Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nowhere Boy (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Nowhere Boy

   Sam Taylor-Wood seems to have a connection with John Lennon. As a fine  
art photographer, she appropriated the famous Leibovitz Lennon / Yoko  
Ono cover in Rolling Stone magazine. During filming of "Nowhere Boy",  
the new biopic of young John Lennon, it is reported that Taylor-Wood  
thought of pulling out of the project, but as she went to her car, the  
Lennon song "Starting Over" abruptly played on the radio. Wood saw it  
as a sign.
  From the start,"Nowhere Boy" has a vivid nostalgic feeling. John the  
Kid is late for class and his running frenzy is re-created in a direct  
imitation of the chaotic camerawork in "A Hard Day's Night. There is  
an immediate thrill that you get from seeing newcomer Aaron Johnson as  
a teenage Lennon. The physical resemblance is startling. And the  
cinematography detailing the first beats of what would become The  
Beatles has an oddly curious Steven Spielberg echo. The film can be  
seen as an innocent and unpretentious "Back to The Future" for rock  
and roll.  As John rides his wobbly bicycle down crooked brick lanes  
we catch a glimpse of a leafy green sign. Aha! There's Strawberry  
Fields! Through the windows of the quaint looking motorcars and  
cottages one can almost hear the opening trumpets of "Penny Lane".
With his oversize round glasses, school uniform and smirking grin,  
Lennon appears as a kind of Harry Potter imagined by Elvis Presley as  
he is plagued by dreams of his absent mother in a shocking red dress.
After repeated haunting visions of an ocean and fighting parents, John  
plays hooky from his stern Aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott Thomas) and seeks  
his scofflaw mom.
  His mother, Julia, (Anne-Marie Duff) is bohemian with a playful  
sensuality in contrast to the strict schoolmarmish aunt. Indeed  
Lennon's mother is also a bit incestuous with him: she lies on top of  
the boy provocatively as they sit together on the sofa. The tension is  
clear. Young John takes guitar lessons from his wild Mum, but his aunt  
will have none of it. She proceeds to tell Kid Lennon that his mom was  
a unstable floozy that deliberately abandoned him and was  
institutionalized. John becomes an Angry Young Man--a kind of  
rockabilly hybrid of John Osborne and Buddy Holly. He is moody and  
mercurial, shuffled in affection from aunt to mother. Even the spirit  
of James Dean is present. When he walks through the streets of  
Liverpool we suddenly see that all the guys are styled after "Rebel  
Without a Cause". John transforms into a flippant and sarcastic almost- 
   A teenage Paul comes on the scene in a white suit with a pink  
carnation in his lapel, looking like a Pinnochio Dandy. Righto!  
Despite his odd appearance among the toughs, Paul emerges as the most  
practical. As he says, "It's all just music."
   The film does not pull punches despite its nostalgic tone. In one  
scene John gets into a fistfight with Paul during his mother's  
funeral. They both return with bloody mouths, savagely soiling their  
preppy attire. In that moment, the youngsters could be easily mistaken  
for "Clockwork Orange" thugs rather than the feel-good British rockers  
that they became.
   Before John goes off to Hamburg to find fame, there are closeups of  
John smoking while smoke pours from his nose and mouth under a bright  
blue sky perhaps foretelling of his later hookah smoking in India, his  
playful Surrealism and his periodic withdrawl from public life.
There are other interesting details: early Lennon drawings are shown:  
quirky beasts, that inspire Yellow Submarinean thoughts. And when John  
first learns the guitar, the film is sped up in a more obvious homage  
to "A Clockwork Orange".
 From anger and hurt feelings, from remorse and revolution in music,  
shot with style and substance, this film narrates the somewhere path  
from wounded kid to world music icon.

No comments: