THE HOURS AND TIMES
Review by Michael Jacobson
David Angus, Ian Hart, Stephanie Pack
Director: Christopher Munch
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Widescreen 1.37:1
Studio: Choices Select
Features: Audio Commentary, Making-Of Featurette
Length: 60 Minutes
Release Date: October 29, 2002
got the world at your fingertips.”
haven’t the one
thing that would make the slightest difference.”
was sophisticated, quiet, and secretly homosexual, the other was working class,
rebellious, and talented. They were
two men with nothing in common, but when providence brought them together, they
helped alter the course of popular culture forever.
men were Brian Epstein and John Lennon. Lennon,
of course, was a rock star in the making, whose band The Beatles would become
the biggest selling group in music history.
Epstein was the Jewish socialite who became the group’s manager,
polished their image, helped them land a record contract, and presented them to
the world as the group it had been most waiting for.
music fans know that part. What
isn’t as widely known is that Brian harbored a secret crush on Lennon, and
that once upon a time, after a grueling series of concerts and the recording
sessions that would make Beatlemania a worldwide phenomenon, the two went on a
four day holiday together in Barcelona. What
happened or didn’t happen between them has been the stuff of gossip,
conjecture and speculation for decades.
Christopher Munch crafted one possible version of what happened during those
days in a remarkable independent film from 1991, The Hours and Times.
With a cautious disclaimer at the beginning, this movie accepts the
version of the truth that, yes, these two men did share an intimate encounter in
Barcelona. But the beauty of the
film and screenplay is that it doesn’t look upon it as a lurid moment ripe for
tabloid fodder. It instead explores
two souls at their most lonely and vulnerable, during the last quiet hurrah the
two would probably ever enjoy again as the tides of fame and fortune were about
to turn and turn hard.
(Angus) arranges the Beatles’ holiday, but takes Lennon (Hart) to a place
special to him…Barcelona. It’s
a beautiful city known for its architecture and bullfights, and there, in a
hotel room, the two friends/business partners begin to bare their souls a little
bit. Though the events in the film
are of course undocumented, the picture at least gets the men’s characters
right. Brian is thoughtful, caring,
and easily wounded, while John frequently hides his real feelings behind humor
and biting barbs.
isn’t a sense of voyeurism here, which I appreciated…it would have been easy
to sensationalize this material and turn it into something shocking.
Munch’s approach is much more concise and skillful.
His story is not about a sexual encounter, but an emotional one.
It’s four days that change everything, yet at the same time, change
nothing, because this thing called The Beatles was soon to balloon into
something much bigger than both of them.
the excitement of Beatlemania, then reflect upon the stillness of this film as a
calm before a storm. The tone may
have been partially owing to the low budget, but still, it’s the right mood
and atmosphere. It’s a conducive
environment for self-exploration, and makes the events seem all the more
possible. Both lead performances
are astounding, with Angus and Hart finding the right notes in Epstein and
Lennon so that the audience easily believes they’re watching the real things.
Their work supports the script, which surprisingly, never hits a false
note or really raises an eyebrow.
fairness to Munch, there have been reports over the years that have suggested
such an encounter was real. Though
Brian tried to keep his personal life out of the press, it has been said that he
confessed to a friend or two that he and John had slept together on that trip.
Lennon, on the other hand, usually denied it, but I remember reading at
least one instance where he admitted it had happened, because he “wanted to
see what f—king a guy was like”. As
with most of his answers, you could never be sure if John was telling the truth
or simply trying to shock you.
The Hours and Times may not have many facts to draw on, but it reaches a level of emotional purity that easily takes the place of truthfulness. This is independent filmmaking at its very, very best.
TRIVIA: Ian Hart would go on to portray John Lennon once more, in
the movie Backbeat.
found this DVD to be an improvement over my previous VHS copy (released by a
different company whose name I won’t mention here). The monetary concerns can’t help but equate to a few
strikes against the picture quality…blacks are often a little murky, whites
aren’t always clean, and there are some instances of specks and spots on the
print from time to time, but those are all faults that can be attributed to the
source material instead of the transfer. One
aspect I liked was that the picture was slightly letterboxed to maintain a
1.37:1 ratio, which hardly any company even bothers with…a nice touch!
two-channel mix seems to be a simple stereo one, and it’s serviceable but
unremarkable considering that the picture is mostly dialogue-oriented.
The music is mostly solo piano and acoustic guitar, which sounds nice,
but the real bonus is the inclusion of a twistin’ Little Richard tune!
disc features an interesting running commentary with Munch, as well as a 20
minute making-of featurette…mostly him in interview form, but intercut with
some pieces of the film.