Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lo-Fi Foe Fun

Hallam Foe, Cineworld, Broad Street, Birmingham, Saturday September 1 2007, 1.20pm.

If we take our binoculars to the cinematic past, we can trace the theme of the voyeur who becomes inextricably drawn into the lives of those he observes right back to Hitchcock's Rear Window through to Antonioni's Blow Up; Coppola's The Conversation and dePalma's American Psycho-inspiring Body Double. But whereas Jimmy Stewart's crippled detective, David Hemmings' flash photographer, Gene Hackman's crumpled surveillance expert and Craig Wasson's knicker-sniffing perv were all men of a certain age who'd lost their way, David MacKenzie's Hallam Foe (2007) seeks to realign the conceit within the context of a coming-of-age story.

Jamie Bell plays the seventeen-year-old title character who has responded to the mysterious death by drowning of his mother so badly he lives in a treehouse where he spies on his family, neighbours and also courting couples, whom he sometimes descends upon and frightens wearing a badger's head. His eccentric behaviour is more or less tolerated until the departure of his sister backpacking and a clumsy fumble with his possibly sinister stepmum (Claire Forlani) see him packed off to Edinburgh where he spies a young woman (Sophia Myles) who is a doppelganger of his late mum. In true cinematic stalking style he connives his way into a job as a kitchen porter in the hotel where the woman works in Human Resources, and finds a convenient clocktower vantage point to point his binoculars into the bedroom window of her flat. Can Foe keep a grip on his sanity and his feet on the ground long enough to make a proper connection with this troubled woman and find the answer as to what really happened to his mother?

That Hallam Foe is a difficult film to categorise is both its biggest weakness and greatest strength. While it makes the film a difficult sell, the tension that's created by the uncertainty right until the very end as to whether the movie will climax darkly or larkily gives the project the requisite edge to co-exist with a soundtrack drenched in Domino Records' back-catalogue (with the bonus of a fresh Franz Ferdinand track that plays over the end credits). Jamie Bell is convincing enough in his character's transformation from puzzled perv to lupine lothario to make his relationship with an older woman plausible, although there are other co-incidences required by the script that are considerably more difficult to swallow. Ultimately however, the film shares with its title character an undeniable oddball charm that helps assuage reasonable reservations, succeeding where MacKenzie's previous effort Young Adam failed in making you care for the consequences of the troubled protagonists. I spy a winner.



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