and his party whilst her body is in bed with the King. Sally is deeply puzzled by the Queen’s gasps, and sighs and ‘ooh’s until the Baron delicately explains that the King is tickling her feet. We nod to ourselves, wisely, and then there’s a cut to the bedchamber where the King is tickling her feet…

Then it’s off to Hell, and my favourite part of the film. Hell is the realm of Vulcan, who’s being played by Oliver Reed in a manner that I can only describe as delicately and subtly completely OTT! Reed’s roaring, for which he employs a well-good Lancashire accent is tempered by his massively overplayed attempts to be a good host and the whole thing just has me rolling on the floor every time. And this is coupled with Uma Thurman as Venus, Vulcan’s wife, first appearing on the half-shell, immediately smitten with the Baron, and taking him into the ballroom for a dance. Through the air.

The romance of the scene is busted by Reed’s hysterically funny jealousy, all accusations of ‘Strumpet!’ and ‘Floozy’ and similar epithets. Of course, the Baron gets thrown out, with Sally, Berthold and Albrecht, into the South Seas, where they’re swallowed by a massive sea-monster.

No guest roles here, just Gustavus, Adolphus and another grab by the Angel of Death, beaten off by Sally’s one-track-mindedness, and once the Monster is forced to sneeze them out, courtesy of a modicum of snuff, we’re back at the Town and the siege.

The Baron’s full of plans of attack but Sally, despairing at last, points out that his servants are all old, and can’t do it any more. Very well, the Baron insists, I said I’d relieve the siege and I will, and he marches off to the Grand Turk to offer himself up for beheading. Jackson’s there, efficiently and scientifically negotiating the date on which the Turks will surrender (we surrendered last time, it’s your turn).

For the first time in the film, something doesn’t ring true, and there will be another such moment along soon, but for now let us relish that the Baron’s willingness to sacrifice himself galvanises everyone into showing off their strengths, resulting in the complete routing of the Turk and the saving of the town.

Everyone pours out and celebrates the Baron as their saviour. Everyone except Jackson, of course, who lurks with a sniper’s rifle in a high tower, determined to have his way, and shooting the Baron through the back. The Baron dies, amidst much mourning, and is buried in state.

At which point, we’re back on stage, the Baron’s concluding his story by explaining that’s just one of the many times he’s died, and how refreshing it can be. It’s all been a story (of course it has, but whose?) Jackson confronts him, arresting him for spreading fantasies when everyone’s in such danger, but Munchausen claims the Turks are gone. His confidence inspires the crowd to open the gates, against every attempt by Jackson to enforce reality, and true enough, the besiegers are gone and all is the devastation of the Baron’s story.

So, was it all true after all? Sally, the junior representative of reality has come over to the Baron’s side, and the audience is willing to go along for the ride, having had a great deal of fun, but we really do have to put our feet down here and admit that Gilliam has, in the end, let the film get away from him. I’m all for Imagination and Reality being thoroughly mixed together, without a point-by-point explanation as to which bit is supposed to be which, and Time Bandits‘s ending is a superb example of that.

But Gilliam in the end lets his visceral loathing for order and restriction overrule his sense of decent storytelling. Let’s go back to those three moments I’ve picked out with Jackson (Pryce is, of course, absolutely brilliant in the role). Having the heroic officer executed is a great black joke, and the fact that it’s Sting makes it delicious for the non-Police fans among us. But it’s a logical idea, albeit a twist version of logic.

But Gilliam loses it with Jackson at the end. If the man is supposed to be emblematic of Reason, then to have him negotiating not just the continuation of battle, and the ensuing death, destruction and mayhem, as a properly scientific approach to war is breaching your own internal logic. It isn’t twisted, it’s beyond logic.  It’s hating your ‘opponent’ and putting words in his mouth to make him even more despicable.

And the same goes for the assassination bit. By now, Gilliam isn’t working to any kind of logic at all. He’s obsessed, fanatically stamping his feet like any baby demanding his way, and it comes close to blowing the film completely because it shows he’s lost control.

Which is a shame because in every other respect, I love this film, and it’s tremendous fun to watch, but it is flawed, and whilst the flaws are minor, they go to the heart of Gilliam’s themes in not just this movie, but also its two predecessors.

That’s now four fantasy films in four weeks, and next Sunday marks the halfway point of this project. Time for something a little more serious, I think, to celebrate.

Film 2018: Time Bandits


I’d originally planned to start Terry Gilliam’s ‘Trilogy of Imagination’ next week, what with today supposed to be a working Sunday. But what with other, larger changes elsewhere, that obligation’s been lifted, and here we are.

Like several films in this series, my first introduction to Time Bandits came through Barry Norman and Film 81. It was also highly rated in NME, which I was still taking weekly, and I approached it expecting good things, and Gilliam provided these in bulk.

The film’s credits list its copious stars, famous folk throughout, though Katherine Helmond might need a bit of explaining to contemporary audiences (she had starred in the massively popular US spoof-soap, Soap). But almost without exception, these are cameo roles, stars of their own scenes through which the title characters plummet headlong. These are Kevin, an 11 year old boy, played by Craig Warnock, and six dwarves, Randall, Wally, Vermin, Strutter, Fidget and Og.

Time Bandits, written by Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin, is a brilliant romp through time and space. It’s an expansively ambitious film made on a shoestring budget that makes maximum use of imagination to cover the gaps in he budget for the kind of heavy-duty SFX/CGI you’d get today. Without ever looking cheap, the direction spurs the audience into using its own imagination to help complete the illusions the film has to suggest rather than rub in your face.

Kevin’s an 11 year old boy at that stage of eager enthusiasm for knowledge. He’s an information sponge, anxious for more, fired by everything he reads, whereas his parents are pure materialists, interested only in newer ‘labour-saving’ gadgets. It’s all very mundane, until a horse ridden by a knight in armour gallops through his wardrobe door, jumps his bed and races off down a tree-lined country lane that turns out to be a photo on his bedroom wall. After that, mundanity doesn’t get a shout.

The next things to emerge from Kevin’s wardrobe are six dwarves, dressed in various sets of ragged clothing, bearing a map of creation. Sorry, Creation. They’re supposed to be filling in the holes but have decided to exploit them by robbing all of history. When the Supreme Being (‘you mean God?’ ‘well, we don’t know him that well…’) as a disembodied head and voice comes in pursuit, they push Kevin’s bedroom wall about a hundred yards down a hitherto unsuspected hallway until it falls off and, with a terrified Kevin tearing after them, fall into a timehole.

Here is where the fun starts, Gilliam wisely goes for fun and crisp cameos over the first half of the film, with the Bandits flipping back and forth in time, robbing as they go. Ian Holm plays a Napoleon self-conscious of his height who loves Punch & Judy shows for the ‘leetle creatures hitting each other’, John Cleese is a decidedly upper-class Robin Hood, in Prince-Charles-visiting-a-factory mode, amongst dirty, slovenly, brutish Men whose Merriness is decidedly dubious, and Sean Connery plays a gorgeously straight role as King Agamemnon, whose adopts the abandoned Kevin as his son before Randall & Co steal him back.

(I recall an interview many years ago about Connery’s participation in the film, in which the Producers sent him a copy of the script to read, confessing to not having the budget to pay him: Connery loved it so much, he said he’d do it for whatever they could afford. And he was right.)

There’s also recurring cameos for co-writer Palin and Shelley Duval as unfortunate lovers, Vincent and Pansy, which are mini-delights.

Now the film could keep doing this as long as it wanted, and the budget lasted, as far as I was concerned, butthere’s no ending with that, so Gilliam introduces Evil, played with characteristic cartoon nastiness by David Warner. Evil wants to get hold of the map so he can overwrite Creation: after all, he’s got a better idea ofwwhat to do with it that the Supreme Being, none of this 43 different kinds of parrot, it’s going to be lasers, 8.00am Monday morning.

So Evil starts bending things towards leading the Bandits into the Time of Legends, via the Titanic, of course. Which is where things start to get seriously goofy. Peter Vaughan and Katherine Helmond cameo as ogres on a sailing ship that turns out to be the hat of a bulky giant walking underwater, who leads them into a desert with an invisible wall that, in my favourite effect of the film, shatters when a skull is thrown against it, as if the filmscreen itself is shattering. Behind it is the mega-gigantic Fortress of Ultimate Darkness which, sorry Peter Jackson, from the first instant I saw it was my personal vision of the Barad-Dur.

And Gilliam piles on visual excitement after visual excitement as Evil confronts the Dwarves in a ghastly gameshow parody above a humungous walltop maze, the dwarves escape from a locked cage swinging above a massive emptiness and return with historical reinforcements – knights, cowboys, spaceships, archers, a tank, all of which prove spectacularly ineffective against Evil.

It’s a glorious compendium of toys turned real: a sharp eye can detect every single thing that appears in the film among the toys in Kevin’s bedroom. The pure, unfettered imagination of a kid, something Gilliam’s always been superb at conjuring up, is what drives this film.

And then, somewhat bathetically, Evil turns into a carbon statue, is knocked over and destroyed, by the Supreme Being, only this time it’s Ralph Richardson in a suit, giving a acerbically disdainful, Superior-than-thou performance. He’s pleased at the test he’s given his Creation, especially Evil. But now, back to work.

The incredulous Kevin does challenge God on why so many people have had to be killed to test his creation, but that’s a deeply-loaded theological question and 11 year old Kevin is just the latest to get a determinedly deaf ear turned to it by the Supreme Being. Then he’s left behind, with an overlooked bit of Evil starting to smoke, sulphurously.

Which turns into his house on fire and his bedroom door being smashed down in a deliberate echo of the beginning of the film, and rescued by a fireman who turns out to be Agamemnon. And Kevin finds all his polaroids of his trip in his satchel, proving it to have been real. The fire’s been started by something left in the microwave all night, something black and carbonised: the last piece of Evil. And despite, or more likely because of his horrified shout not to touch it, his Mum and Dad touch it. And they explode.

The fireman drive off. Kevin is left outside his burned out house, his parents now two wisps of smoke curling upwards from their scorched slippers. It’s a weirdly downbeat, even frightening ending, showing Kevin losing everything real, yet excluded from Time and Creation.holy Grail

I now understand that at one point, Gilliam planned a sequel. He certainly left himself a solid base on which to build one but his plans were abandoned after the loss of David Rappaport (Randall), who committed suicide, and Jack Purvis (Wally), who was paralysed after being crushed against a wall by his own car.

Time Bandits was Gilliam’s third film as a Director, after Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Jabberwocky. It was, as I said, the first in a ‘Trilogy of Imagination’. This was the vhild’s imagination, and it was great and flowing. Next week, we’ll have the second film, which is even better.

Film 2018: Stardust


Stardust wasn’t my first choice for this week’s film, rather a last minute replacement when I decided that bright sun on an early Sunday morning wasn’t the best conditions for my original choice.

It’s a film that comes shrouded in memories that will always affect me. When it was first released, we went to see it twice in as many weeks, we being my wife and I  in the first instance and two of her children in the second. We chose the film for one of our rare nights out: a meal in Stockport followed by a visit to the now defunct Grand Central Cinema. The meal overran and we missed the start of the film. But we both loved it, and we knew the boys would like it too so, to give them the treat, and allow ourselves to see what we’d missed, we took them next week. It turned out we’d only missed about thirty seconds, which made us both laugh but so what? It was a joy to watch again, even so soon.

Stardust is adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, originally published in four installments, illustrated beautifully by Charles Vess, by DC Comics. The film follows the substance of the story in its narrative, although Captain Shakespeare and the Lightning catching Pirates is a complete invention, but takes a completely different approach to what was intended as an adult fairy-tale. Director Matthew Vaughan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jane Goodman, turns the story – with Gaiman’s blessing – into a whimsical comedy, filling it with a modern, sceptical comedy that has one foot firmly entrenched in cynicism but which leaves the other foot free to dance. Like The Princess Bride it can successfully poke fun at the tropes of which it is made precisely because it is made by people who love and respect what they are playing off.

The story glories in its fairy-tale elements, even though it attracted a wider demographic who, instead of seeing it as fantasy, enjoyed it as a romantic adventure with magical elements. Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox, then unknown) lives in the village of Wall, so named for the Wall that separates it from the magical kingdom of Stormhold. Tristan, the product of a brief affair between his father, Dunstan, and a then-nameless slave girl in Stormhold, eighteen years before at the start of the film.

Tristran loves the beautiful but spoilt Victoria (Sienna Miller), who is more interested in the more upmarket Humphrey (Henry Cavill, though his is only a bit part). Humphrey’s going to go all the way to Ipswich for a ring for Victoria, but Tristran will go through the wall to bring back a fallen star for her, to prove his love.

The star (Claire Danes), whose name is Yvaine, has been knocked from the sky by a diamond hurled there by the dying King of Stormhold (an impressive cameo from Peter O’Toole). Whichever of his sons can find it – there were seven, but they’ve been whittled down to three: poor show, really, the Stormhold tradition is for only one surviving brother when the King dies – will be King.

Meanwhile, three incredibly aged witches are also after the star, since to cut out and eat the still-beating heart of a fallen star grants youth and near-immortality. The eldest sister, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer, still decidedly woo hoo, once the aged make-up comes off), goes to get the heart.

So: Yvaine’s got three different forces after her, that’s if you call Tristran a force, which he isn’t to begin with but becomes, in a very likeable manner, during the course of the film.

There’s some conventional structures in there: two sources for a chase thriller, one with elements of a Quest, combined with the picaresque journey during which two initially hostile enforced companions gradually start to like and then love each other, which goes back at least as far as the Alfred Hitchcock version of The Thirty-Nine Steps. It’s highly entertaining in itself, thanks to the lightness Vaughan and Goodman bring to everything, no matter how serious it may be – one strand involves mass-fratricide and it’s even funnier than Kind Hearts and Coronets – and that’s amplified by the fantastic setting, which combines some very effective CGI with location filming in the kind of scenery that made me want to climb through the screen and go climbing mountains in the background. Much of the outdoor scenes were filmed in Scotland, with other parts in Iceland. The contrast is obvious, but not distracting.

There’s a primarily English cast: Rupert Everett, David Walliams and Julian Rhind-Tutt are among the bit parts, Melanie Hill, Joanna Scanlan and Sarah Alexander are witches, and Mark Wiliams is brilliantly loopy as a goat turned into an innkeeper. The two big American stars make the most of their parts: Pfeiffer is a major protagonist, but de Niro’s role is a primarily comic one. He’s supposed to be a rough, tough, notoriously evil pirate but he’s actually a softie who’s had to keep his father’s business going.

Captain Shakespeare is there to given Tristran and Yvaine safe haven for a time, to transform Tristran from provincial boy operating on dumb luck to sophisticated and capable man who can handle problems. It’s only a supporting role, and de Niro combines flamboyance and underplaying with the confidence of a  great actor enjoying himself. Apparently, the other possible star for the role was Jack Nicholson, who I doubt could have played this role anything like as effectively.

Ultimately, though, the film belongs to Cox and Daines. He’s innocent in the best sense throughout, an overgrown boy taking on manhood before our eyes, whilst retaining a boyish delight throughout. He has to undergo this adventure to become worthy of his role, because his mother, slave to a caravan witch, Ditchwater Sal (Hill) is really Una, daughter to the King, and after the last son, Septimus (Mark Strong) is killed by Lamia, Tristran becomes the Heir to Stormhold. But he also has to undergo this adventure to discover his real true love and to become worthy – both in person and in the heart – of the love of Yvaine the star.

And Daines is simply wonderful, not to mention unconventionally beautiful. Her face is always mobile, initially in a hunted, indeed neurotic manner, and her anxieties never wholly disappear until she saves the day by Shining, but the longer the film goes on, and the closer she comes to falling in love with Tristran, the more that mobility is just evidence of an underlying energy, the force of love unable to be contained yet unable to be expressed.

I’ve left so much out, so many little details that demonstrate the comprehensive vision that Vaughan had for this film. It’s another of those where the casting is ideal – Olivia Grant was cast in the minor role of the female version of Bernard (don’t ask) literally weeks out of Acting School and, without any lines, makes a wonderfully comic cameo – and whilst there are those who regret that the tone was not more faithful to the original story, they don’t include Gaiman, who was happier with an artistically satisfactory comedy than a serious film that would have failed: like me with so many other versions, he thinks of this as the Earth-2 Stardust.

That’s not to say the film’s perfect. It was released in 2007 and includes a minor role for Ricky Gervaise as Ferdy the Fence (behind a door marked ‘Ferdy’s Office’). It hasn’t worn well, rather like Gervaise’s star since those halcyon days. Gervaise isn’t convincing in his acting, but then he’s playing against Robert de Niro soo that’s a more than adequate excuse. It’s just that it’s David Brent, with an Andy Millman catch-phrase, out of context and in 2018 it no longer works.

But I’ve no other complaints about Stardust, not even the Take That song, ‘Rule the World’ in the credits. My wife was a major league Take That fan, but even I loved this song from the first moment I heard it, then and now.

I love Stardust. Like Gregory’s Girl, last week, it’s one of my ten favourite films, for itself and without the memories I have attached to it. Other adaptations of Neil Gaiman’s work have been far more faithful to the source than this, and I am very glad of it.

Film 2018: Gregory’s Girl


Oh, but this takes me back.
I first saw Gregory’s Girl in the cinema either late in 1980 or early 1981, and during the first half of the Eighties I would go on to pay to see it again a good five times, either in its own rate or as the bottom half of probably the best cinema bill I ever saw, supporting Chariots of Fire (not half bad a film to watch multiple times). In those days before VHS and DVD, even with more films shown on general TV channels than we get nowadays, that’s what you had to do.
Gregory’s Girl was the second film from Scottish Director and Writer Bill Forsyth, and I’m semi-certain that I was lucky enough to see his first, That Sinking Feeling, one Sunday BBC2 night before catching this. Several of That Sinking Feeling‘s cast, former members of Glasgow Youth Theatre, reappear in Gregory, mainly in supporting roles, with only one of the three principal roles a former alumni. This is the title role of Gregory Underwood, played by John Gordon Sinclair (credited under his real name of Gordon John Sinclair: Equity, eh?).
The other two main parts go to Dee Hepburn (discovered dancing in a TV commercial) and Altered Images singer Clare Grogan (credited under her original spelling of Claire but mostly known in her acting career as C.P. Grogan: Equity, eh?). They’re also supported by a cast of adults, in minor but vital roles, mostly teachers, amongst whom is best known is comedian Chic Murray, making a peach of a cameo as the Headmaster.
The film is a time-bubble, the hairstyles of the boys and the skirt-lengths of the girls locking it into place as inexorably as anything produced during the Swinging Sixties. It’s gentle, unhurried, almost meandering, a miniaturist of a film composed of small scenes and moments, not all of which are connected to the theme, that give it a very naturalist tone, as well as allowing for some brilliant, low-key absurdism. It’s a shoestring film, in which members of the cast brought their own clothes in to wear.
But though perhaps its archaic nature isn’t solely confined to the look of things, it’s also timeless. It’s a film – very much a boy’s film, mind you – about that time when boys are just starting to notice that girls are different from them but also to start wanting to get some idea of what that difference entails. Forsyth’s individuality lies in directing that urge away from the simply sexual by overlaying with that peculiar teenage anxiety about everything you don’t know – what do you talk to girls about, anyway? – and concentrating on that innocence without any overt crudity.
Girls are, of course, different. For one thing, they’re already much more mature, more sophisticated, and that’s another way in which this is a boy’s film. It’s about the first stage of a journey on which the girls are already three bus-stops ahead.
Reducing the story to a simple outline involves stripping away much of the subtlety and all of the wonderful irrelevance, but let’s do that anyway. Gregory, a Fourth Year boy, gangly, awkward, head-in-the-clouds, is non-scoring striker for a school football team that’s just lost eight matches in a row. Coach Phil Menzies (Jake D’Arcy: real name John Sinclair: Equity, eh?) is growing despondent. He drops goalkeeper Andy (Robert Buchanan), shoves Gregory into the nets and holds trials for a new striker.
The trials are invaded by Dorothy (Hepburn), who, despite being a girl, is better than all the rest out together. She makes the team. She’s also attractive, with long hair, a neat figure and great legs. Gregory is smitten. Being a boy of that age, as well as being particularly awkward in himself, he does nothing more at first than go on about her to his friends, Andy, silent Charlie and Steve, the star of cookery classes.
But, under the tutelage of his precocious and utterly calm 10-year old sister Madeleine (Allison Forster), Gregory manages to work up the nerve to ask Dorothy out. On a date. Which she readily accepts, despite it being abundantly clear, without nastiness or anything overt, that she isn’t interested in him in the slightest.
So we’re not surprised that Dorothy doesn’t turn up. However, Carol does. She gets Gregory to walk her to the chipshop, where she hands him over to Margo. Who gets him to walk a bit further to where we already know Susan (Grogan) is dressed up rather nicely and waiting for him. We’ve had only one scene where Dorothy and Susan talk, during dissection in Biology classes, into which it’s slipped, casually, that Susan thinks Gregory has a nice laugh. And there’s been a second scene, silent, through windows, of the pair discussing something that we now understand, even as Susan explains to Gregory: It’s just the way girls work. They help each other.
So Susan and Gregory go down the Country Park, and Gregory still doesn’t know what to talk about, until he stops trying to please her and indulges his silly self in a wonderfully subtle visual pun, because he shows Susan how to dance, by lying down on your back, shuffling your shoulders and waving your arms about, and she lies down beside him, and gives in to the moment, and the music starts up and they ‘dance’ on towards sunset, relaxed in each other’s company, for isn’t the term ‘horizontal dancing’ another euphemism for sex?
And it takes them into that first stage of the relationship, where the thrill is being around someone, sharing things that, however unimportant they may be, are important because they’re shared, and become cause for giggles unintelligible to outsiders: A million and nine: How come you know all the good numbers?
By then, they’re kissing, and whilst it’s perhaps a touch psychologically improbable this soon, Gregory’s relaxed enough to make jokes about it, though his joke – that’s better, you’ve finally stopped kissing me like I was your aunt at Xmas: (kiss): but what’s my aunt going to say when I kiss her at Xmas? – is perfectly in Gregory’s wheelhouse.
Meanwhile, Dorothy jogs on her evening run, perfectly self-contained, not even thinking of Gregory, whilst Madeleine sums it all up by sympathising with her daft, awkward, but somehow not all that bad, hope for him yet brother: Poor Gregory. It’s awful being in Love. Especially when you don’t know which girl you’re in love with.
Even an outline of the story requires so many details even as it leaves so many more out. And some of these are little moments of sheer genius, a few seconds of film that build up this real world into something as real and absurd as the one we lie in every day, below the radar of events. And that’s without the touches that envelop the world that means nothing to Gregory and his misdirected romance.
Late on, there’s a silent cameo of Phil Menzies – who has only been seen as obsessed with his football – inside a greenhouse, tending plants, spraying them and, guess what, talking to them. There’s a found moment, when Chic Murray, hired for only one scene as the Head, was noodling a jaunty little melody on a piano in the rehearsal room that Forsyth had him do for the film: about thirty seconds of serene absorption, nifty little fingerwork, then a turn, as much to the camera as to the kids looking in the door, and the golden words, “Off you go, you small boys.”
And there’s the penguin. Everyone mentions the penguin. It’s still hilarious, nearly forty years later, a moment of inspiration, of genius.
I’ve alluded throughout this review to this being a boy’s story and it’s got to be acknowledged. Good as it is, sweet and funny and kind as it is, this is all about Gregory, and even the two young women of the story, in all their self-sufficiency, their obviously greater maturity, their effortless independence, are only a part of the story as defined in their relationship with Gregory.
The film would fail the Bechdel Test with a crunch. There are very few conversations between the women and none that don’t relate to the men – boys rather – around them. And whilst Susan acts upon her own agency, with the help of her friends, it is only to get herself a boyfriend, and the best that can be said of it is, and this is where the Oldham Coliseum adaptation crashed so spectacularly, it is Gregory specifically in whom she is interested.
True, the girls are positioned as being more mature than the boys, who are all comic figures to one degree or another, are treated more respectfully, especially Dorothy, who is always well aware of her own qualities. But ultimately, this is about Gregory, and what he wants and what he learns and Susan is his reward for looking a little below the surface. It’s still a wonderful film, whose refusal to go beyond a typically ignorant, near cartoon view of sex and dating (on the boy’s side) is what gives it wisdom at it’s core, and you can argue that it’s major problem in this respect was that nobody was making (or being allowed to make?) anything comparable from a female perspective. But in this day and age, I’m just that little bit too aware that this is a boy’s story.
Still, it’s one of the few to really represent my bit of boy’s life, without the Susan in it? I was very like Gregory in some respects, even down to the football lack-of-talent.
John Gordon Sinclair has gone on to a long and bust career. I’ve not followed it, and especially not watched the apparently awful twenty-years-later sequel, Gregory’s Two Girls. What I have seen him in suggests that this film still is, and probably always will be, the best thing he’s ever done.
Dee Hepburn still acts, and was in Crossroads for four years. At first, her career was held up by crippling shyness, especially as the tabloid press wanted to see her as a fit bird in sexy clothing, which she loathed,
Clare Grogan was successful with Altered Images, and was in Red Dwarf. She still performs and she’s still bloody gorgeous.
Bill Forsyth made two more Scotland set films, both highly regarded (one of which we’ll have here one Sunday) before moving to America, which killed his career. He hasn’t directed since Gregory’s Two Girls.
In a list of ten films I would take with me to a desert island, Gregory’s Girl is a must.