Monday, June 25, 2007

Comfort and Joy

Written and Directed by Bill Forsyth
Starring Bill Paterson, Clare Grogan, Eleanor David, Alex Norton, Patrick Malahide
IMDB Entry

Bill Forsyth came on the scene in the early 80s with several quirky little films set in his native Scotland. Gregory's Girlwas a coming-of-age story of a teenage soccer player who becomes infatuated on the first girl to play on the team.  His best-known film, Local Hero, tells how a Scottish town reacts to the idea of building an oil refinery on their shores. His movies were filled with odd and endearing characters and a meandering but entertaining plot.

Comfort and Joy is just as wonderful.  Around Christmas, radio DJ Alan "Dicky" Bird (Bill Paterson, who later appeared in Truly Madly Deeply), depressed over his girlfriend leaving, sees what looks like a gangland attack and gets involved in a territorial dispute between two rival Italian families.

Over ice cream.

The two families are rival ice cream vendors, "Mr. Bunny" and "Mr. McCool" in a humorously cutthroat battle over territory (evidently based on some real events in Forsyth's Glasgow). Bird gets involved and tries to achieve peace between the vendors, eventually coming up with a way to put an end to the battles.

The movie is filled with the quirky humor that made Forsyth such a delight. My favorite was watching them record the snappy little "Hello, Folks" song.  All the characters are a little off-center -- recognizably human, but with traits that make them unlike anyone else on film

It is a Christmas movie, after all, so you know that Bird will figure out a way to end the feud. Paterson is excellent in the role as the depressed everyman who tries to make sense of a strange situation.

Forsyth's career stalled after this.  He made a film of Marylynne Robinson's novel Housekeeping and a few other films that never really made any impression, eventually resorting to a sequel to Gregory's Girl.  It's a shame that such a charming and unique talent has had so little recognition or success.

Look at all three, Gregory's Girl, Local Hero, and Comfort and Joy if you want to draw knowing chuckles and eccentric but logical characters.

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