Bill Forsyth’s “Comfort and Joy” (1984) remains a holiday gem

Bill Forsyth’s slice of Glasgow noir never received the praise showered upon its predecessors Local Hero and Gregory’s Girl. The bonus interviews included on this disc hint at the reasons why: Forsyth admits that his script could have been tightened up, and Claire Grogan suggests that the film’s payoff doesn’t feel like a proper ending.

Comfort and Joy is still a treat, though, its dry humour a return to the style of Forsyth’s zero-budget debut. Bill Paterson’s Alan “Dickie” Bird is a Partridgesque local radio DJ whose life starts to unravel when his kleptomaniac girlfriend leaves him. Buying a 99 from an ice cream van he’s chased because he fancies the serving girl (Grogan) unwittingly involves him in a turf war between rival Italian ice cream vendors. The news items we hear on Bird’s car radio are full of African coups and Middle Eastern peace negotiations, foreshadowing his decision to act as a mediator between the two firms.

Cinematographer Chris Menges gives the mean streets of Glasgow a warm, twinkly glow, despite the city’s northern latitude limiting the number of exterior shots. The visual jokes are brilliant: we see that Bird’s problems really begin when he, Alice-like, follows a Mr Bunny ice cream van into a dark tunnel. Alex Norton’s Trevor, reeling from a baseball bat attack on his van, turns out to be relatively unharmed: the blood pouring down his face is actually raspberry sauce. Bird’s prized BMW literally disintegrates as the film unwinds, the victim of bird shit, ice cream and physical violence. As things escalate, he uses his early morning radio show to broadcast coded messages to the warring tribes, prompting boss Rikki Fulton to refer him to eccentric psychiatrist Arnold Brown.

Forsyth elicits predictably winning performances from his large cast, including a convincingly Glaswegian-sounding Patrick Malahide as Bird’s best friend, and Roberto Bernardi as the charismatic “Mr McCool”.

Robert Buchanan has a blink-or-miss-it cameo, and even Claire Grogan’s atrocious Italian accent doesn’t derail proceedings. This restored print looks and sounds excellent; Mark Knopfler’s moody soundtrack adding much to the atmosphere. And, as already noted, the interviews with Forsyth, Paterson and Grogan are a delight, revealing that the idea for the plot was suggested to the director by a young Peter Capaldi.

Source: DVD: Comfort and Joy | The Arts Desk

Northern Lights but no stardust in Local Hero

The Lyceum’s artistic director David Greig has written a serviceable adaptation that covers most of the story’s bases but lacks its romantic sweep, writes PATRICK MARMION.

Back then, the idea of the legendary Hollywood tough guy rocking up in the Highlands in a helicopter was out of this world. It made Forsyth’s story seem so much bigger and less parochial.

This genial new musical version of the film could do with some of that A-list stardust. The Lyceum’s artistic director David Greig has written a serviceable adaptation that covers most of the story’s bases but lacks its romantic sweep.

And even with songs by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, developing his original film score for the stage, John Crowley’s production feels a bit run-of-the-mill. Continue reading

7 things you didn’t know about ‘Local Hero’

Local Hero

Bill Forsyth’s international hit film Local Hero had a massive impact on Aberdeenshire in the 1980s. As the brand new musical stage production enjoys its world premiere at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, we uncover some interesting local facts about the iconic film.

1. Real-life local hero appeared in Local Hero….

Harbourmaster Baden Gibson (pictured below) starred as an extra in Local Heroalongside Burt Lancaster and Peter Capaldi. Mr Gibson was harbourmaster for 40 years until he passed away at the age of 67 in November 2016. He spent his entire life in Pennan and became the village’s longest-standing resident, when his mother moved away. After being cast as an extra in the film, Baden campaigned for Pennan to be used in more TV and film productions. He is fondly remembered by locals, one said: “When you think of Pennan, you think of Baden. He did his best to give back wherever he could and he became Pennan’s Local Hero.”

2. Hollywood A-lister Michael Douglas didn’t – but he was desperate for a part!

Apparently Michael Douglas was so keen to take the lead role as Mac that he met writer/director Bill Forsyth in Los Angeles, and followed him to New York “as if he was passing through”, according to Local Hero producer, Iain Smith. Iain said in a previous interview: “Bill is a wonderful, Continue reading