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‘The old days of Soho. Gone. Finito. Kaput.” So mutters a local, complaining about gentrification. Not today, but in the late 50s, the setting of this painfully self-conscious, studenty drama about a young man who turns up in Soho in search of bohemians. It’s adapted from a 1961 semi-autobiographical novel by one of the angry young men, Colin Wilson.
Owen Drake plays Harry Preston, an aspiring writer from the provinces newly arrived in Soho, who decides to investigate what makes the area such a magnet for drunks and dreamers. That leads to an awful lot of tedious philosophising about “Soho-itis”, a fictitious malaise spoken of by locals. Meanwhile, two seriously arty young film-makers in black polo-necks shoot a politically radical documentary, funding the project by making blue movies in a seedy strip bar. There’s some gorgeous authentic-looking camerawork here by Martin Kobylarz, who gives the film the grain and texture of an early David Bailey photograph. But the characters are all manners, no personality, and the jarring new-wave style becomes exhausting.
Larkin said sexual intercourse began in 1963, though perhaps he didn’t spend a lot of time in Soho, which was swinging long before the Beatles’ first LP. The problem with the Soho of the movie, though, is that it never strikes you as a terribly interesting place to be. This was an era when you could run into the Krays having a drink next to couple of gay men talking polari.
Blame the budget perhaps – it’s one of those movies where there are never quite enough people in a crowd scene – but where’s the sleaze? The danger? At a time when the soul of Soho is again threatened, this time by Crossrail and high rents, a documentary might have served as a better tribute to the London’s louchest neighbourhood.
Source: The Guardian
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