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Monday, March 7, 2011

AFI/BFI #213: Small Faces (1996)

Director: Gillies MacKinnon
Writer: Billy MacKinnon, Gillies MacKinnon
John Keane: composer_name
AFI Rank:  -
BFI Rank: 98


Released the same year as Trainspotting the comparisons are only natural, but the films could not be more different. Both were still fresh when the BFI compiled their list in 1999. Trainspotting did not make the BFI Top 100 yet there at #98 is Small Faces. I had really looked forward to seeing this particular movie in the list. It fulfilled all the criteria. I had never seen or even heard of it, it had an excellent cast and a promising story. Maybe my expectations were too high going in.

Iain Robertson steals the show as youngest brother Lex
I was to be honest a little disappointed with Small Faces. There are certainly moments of brilliance and some incredible visual moments such as the streak of blood across the ice rink. The story is certainly intriguing. A coming of age story, a subject that british cinema has done so well with through the decades, combined with a gritty look at Glasgow in the sixties. I have fond memories of Ken Loach's Kess (also on the BFI list) and was expecting something similar here. And perhaps it is there. Had I watched this on its release in 1996 then perhaps it would benefit from a small tinge of nostalgia today.

Without ruining too much of the plot, for me this is very much a parallel of the Judas story. That central element is strong but gets lost in a series of unnecessary excursions that while adding to the realism also manage to diminish the film's overall coherence.

The film notched up a surprisingly slim list of awards until you remember it shared the spotlight with the more commercial Trainspotting. A win at both the Edinburgh and Rotterdam international film festivals and a nomination for a Scottish BAFTA. Trainspotting won the BAFTA. Interestingly the BFI Top 100 is populated by another couple of films from this same awards year namely The English Patient and Secrets & Lies. The worldwide competition included Fargo, Shine, Jerry Maguire, Sling Blade, Hamlet, Michael Collins, Romeo + Juliet, Twister, That Thing You Do, James and the Giant Peach, Evita, and The People vs Larry Flynt. Not a bad year at all for film lovers.

For a movie on the BFI top 100 it is surprisingly hard to get a hold of a copy. It has not had a US DVD release and no UK blu-ray release either. Am I glad I saw it? Absolutely. Should you go out of your way to track down a copy? Probably not.


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