Its subject matter is limiting and its austere technique may leave most viewers cold; nonetheless THE HOURS AND TIMES ranks as one of the notables of 1992.
Armed with a paltry budget, b&w film stock, antiquated equipment, dedicated personnel and plane tickets for Spain, independent LA filmmaker Christopher Munch audaciously tackled one of the most sensational bits of gossip in rock 'n' roll history, that the great John Lennon had a homosexual love
affair with Beatles manager Brian Epstein in the early 1960s. Such tabloid fodder often results in headline-grabbing quickies like "John and Yoko: A Love Story," 1985's widely scorned network TV movie. Munch's approach, however, represents the opposite extreme. THE HOURS AND TIMES is a compact
speculative playlet that scales its legendary figures down to life-size via minute, almost mundane neorealism. Using not a moment more of screen time than necessary, this featurette covers a brief 1963 vacation in Barcelona that Lennon is known to have taken with Epstein.
It is the dawn of Beatlemania, just before success rockets the lads from Liverpool into pop-culture demigods. Brian Epstein (David Angus), elegant and cultured, recognizes a rough genius in the streetwise young Lennon--plus a powerful homoerotic allure. The manager wants to expose the musician to
the ambiance and architecture of Spain, as well as define the terms of their relationship. John Lennon (Ian Hart) is married and newly a father, and clearly uncomfortable with both duties. He knows of Brian's attraction and mischieviously baits the other man by having a one-night fling with an
obliging stewardess. Epstein tries to relieve his overwhelming loneliness with a Spanish nobleman and a bellboy, but he really wants John. The film's one onscreen love scene is unflinching but not exceptionally graphic: John allows Brian to join him in the hotel bathtub, but after some frantic
kissing, the Beatle backs out. "So that which never was is now ended," concludes Brian, sadly but without rancor. The two finish up their holiday on an amicable but rather inconclusive note.
While producer-director-writer-cinematographer Christopher Munch is American, both main actors are British. David Angus is a classically trained thespian and longtime participant in London theater and television. Ian Hart had no need to fabricate a Liverpool accent; a native of that city, he has
done much acting on stage and on TV. Both do fine jobs, though it's frankly difficult to get a sense of Lennon and Epstein from the thin slices of their lives shown here.
Likewise, THE HOURS AND TIMES as a whole seems overspecialized and a bit arcane, making no attempt to pull in the uninformed audience with spoonfed history or heavy-handed nostalgia. The viewers are expected to have done their homework: Brian makes John promise that they'll take another such trip
together in ten years, and one must already know that it was not to be. As the Beatles rose up the charts Brian Epstein became estranged from them professionally and personally, dying of a drug overdose--a possible suicide--in 1967.
Cynics might propose that had THE HOURS AND TIMES enjoyed major studio backing, it might have been a slick piece of razzamatazz like the giddy but shallow Jerry Lee Lewis biopic GREAT BALLS OF FIRE. But the film shows more discipline than that, its tight scope and severity no mere accident. Munch,
whose previous efforts include two unreleased features, modeled his monochrome photography after the Beatle's own A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, and probably wouldn't have included any Lennon/McCartney songs--even if the budget had permitted their use.
THE HOURS AND TIMES won a Special Jury Prize for Artistic Excellence at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival and the prestigious Wolfgang Staudte Prize at that year's Berlin Film Festival. The subsequent New York City opening took place with practically no advertising but gained enough publicity and
positive critical comment to result in bookings nationwide at festivals and specialty houses. (Nudity, adult situations, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: Its subject matter is limiting and its austere technique may leave most viewers cold; nonetheless THE HOURS AND TIMES ranks as one of the notables of 1992. Armed with a paltry budget, b&w film stock, antiquated equipment, dedicated personnel and plane tic… (more)