Glasgow on Film: An Update

New Look

If you’ve visited this blog before you’ll notice a bit of a change. After putting off for ages what I thought would be a long and complex task, a few clicks on the WordPress control panel gave Glasgow on Film a bit of a makeover. I think it looks a tiny bit more stylish now, but more importantly I think it will be easier on the reader’s eye (the previous all-orange background was maybe a bit much).

Summer’s Here (Kind of)

My posts have again become less frequent than I’d like them to be, but that’s something I aim to work on as there is plenty more of Glasgow’s film story to tell. In fact, it’s a story that keeps growing arms and legs so I really should keep up!

While I’ve got a significant catalogue of well established Glasgow-set films waiting to be written about (God Help the Girl and That Sinking Feeling among those I have viewed and prepared notes on), lots of things that set our great city apart from many of its peers have been popping up so far this summer…

pacinoI like to keep a tally on here of the big Hollywood names to visit Glasgow (another seemingly endless list with plenty more tales to be told) and this roll of honour added a big hitter in May when the legendary Al Pacino appeared at the Clyde Auditorium. This wasn’t a highly guarded film shoot or a private getaway, but an up close and personal opportunity for a Glaswegian audience to hear the star talk to them about his career.

Last month also saw the cinema release of Spooks: The Greater Good, the unexpected spin-off from one of my favourite television series. This wasn’t so big a story for Glasgow but – you know me – I like a good mention of our town on the big screen and this movie delivered that more than once in a dramatic scene.

Look out in future for full “Glasgow’s Global Visitors” and “Cameo Appearance” posts on these two snippets. I wanted to finish by looking in more detail at a couple of bigger recent stories relating to Glasgow and film…

The Legend of Barney Thomson

Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival last week, and this is a movie I am very much looking forward to seeing. With an impressive cast that includes Carlyle himself, Emma Thompson, Ray Winstone, Martin Compston, Tom Courtenay and Stephen McCole, the dark comedy looks fun and riotous. As you will see in the trailer below it wears Glasgow distinctly on its sleeve too. A review post will follow at a later date, including my own experience as an extra for a day on the film. (We’ll soon find out if I made the final cut – no barber pun intended).

Florence Foster Jenkins

This was one that came out of the blue on Friday night. I’d actually gone to bed and was just scrolling through Twitter when Daily Record journalist Bev Lyons’ Tweet about a Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant movie filming in Glasgow caught my eye. After initially resisting curiosity I was soon fully dressed again and in the car to Hillhead’s Kersland Street, which had been transformed into 1940s New York.

Bev Lyons’ article confirmed that Stephen Frears’ latest biopic – about American socialite Florence Foster Jenkins – had relocated from its main Liverpool base for the day to shoot some scenes in the Dear Green Place. Whether Streep was present in Glasgow or not is unconfirmed, but press photography showed Hugh Grant in Hillhead and earlier at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – reportedly doubling for Carnegie Hall. It would appear that this day and night shoot was a flying visit as no further filming in Glasgow has been reported. I did take a couple of pictures on Kersland Street – not the sharpest as I had flash off for obvious reasons, but you get the general idea…

SONY DSC

Movie Glaswegians: Bobby Rainsbury

bobby rainsburyBobby Rainsbury is another of the more recent graduates from Glasgow’s Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) to have quickly secured roles in significant onscreen productions.

Born in Glasgow and in her early 20s, Rainsbury attended the institution from 2009 until 2012 and it was during the latter year that she accepted a part in the movie Filth, acting opposite James McAvoy as an underage girl – Stephanie –  who has been sleeping with Iain De Caestecker’s criminal Ocky.

More recently she has been appearing as a regular character – schoolgirl Kirsty Lindsay – in the BBC soap River City, with actor Stephen McCole as her onscreen father. In 2012 she also had a part in one-off television crime drama Doors Open, which featured Stephen Fry and Douglas Henshall,

Solid performances in her handful of onscreen roles to date suggest that this is another RSAMD graduate with a busy and successful acting career ahead.

Starring Role: The Wee Man

The Wee Man was shrouded in controversy from the outset, as true crime films so often tend to be. The story of Glasgow gangland figure Paul Ferris, the film was refused assistance from Strathclyde Police due to the force’s troubled history with the man and his associates. As a result the feature could not be shot in Glasgow, with London streets standing in for the Blackhill estate and other parts of the city – an irony about this 2013 film, given that the last couple of years have seen Glasgow recognised as a logistically easier substitute for London, Philadelphia and San Francisco in other productions.

The Wee Man 6Despite the absence of principal photography in Glasgow, there are establishing shots of the city throughout and where possible local touches – such as Barr and Irn Bru logos on shops and Tennent’s beer taps in the pubs – have been added.

The Wee Man follows Ferris’ life from childhood through his formative years as a teenager and into troubled adulthood, where a culture of crime results in much bloodshed. Indeed there are some fairly violent scenes in the movie.

Martin Compston takes on the role of Ferris, leading a strong cast that includes fellow Scots John Hannah, Stephen McCole, Denis Lawson, Clare Grogan and Laura McMonagle. Irish actor Patrick Bergin also appears as the notorious “Godfather” Arthur Thompson, with Rita Tushingham playing his wife – coincidentally named Rita.

Starring Role: Postmortem

postmortempostmortem 2This 1998 movie evokes bittersweet feelings in Glasgow on Film. Back in summer 1997 when it was being filmed, it was the first Glasgow-shot movie that GoF really sat up and took interest in – a curiosity that has grown into the passion for the subject that exists today. Any sentimentality though is tempered by the fact that Postmortem is, well, pretty terrible.

In summer 1997 the internet was limited in terms of both availability and content so there did not appear to be the rumours or rumblings of anything coming Glasgow’s way, and by the time GoF had been alerted to the production nothing had been noticed in the newspapers either. A relative had been in the city centre and noticed a lot of crowds and commotion on Gordon Street – when she asked one of the event security people what was going on he replied that Charlie Sheen was making a film. To the naive 15 year old that was GoF this was a big thing – in the couple of years preceding there had been a lot of hype with the shooting of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting in Glasgow, and reports of Mel Gibson immersing himself in the city to prepare for Braveheart, but this appeared to represent the first time that a Hollywood name had come to Glasgow to make a film set in Glasgow (GoF had not been aware of Death Watch, with Harvey Keitel, at that point). The naivety also meant that GoF gave no consideration to the film being a low budget, straight to video release – it always seemed as if movies just came out with the same fanfare as the last one, so surely this would get its glittering premiere and be screened in multiplexes across the globe, showcasing Glasgow as it did so? No, it was straight to video and it could be suggested that Sheen’s billing as “Charles Sheen” was an attempt by his management to deflect attention from his part in the production.

So what is Postmortem about? Sheen plays James McGregor, an American cop turned author who has relocated to Scotland for peace after wrapping up a child serial killer case in the USA. When a young woman’s naked corpse turns up in his garden he is immediately arrested as the suspect, however once his name is cleared the Glasgow police turn to McGregor for help as it now appears that they have a serial killer on their hands as more women are found in a similar condition around the city. The body count grows, but as McGregor and the native detectives figure out the pattern – the killer, the son of a funeral director, has been meeting the women at funerals of their relatives and teases McGregor by faxing the obituaries of the deceased relatives to him ahead of the bodies turning up – the team manage to save a couple of lives before a confrontation at the Necropolis where the murderer kills himself.

You can tell that there is something wrong with this film before you even take the DVD out of the case – the description on the back states that McGregor “flees to a small, peaceful Scottish town…” – a ridiculous description of Glasgow that neither its champions or its critics would use, and not even justified by its portrayal within the film with one character using the phrase “…our great city of Glasgow”. Criticising the descriptor may be nit picking, but there are so many negatives about the film itself. In terms of acting, English actor Michael Halsey and Sarajevo-born Ivana Milicevic play the lead detective roles – Halsey’s accent is pretty poor but salvaged somewhat by a semi-convincing gruffness, however Milicevic’s effort is dire – one could say it sounds Irish but that would almost be a compliment. Halsey fluffs his lines at one point and the director sees fit to leave this in. Then there is the awkward moment of a victim’s father, a well spoken Scottish man telling McGregor “…you would do anything, any goddamned thing…”. There are plot holes galore: McGregor seems to live practically in the Highlands yet it’s a city centre squad that are dispatched to his house to deal with the first murder; an officer “extra” seen aiding McGregor in one scene is restraining him from apprehending a suspect less than a minute later; and a red herring scene in which one of the killer’s targets is met by an actual friend of hers is astoundingly bad.

Last points in the postmortmem of Postmortem are about the general production values. There’s a bit where Halsey’s Detective Inspector Balantine is stabbed and killed – as he drops, rather than the usual theatrical blood, what can only be described as a kind of broth spills from his mouth. And the whole movie looks like it has been filmed on someone’s mobile phone.

Scottish actors Stephen McCole and Gary Lewis make up the rest of the top billed cast.