wed 19/06/2024

DVD/Blu-ray: Billy Connolly - Big Banana Feet | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: Billy Connolly - Big Banana Feet

DVD/Blu-ray: Billy Connolly - Big Banana Feet

The comic caught on the cusp of his fame as he tours Ireland in 1975

Documentary cameras followed the Big Yin on his first live dates in Ireland

The most striking thing about the 1976 documentary (restored and re-released by the BFI) is just how polite Billy Connolly comes across as. Not that he's impolite now, but the raucous stage presence and vibrant chatshow interviewee was yet to fully form.

Murray Grigor's film, which follows Connolly's first gigs in Ireland in 1975, shows the comedian long before he achieved the national treasure status he now enjoys. The Dublin and Belfast dates came just after Connolly's appearance on Michael Parkinson's chat show had made him an overnight star, and backstage in Dublin the Glaswegian frets that his material may not go down as well with an Irish audience seeing him live for the first time. He needn't have worried as he went down a blast. The title, by the way, comes from the huge banana-shaped boots he wore for the gigs, specially made for him. He quoted the boot-maker saying rather philosophically: “They’re not identical… but then bananas never are.”

Big Banana FeetIt's a sign of the comic's canniness that he says after the Belfast gig that he had toned down his “Green and Orange” material. It was at the height of the Troubles so it's understandable, but it shows a comic who thinks on his feet. Further evidence of that comes when at the Dublin gig a man shouts out “IRA!” and Connolly dares him to repeat that at Ibrox in Glasgow.

As the cameras film him backstage, where cups of tea figure greatly (no ridiculous riders for this comic), we see Connolly chatting to his tour manager and the many journalists who want to talk to him. Understandably he doesn't want to speak to them until after they've seen the show but his tour manager overrules him; if Connolly was irritated he doesn't show it.

Grigor's film (with cinemaphotography by David Peat) has been restored in 2K from the original 16mm, and for film buffs it's reminiscent of DA Pennebaker's 1967 Bob Dylan documentary Don't Look Back, shot in the same rough and ready style.

By modern standards it's rather slow-moving and static (the camera rarely moves off Connolly, and we see no audience reactions) but for his fans it's interesting to see his early incarnation, when songs with guitar and banjo featured more prominently in his act.

The ruderies are there, though, as Connolly recalls his schooldays, filled with bogey-flicking and farts. It's probably for completists only, but it's an interesting snapshot of a comedy great at work.

Backstage, cups of tea figure greatly (no ridiculous riders for this comic)

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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