A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Comfort and Joy

December 19, 2010

Comfort and Joy

Long before I first saw this movie Amanda tried to describe it to me. It’s a strange and quirky film by Bill Forsyth with a convoluted plot that makes no sense. It takes place during Christmas, which is why it makes it into this week of viewing, but Christmas doesn’t feature prominently in the movie. More than anything else it takes place during Christmas because it is a movie, at first, about a man going through the worst of all possible break-ups and the fact that it takes place at Christmastime highlights how awful it is.

Our protagonist is an AM radio DJ named Alan. At the start of the movie his kleptomaniac girlfriend abruptly leaves him, taking virtually everything in the apartment with her. (As a side note I couldn’t help being reminded of the start of Play it Again Sam where Woody Allen’s character Allan abruptly find himself single. They both get almost exactly the same pick-me-up speech about how lucky they are to be single again.) In his loneliness and desperation Alan follows an ice-cream truck with an attractive girl in it and soon finds himself caught up in a turf war between rival ice-cream companies – the powerful and well established Italian Mr. McCool and the scrappy upstarts at Mr. Bunny (formerly Mr. Softie – no more.)

This is an odd sort of comedy. It’s full of strange circumstances and peculiar happenings. It has running gags about Alan’s much treasured BMW with velour upholstery. But it doesn’t actually deliver flat out laughs. It’s a sly, clever sort of comedy that derives its humor from strange juxtapositions like having a man struggle with depression during the Christmas season while his job is to be upbeat and effervescent on the radio. There’s a great scene of Alan recording a candy advertisement that shows the monotony of his job and how it contrasts with his radio personality. It winks at the audience as Alan gets deeper and deeper involved with the literal ice cream mafia in Glasgow. Alan begins to broadcast messages to Mr. Bunny during his live radio program and his co-workers begin to suspect that he has lost his mind.

As with our other favorite Bill Forsyth movie, Local Hero, the soundtrack here is provided by Mark Knopfler. For this movie Mark provides a melancholy sort of jazz sound that perfectly melds with the wet winter streets of Glasgow to make palpable Alan’s pain. It’s a sparse, simple soundtrack that perfectly complements Forsyth’s visuals and Bill Patterson’s soulful performance as Alan. Patterson presents Alan as a vulnerable, wounded man who genuinely just wants to make things better in the world.

If it were not for my wonderful wife I never would have discovered this peculiar gem of a movie. It’s the sort of film you don’t tend to hear a lot about but which is a delight to discover. Something simultaneously light-hearted and maudlin. Something about how we cope with loneliness that goes off in bizarre and unexpected directions. I love discovering good movies that nobody else has heard of, which is what this is. (It’s also worth noting that at least two Mystery Science Theater episodes make reference to this movie – so perhaps it is not as obscure as it feels.)

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December 19, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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