Elstree 1976 (second-pass)
Cert: 12A / 101 mins / Dir. Jon Spira / Trailer
The boy, it appears, does have patience after all. After missing its appearance at the 2015 LFF and catching it on VOD instead, I've finally managed to see the Star Wars documentary Elstree 1976 in a cinema as part of its nationwide screening-tour, which included a Q&A session with the director Jon Spira, composer Jamie Hyatt and the hero of the battle of Yavin, John Chapman.
There's not actually too much more to add to my first review of the film; it's an intimate, charming and utterly fascinating look at some of the lesser-known faces of 1977's A New Hope, presented in the form of intercut interviews with former cantina aliens, X-Wing pilots, stormtroopers and more. I'd previously mused that a film this niche would perhaps go right over the heads of a 'civilian' audience, but that's exactly who was present at Oxford's Ultimate Picture Palace this evening. Unlike the recent Gary Numan doc, these weren't particularly fervent Star Wars fans, or even documentary fans, just a selection of punters curious enough to want to look through the window into another world, and this film held their attention throughout, even when I could sense that they were a little lost by the minutiae of the GFFA. It was interesting to see which aspects of the cast's reminiscences resonated with them, as well as the parts which were perhaps too inaccessible (they seemed to find Boba Fett actor Jeremy Bulloch's description of all the pens he carries for signing different items highly amusing, for some reason. Even after the man tells the tale of the time his silver marker leaked all over a poster which had already been signed by many other performers. I was wincing through that section (as was Jeremy, recalling it), but presumably this doesn't sound like a big deal to the The Normies?).
A thing which did surface more the second time I watched it was the borderline transient nature of the convention/autograph circuit, which was underlined by John Chapman speaking afterwards. Elstree 1976 is already a sincere study of the scene, but it's definitely not a 'look at what these movie extras are doing these days'. It's more look at what they were doing then, a snapshot taken when the documentary was made. Several of its stars have since moved away from the circuit, having either scratched that itch or just gotten tired of the hierarchical politics surrounding the whole thing. The film makes no judgement of either the actors, nor the fans who adore them, but nor does it take issue with them stepping back into the relative obscurity of regular life. This is a film about ordinary people that celebrates their ordinariness.
If you like old-school Star Wars, you'll enjoy Elstree 1976. Otherwise you're probably going to be like the couple sat behind me who didn't appear to know what the film was about (at all) before it started, despite being interested enough to have bought tickets to watch it. Which I suppose is fair enough if you're the proprietor of a cinema...
The decent bonus-documentaries from the old days which actually used to impart something about the production of a film, rather than those ones you get now which are basically a showreel of the cast and crew all saying how wonderful it is to be working with each other and little else.
Meow, I know.
Well, despite initially missing this at the 2015 London Film Festival, I've finally got to do just that. So for me, yes.
It does, previous bugbears still upheld.
In the director's case, we'll wait and see.
He freely admitted in the Q&A that this level of intricate fandom wouldn't really work with any other series or franchise, so I shall watch Jon's career with great interest.
Mind, who's the performer inside the Stormtrooper suit who goes tumbling off the Death Star gantry where the Wilhelm is used? That's what I want to know…
Level 1: The entire featured cast was in Star Wars.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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