Monday, 2 February 2015

Little Malcolm: It Wasn't Corduroy!

Little Malcolm is a 1974 British comedy drama film directed by Stuart Cooper. It was entered into the 24th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Silver Bear. The film is based on the stage play Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs by David Halliwell. The full name of the play is used as the film title on the BFI Flipside DVD, released in October 2011, and pur-chased by your truly. The booklet is charming & detailed, as are the extras.

As an Apple Films project, Little Malcolm was the first feature film produced by former Beatle George Harrison. The film was shot primarily in Lancashire, in the north of England, during February and March of 1973 which enabled some great snow scenes amongst the almost saturnine quality of the cobbled dereliction. Harrison supplied incidental music for the soundtrack and, after being introduced to the duo Splinter by their manager Mal Evans, produced their song "Lonely Man" for inclusion in a pivotal scene.

Like many of Apple's film and recording projects, production on Little Malcolm was then jeopardised by lawsuits pertaining to Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr's severing of ties with manager Allen Klein. Speaking in 2011, Cooper recalled that Harrison "fought for a very long time to extract Little Malcolm from the official receivers"; its entry in the Berlin festival was only possible because the festival was an artistic forum and not finance-related. After what Cooper described as an "incredible" reception at Berlin for "this very British film", Little Malcolm went on to win a gold medal at the Atlanta Film Festival in August 1974. Once the Beatles' partnership had been formally dissolved in January 1975, the film received a brief run in London's West End. The play has been aired in several versions & locations.

The erudite banter & deft wordplay conjoin with a naive political dynamic to make this film engaging viewing. It is one of those painful examinations of tortured working class male psychology contained within a bleak northern post- industrial landscape.  The argument between John Hurt (Malcolm) and David Warner (Nipple) in the 'corduroy scene' above illustrate the hilarious dialogue. It has a kind of innocence & rhythm similar to the much later Withnail & I (1987) which begs the question why, despite the problems surrounding its release, it hasn't become more of a cult classic. I am saying this with one caveat; and that is the somewhat macabre violence of the surprise finale, which I think is totally out of keeping with the thought- provoking whimsy of the film. More than that I will not say for fear of laying a spoiler upon your head. Despite the odd finale, perhaps more suited to the theatre than a film, its well worth a view though.

By North Utsire

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