I’m back, like a seagull chasing Kevin’s trawler, snapping up a few films from 1983 that he couldn’t fit into his show last week. One ship that Kevin did get the chance to mention belonged to Frederico Fellini. And The Ship Sailed On is a peculiar movie where a boat of opera singers sail to an island to lay a deceased colleague to rest, only to run up against the first skirmishes of the Great war. A fin de siècle portrait, the film addresses the advent of modernity, including a loony sequence in which the singers compete to sing higher and longer in the noisy industrial engine room of the ship. Here’s the Titanic-like conclusion of the movie, with the assembled company singing Verdi on the deck of the boat.
While the European aristocracy of filmmaking looked back wistfully at a vanishing past, in this country there were a pair of films that spoke of the present. Educating Rita updated Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion to contemporary Liverpool, where Julie Walters is determined to better herself with an English degree. Even further North, Local Hero brings a Texan executive to Scotland to close an oil deal; Bill Forsyth’s fairytale strips back the American’s pretensions until he finds himself at home in the remote British community he has joined. The music in the films belongs to the characters. English composerDavid Hentschel’s synthesized score shadows the immiscible, chalk and cheese characters of Educating Rita and Mahler underscores the cameo appearances of the Jewish Maureen Lipman.
Across the border, Local Hero midwived a hugely successful soundtrack by Scots-born Mark Knopfler. You can hear Knopfler following the melodic curls of Celtic pipe music with his guitar and using the amplified aesthetic to capture the expansiveness of the Scottish coast.
While some established figures of film were taking a long hard look at all of us in 1983, the year also saw a trio of important springboard releases for actors who would come to dominate the box office for the rest for the decade. Kevin might be forgiven for skating over BMX Bandits, a picture successful simply for featuring the bikes which had made the chase at the end of ET so exciting, but it did introduce the teenage Nicole Kidman. Matthew Broderick brought together the fads of computer games and the cold war in the effective teenage thriller War Games.
But the big breakout picture was Risky Business. Tom Cruise takes off his trousers and tears up his parents living room to Bob Seger, before absolving himself with the twin American creeds of sex and entrepreurialism. Goodbye.