USA | 1991 | Directed by Christopher Munch
Logline: A fictionalised account of what may have happened when John Lennon and Brian Epstein went on holiday together to Spain in 1963.
As a curious character study that clocks in at just under an hour, "speculative featurette" would be an apt tag for this quiet drama. Christopher Munch takes liberty with a poignant and peculiar moment in history; a few days in Spain that John Lennon, of The Beatles, and the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, spent in intimate rest and recreation following an exhausting stint of concerts back in England.
It was April 1963, and of course, The Beatles were fast becoming the international phenomenon that would change the world of popular music forever. John Lennon, who was struggling in his relationship with Cynthia, his first wife and mother of baby Julian, so he relished the chance to get away from the hordes and the pressures of fatherhood and husbandry.
Brian Epstein was openly gay (well, at least to close friends and the rest of the band) and he harboured an infatuation with John. John was well aware of Brian’s deep-rooted attraction, and being the mischievous rascal he played on it. But as charming and witty as John was, he could also be cruel and heartless, as observed in the scene where he is on the phone to Cynthia. He was also a prick (tease) to Brian.
John was an opportunist and he loved to experiment. The Hours and Times presents a possible series of moments that might have occurred between the two men as the lounged and lingered around the Barcelona hotel. John smoked like a chimney and chewed gum like it was going out of fashion. Brian wore clean shirts and made plaintive glances in John’s direction. There was a tension, some of it sexual, much of it a power game.
Christopher Munch captures a city trapped in time. Filmed in high contrast black and white and cleverly shooting the beautiful urban exteriors (a lot of Gaudi) so as not to give away that the movie was made nearly thirty years later. There’s a visual poetry that weaves and slides, languid and emotive. Nothing much actually happens, yet during these hours, the times they are a-changing. It’s fascinating and compelling, but strangely distant.
Ian Hart delivers an uncannily spot on performance as Lennon, looking remarkably similar in facial features, but also nailing the nonchalant body language, the Liverpudlian drawl, and his impulsive sense of humour. Hart would go on to play Lennon again in the excellent early Beatles biopic Backbeat. David Angus isn’t as strong an actor as Hart, but he has the Oxford-educated accent down pat, and he also bears a striking resemblance to the real Epstein.
Stephanie Pack is memorable as an airline stewardess whom Lennon flirts with in the movie’s opening scene and who turns up later at their hotel only to have Lennon play the whimsical tango fob-off. John didn’t know what he wanted, and Brian could only indulge him and keep his fingers crossed. When John pushed the envelope of their friendship it would only prompt tears before bedtime. Perhaps it was John’s rejection of Brian that fueled the manager’s suicidal tendencies? I guess no one will ever really know.