Having immensely enjoyed the cinematic spills and thrills of last year’s stonking Scala Forever season as spectators, we here at Days Are Numbers are very pleased to be taking part in this year’s version of the fringe film festival… Erm, Scala Beyond!
But, what to show? Straight off the bat, we knew we wanted to do our very first double-bill. As I’m sure you all readily appreciate, a well-chosen double-bill can be a thing of not only tremendous synergy, but also great beauty. And these days, any kind of double-bill (like a good heart) is hard to find, with cinemas the land over only really interested in herding you in to lap up the latest Bond or Batman for three hours before unceremoniously turfing you out… It’s about time we rediscovered the lost art of programming, is it not?
Secondly, although it has not stayed exclusively so (and is none the worse for it), we were drawn to the initial notion that the Scala Beyond season should revolve around films released post-1992: things that the old Scala Cinema might have shown had it not been closed down. With that in mind we eventually came round to the idea of showing two of our favourite, criminally underrated mid-90s films - Small Faces and The Butcher Boy. Both are gritty, quirky, raucous and downright crazy-cool enough that they would have gone down an absolute treat at the Scala - and they also amount to a great double-bill, showcasing as they do a distinctively 90s take on angst-y adolescents rebelling, crashing, burning and raising merry hell in the late 50s/early 60s. Let’s have a butcher’s…
Small Faces (Gillies MacKinnon, 1996)
Released in the immediate slipstream of the phenomenal success of Trainspotting, Small Faces was really rather mis-sold on the fact that it too is set in Scotland and shares a cast member in common with Danny Boyle’s runaway hit (Kevin McKidd, AKA Tommy from Trainspotting, appears as the film’s main antagonist). But this is a very different beast indeed from its hip country kin, and is closer in spirit to the roughly poetic cinema of early Truffaut and Ken Loach than anything else of its time. It is also one of the more convincing crime films to come out of Britain at any period, and could be viewed as a kind of Celtic younger cousin to Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets.
Small Faces focuses on the youngest of three very different teenaged brothers, the affable yet impressionable Lex (future Band of Brothers star Iain Robertson delivering a remarkably assured performance). In the course of going through all the usual growing pains associated with becoming a young adult, Lex also finds he must decide which of his elder brothers he is going to follow in the footsteps of: mild-mannered artist Alan or disturbed wannabe hoodlum Bobby. Very soon all three brothers become wrapped up in a Glasgow turf-war between charismatic mod Charlie Sloan and his notorious nemesis, the defiantly “mental” Malky Johnson.
The Butcher Boy (Neil Jordan, 1997)
Neil Jordan is without doubt one of our favourite modern-era mainstream directors here at Days Are Numbers, not least for the way he has boldly moved between atypically challenging big budget productions (Interview with the Vampire, Michael Collins) and more oddball, personal films (The Company of Wolves*, The Crying Game), without ever sacrificing quality and still managing to regularly score at the box office. Our favourite Neil Jordan film, however, is perhaps his most decidedly oddball and certainly his most overlooked – the mindbending period-fantasy-horror-drama The Butcher Boy. Adapted from Patrick McCabe’s once-thought unfilmable 1992 novel, this is a truly unforgettable film that manages to be as chaotically comic as it is darkly disturbing.
No disrespect to the aforementioned Iain Robertson in Small Faces, but here we see debutant Eamonn Owens give the single best adolescent performance in 90s cinema, ripping through a range of emotions as Francie Brady - the fun-loving, scallywag butcher boy of the title. With an abusive drunk for a dad, and a mentally ill mother in constant need of trips to ”the garage”, Brady ventures into a colourful fantasy world he’s co-created with best pal Joe in order to escape from his crumbling homelife. But when local busybody Mrs Nugent steps in and prises Joe away from him, our young anti-hero sets off on a fevered odyssey which takes him everywhere from Dublin to Borstal to the madhouse, before returning to exact an unspeakable revenge.
So there you have it. We’ll be showing this pair of should-be classics at The Montpelier in Peckham on the 11th September from 7.30pm. You can find out more about our screenings, and everything else that’s going on, at the Scala Beyond website here.
In the meantime, check out this rockin’ trailer for our 90s Retro Rebels double-bill and we hope to see you down there.
*Which the brilliant Savage Cinema have just screened at Scala Beyond.Tweet