wed 30/09/2020

DVD: That Sinking Feeling | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: That Sinking Feeling

DVD: That Sinking Feeling

Low-budget Glaswegian crime comedy shines in a new restoration

Robert Buchanan (right) has a brush with the law

That Bill Forsyth’s 1979 debut feature is so polished shouldn’t be a surprise; he’d been working on documentaries and short films since the 1960s. Several of these are included as generous bonuses on this disc.

That Bill Forsyth’s 1979 debut feature is so polished shouldn’t be a surprise; he’d been working on documentaries and short films since the 1960s. Several of these are included as generous bonuses on this disc.

KH-4 and Mirror are offbeat mini-dramas, but more pertinent is Oscar Marzaroli's Glasgow 1980, an upbeat short edited by Forsyth in 1970, outlining in optimistic fashion how the city would soon be transformed for the better. The depressing gap between aspiration and reality is clear in That Sinking Feeling. Glasgow remains grubby and congested, its pasty-faced denizens negotiating a grimy, rubble-strewn landscape. More often than not, it’s raining.

Forsyth drew his teenage cast from the Glasgow Youth Theatre. Most of them will be familiar to fans of Gregory’s Girl, a project which had already been planned, only to be denied funding from the BFI on the grounds that it was “too commercial”. That Sinking Feeling was made as a stopgap, with borrowed equipment. Forsyth’s down-at-heel protagonists, led by Robert Buchanan‘s perennial optimist Ronnie, hatch an elaborate plot to steal a consignment of steel sinks from a dingy warehouse. Forsyth describes the film as a fairy tale, and gritty realism is ditched when it comes to exactly how the heist is achieved. Performances are consistently good – Buchanan is a hugely endearing lead, and John Hughes's Vic enjoys discovering his feminine side.

There are flashes of anger – these characters feel that life has little to offer them, in a city famous for “drugs, drink and multiple social deprivation.” It's a town where cigarettes can be cadged from nine-year old girls. The robbery is a success, and an upbeat coda sees Ronnie and cohorts planning to break into the Irn Bru factory – a cheeky response to the refusal of AG Barr to offer Forsyth financial support. Tennent's Lager and William Hill were more generous.

The restored image is bright and detailed, and the DVD extras are excellent. A commentary from Forsyth and Mark Kermode is enjoyable, and their deadpan dissection of the film’s budget is priceless. We get a recent conversation with an effervescent, still youthful Robert Buchanan. There’s also the opportunity to watch with the notorious re-dubbed soundtrack. Described by Forsyth as "the Edinburgh version", it was recorded for US audiences after the success of Gregory's Girl. Heard after the original, it feels completely wrong, the softer accents totally at odds with the film's riotous, anarchic spirit.

Irn Bru refused to offer Forsyth financial support. Tennent's Lager and William Hill were more generous

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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