Monday, May 6, 2013

Hunky Dory (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Hunky Dory

"Hunky Dory" is director Marc Evans' (The House America)  touch on his 1970s school life in Wales. The cinematography is first rate with crisp golds and greens, honey dappled yellows, rich umbers and vivid oranges, all in affectionate and correct keeping with the primitive space-age decade that was the 1970's.  The camera is a character in the film itself as it zooms from student to student on amyl nitrate casters, nimbly capturing something of what it might have been like to have been a drama student overcome with the glitz of Glam rock. The film does this well, mostly through its use of rousing musical numbers featuring David Bowie and ELO.

The faltering step in the dance, though is that the plot is all too thinly sketched in with a grease pencil.

Vivienne (Minnie Driver) plays a self deprecating and hassled drama teacher driven to try something new with her band of students, all of them with some kind of struggle. Vivienne settles on a Acid-Glam version of  The Tempest. This sounds more exciting than it actually is.

We have a host of mild misfits and trouble-makers here that could make for some playful melodrama, but the characters feel adumbrated and half-fleshed in interest. There is Davey (Aneurin Barnard) who looks like a young Lord Byron, the self-outed Hoople who idolizes Ziggy Stardust (Kristian Gwilliam)  and the violent but sensitive Kenny (Darren Evans). It is Kenny alone who is the most fully formed here and indeed he is singular catalyst, or harbinger for the tension in the film. Kenny is an outsider (as is Caliban) and awkward with girls. The initial force of the narrative concerns Kenny's delinquent behavior and his identification with Skinheads. Vivienne befriends him, and by doing so becomes newly inspired.

There are some dramatic things that happen with Vivienne having a row with the administration (of course)  notably with one witchy and bitchy Ms. Valentine (Haydn Gwynne), but the other characters are so light and airy with only a few minutes between them that there is scarcely little substance. We really don't know what drives Kenny or Hoople, other than violence and glitter-rock, and what about Stella (Danielle Branch) or Vicki (Kimberly Nixon) who both appear tepid and slight in character?

Even the final scene which features an outdoor Tempest has Minnie Driver looking wistfully back at her students in the manner of many other teacher films as they sing to her, but specifically  "The Man Without a Face" (1993) comes to mind.

On the whole, "Hunky Dory" does remind me of the original British Tv show "Skins" which depicted quirky teens battling numerous conditions and bonding throughout with no end to theatrics and violence.

The action is fluid enough,  yet the  sparkle punk period of the 1970s with all of its fierce and colorful questioning and ambivalence for a  Futureworld deserves a more punchy treatment than this wisp of a film, especially given its edgy history.

Despite its chiffon texture, I will admit that the musical numbers are very lively and they remain the preserver  of this film. The eccentric interpretive score (with handmade instruments)  combined with the quaint and charmed look of the film with the dwellings resembling sugar-cubed boxes right out of The Beatles' Penny Lane, make "Hunky Dory" a bouncy, itty bitty Bowie bagatelle.

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