Thursday, April 14, 2011

Flick of The Day: Local Hero

One of the finest British film's of the 1980's, Scottish director Bill Forsyth's tale of the inhabitants of a small Scottish seaside town and the American oil man who comes to buy their town. It asks some pertinent questions about the inevitable negative effects of Globalisation. Will everywhere become homogenised and are people better off for it? All this and a fine film that pokes knowing fun at Scottish foibles but always with warmth.
Mac McIntyre is a hot shot Oil Executive, wonderfully played by Peter Riegert, at one with the go-go 80's. He is despatched to the village of Ferness in Scotland at the behest of his eccentric boss, the billionaire Felix Happer. Happer, played by the late great Burt Lancaster in almost his last major role, wishes to purchase the town to put a refinery in place in the search for north sea oil. McIntyre and his Scottish guide Oldsen arrive in the village expecting a fight. They quickly discover that the equally eccentric local residents led by the hotel owner and village accountant are very interested in selling out. They are seduced by the lifestyle that the oil money would bring, making the inhabitants millionaires overnight. As McIntyre spends time with the locals and adjusts to the slower pace of life, he finds himself falling for the village and wondering why they want to sell, when he wants to stay. Ultimately, the deal hits a bump when an old man who lives in a shack on the beach refuses to sell causing Happer himself to come to Ferness and negotiate for the town.
Local Hero is a gem of a movie. It doesn't pander to some ideal of small town life and rather then the cliche of a small town battling with a huge corporation, we see that the residents are tired of the hard life they lead and would like nothing more then the windfall the oil company are offering. In another break from tradition, It is the old world of Ferness that is seduced by the new world in the shape of McIntyre and vice versa. McIntyre has everything he could want materially but what he misses in his apartment overlooking downtown Houston is the kind of community and quality of life Ferness has to offer. 
The film is beautifully shot with cinematographer Chris Menges making great use of the stunning Scottish scenery. Equally heartening is the dry and self deprecating humour with which Forsyth pokes fun at the realities of small town eccentrics. Anyone from a small town will recognise these characters. The main message here is that it is simplistic to assume that just because life in these places appears slow, it doesn't mean its easy and that it is in human nature to seek to better themselves. 

Mac MacIntyre: Where's the door here? 
Gordon Urquhart: There is no door. Just knock on the window. 
Mac MacIntyre: How do you do business with a man who has no door? 
Victor: The ethics are just the same.

A great film, one that everyone should see. Anchored by a great, heartfelt performance from Peter Riegert with a haunting score from Mark Knoplfer of Dire Straits adding the finishing touches. The ending is sad and satisfying at the same time. The village of Ferness is a place you would like to visit if it were possible and that's the best compliment I can give.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow by Email