The Hours and Times (1991)
★★ / ★★★★
Written and directed by Christopher Münch, “The Hours and Times,” beautifully presented in monochrome, speculates what might have occurred when John Lennon and Brian Epstein went on holiday to Barcelona in 1963. The latter, an out-of-the-closet homosexual, is the former’s manager and the picture shows that a sexual affair—or something like it—might have transpired between them.
Although the film presents a bold possibility, the screenplay is severely underwritten, relying on nothing but its premise to capture the viewer’s fascination. It certainly failed to keep mine. Though Epstein (David Angus) and Lennon (Ian Hart) share direct conversations about being interested in another man and gay sex, there is neither rhythm nor poetry among the scenes that lead up to moments of honesty and curiosity. As a result, what should be considered critical exchanges come off completely false.
Though the black-and-white photography adds elegance to the imagined occurrence, some shots are inept. Take a look at the first conversation that takes place between Epstein and Lennon. Though the two are speaking to one another, the camera rests on Epstein’s face even when Lennon is speaking. To make matters worse, only a part of Lennon’s face is within the shot. We are immediately transported out of the dialogue because looking at the screen with an actor’s face only partly shown on the right is so awkward and uncomfortable to sit through. Has anybody reviewed the take and taken note that the scene needed to be reshot?
I found Hart to be an alluring John Lennon especially when he wears thick spectacles. There is a sadness to his portrayal, mainly the eyes, appropriately so because his character is supposed to be a closet homosexual. He asks questions about his friend’s lifestyle and when Epstein engages him, Lennon’s response is almost always fear and denial. If only the screenplay were more subtle and had been willing to explore such defense mechanisms from multiple angles.
Though the story takes place in Barcelona for four days, we do not see much of the city. Instead, just about everything unfolds in the hotel room with one key scene in a posh and exclusive gay bar. Couldn’t have some of the conversations occurred while the rock star and his manager were walking around the city?
The man named Quinones (Robin McDonald) is a curiosity, a homosexual but is married to a woman, but he is in it far too short. Also, I quite liked Marianne (Stephanie Pack). She is a flight attendant that the two meet en route to Spain and is eventually invited by Lennon to come see him at the hotel in Barcelona when she gets the chance. The best scene involves Marianne and just about anybody who decides to watch this movie will recognize exactly when the picture is most vibrant.