Directed by Bill Forsyth
I’d never seen Local Hero before this weekend. But as any devoted Wittertainee will tell you, Mark Kermode just can’t shut up about it. If he’s not reminding anyone who has been living under a cave for the last several decades that The Exorcist is the best movie he has ever seen, then he is ringing the bell for Local Hero. So with such weight of expectation, did Local Hero crumble under the pressure? It most certainly did not and this stunning 2k restoration from the original 35mm print was the perfect way to experience Bill Forsyth’s magnum opus.
Formalities first. Local Hero stars a young Peter Riegert as Texas-oilman Mac. Mac is sent by his wonderfully eccentric boss Happer (Burt Lancaster) to Scotland. His mission is to negotiate a deal to purchase an entire town for the oil company. The motley crew of locals seem more than happy to part with their town in exchange for the right sum. But Mac soon begins to discover that there is something special about this corner of the world that perhaps can’t be bought. Mac is our eyes and our ears as the beautiful coastal town is revealed one step at a time. His outsider-status is quickly brushed off and he is soon drinking the night away in the local bar in between making trips to the red telephone box outside to call back to his boss in Texas.
I’ll admit, the gentle comedy of this film takes some warming up to. It falls squarely into the bracket of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil crossed with Last of The Summer Wine. Hardly the heady combination most would seek but Bill Forsyth is perfectly at home with this brand of quirky storytelling. Characters and their motivations are bizarre, without explanation. Dialogue is strange and otherworldly. Situations are ridiculous but accepted as normal. Yet all of this is to the films credit because it is this strange other-worldliness and peculiarity that would be missed, should the entire town up sticks and leave. There is something magical about the places, the people and their ways. Not being able to articulate what that is exactly is half the fun!
There’s a charming beauty at this films heart. Something nostalgically sweet and pure about what it presents. Lives can be bought, yes, and sometimes without resistance. But the wonder, the awesomeness of humanity, the collective and individual experience, cannot. I think it's rather fitting that I don’t rate this film higher than I do, because to me it's inaccessibility and strangeness is perfectly representative of small-town life. I don’t want to be Mac in my high rise apartment, I want to be Ben on his beach!
The Blu Ray release comes packed to the gills with all manner of extras such as interviews, behind the scenes features and TV spots. The highlight of which absolutely has to be Mark Kermode and Bill Forsyth’s audio commentary though. The former’s enthusiasm for the film practically dwarfs the directors. Kermode’s childlike wonder at every turn “Where was this scene filmed”, “Did you intend for that to happen,'' “I love this line”, “Look at that shot” is exactly the response you want this kind of film to stir up in people. It’s a perfectly imperfect place to spend a couple of hours!