October 9th, 2017

Give My Regards To Broad Street

I don't remember why exactly but last night I found myself watching clips from Paul McCartney's 1984 movie Give My Regards To Broad Street. No-one has ever argued that it's a neglected classic or even particularly good but it has acquired a certain period charm. If you like the Beatles (as I do) it passes the time pleasantly enough to watch Paul and Ringo plus wives, all dressed up as Victorians, rowing across an ornamental lake and it's nice to drive with Paul along the Thames embankment and be reminded how the skyline of the South Bank looked before they built the London Eye and the Shard and it's especially nice to watch Ralph Richardson in his penultimate film appearance bringing his magic to the role of a sinister pub landlord. The music is great (of course) but the story is feeble- something to do with Paul's enormous fortune being in jeopardy (and why should we care?)- and Paul himself as lead actor is almost entirely without presence. It's weird- considering how much living he'd done by this stage- how smooth and unlived in his face is. Perhaps it's the moisturiser or perhaps it's the pot- but it got me thinking how oddly impersonal almost all his work has been. I know he's suffered and been around drama but turn to the art and it's as if he's floated through life a few feet of the ground- ear tuned to celestial harmonies- with nothing earthly ever really touching him. There's ego there- or this film wouldn't exist- but the persona being projected is vacuous. Who exactly is Paul McCartney? What excites him? What would have to happen in his vicinity to make him show some emotion? This movie answers none of these questions and I found myself comparing it with Michael Jackson's movie Moonwalker from the same decade which- like this- shoehorns a number of the greatest hits into a dreamlike structure- and how bonkers it is and how full of energy and how much it reveals about its author and his peculiarities. Give my Regards to Broad Street has no energy at all. It just drifts lazily along. There's no drama, no humour, no atmosphere- except when Ralph Richardson injects some- just a shaggy dog story and some songs.

So this is what the inside of Paul McCartney's head looks like? How interesting that it's so uninteresting. Of course the only really important thing about any artist is the art- and in McCartney's case- for all his efforts to present himself as a renaissance man- poet, classical musician, painter- the art that matters is songwriting. Some artists are fascinating in themselves- as, for instance, John Lennon was- but it really doesn't matter if they aren't.