Humour is one of the marks of the British; the other mark being a bit dismal – the weather. Thankfully London has closed its doors to winter and opened them to spring with the London Comedy Film Festival.
As I scan the BFI Southbank cinema, sitting in a red-cushioned seat and soaking up the gleeful atmosphere from talking to various lovers of comedies, I see a tightly packed audience ready to watch the first of the double-bill. First up is Shaun of the Dead.
Edgar Wright, director and writer, brilliantly balances between constant laughs and increasing eeriness…
Shaun of the Dead is an integration of the horror and comedy genres. It has an all-star cast from Channel Four sitcoms. Shaun, the Northern Londoner, promise breaking, lost in life guy, has been dumped by girlfriend, Liz. She is tired of visiting the same pub every evening, doing the same things every day; she blames his lay-about friend, Ed. After the break-up, Ed and Shaun go to the pub to wallow. Shaun wants to get her back. Only he is torn between his friend and girlfriend. However, there are bigger problems as Zombies come to town. Shaun takes charge and plans to rescue Liz and her friends.
Before the film started, we were offered the reasons as to why the LoCo team started the LoCo festival. One reason: no one takes comedy seriously, none of the top actors were given a best comedic performance award. Shaun of the Dead’s jokes come thick and fast as you would expect but it disappoints when fleshing out the characters and seemed to strive unsuccessfully for any emotional growth. What with all the jokes and slapstick, comedy doesn’t have room for serious character growth. However, lack of character development can be forgiven when addressing the message; if you don’t take stock of your life and at least try, you may become a Zombie-wondering aimlessly.
Wright is currently putting pen to paper on the third instalment of the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’.
Edgar Wright, director and writer, brilliantly balances constant laughs and increasing eeriness: one of the stand-out scenes is Shaun opening the shop’s fridge door without noticing the bloody handprint on the glass. Wright is currently putting pen to paper on the third instalment of the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’. The second being Hot Fuzz. In a Q and A session after the film, he revealed he aims “to keep the Britishness intact” for the next one. Jolly good.
Next up is Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet. Rave reviews and commercial success have always surround Leigh’s third film. Andy, a chef, buys a van to build up a fast-food business. His wife, Wendy, is sceptical. Aubrey, Andy’s friend, also opens a restaurant. However, both ventures seem cursed. What is of more concern is Jane Horrocks’s Nicola, one half of Andy and Wendy’s twin daughters. Jane Horrocks is a delight to see as a teenager and excels as being the most interesting character(s).
Life is hard. Life may seem bitter, but life can be sweet.
In most films, dialogue and character do most of the storytelling; Leigh composes his story through the visual. The Italian music during no-dialogue scenes elevates the family in terms of contrast; reminding audiences of sunny holidays while displaying the ordinarily dilapidated domestic lives. A heart-felt moment arrives when Natalie overhears her sister forcing herself to be sick. There is silence and the silence is bliss as it churns emotion into the audience.
The same happens at the beginning and end of the film. Leigh’s opening scenes whisks you back to simple times; childhood; children dancing to ‘Happy Holidays’. The ending where both men are drunk and Wendy orders her daughter to buck up, pushes through the message of not giving up. Life is hard. Life may seem bitter, but life can be sweet. As well as heartfelt moments and drama, there are plenty of laughs.
…which ‘LoCo Hero’ will be there next year to match the success of Wright and Co.?
As guest of honour, Edgar Wright admitted that it would have been obvious to choose Dawn of the Dead to accompany the spoof, Shaun of the Dead. However, in terms of keeping the British end up, he decided on Life is Sweet as it also depicts the lives of Northern England. Both films did well at the festival and I left wondering which Brit and which ‘LoCo Hero’ will be there next year to match the success of Wright and Co.?