Anyone who is able to wade through the muddy waters and obstacle-strewn walkways of the film financing landscape in the modern age is evidently a resourceful, committed and pugnacious soul. They need to be. Credit must be given for this persistence in the face of close doors and unfavourable odds.
It is therefore with no great joy that this review is committed to screen.
Soho Cigarette is Jonathan Fairbairn's debut feature film as writer/director. Shot on a small budget through crowd funded contributions, it follows D - a self-assured young Italian male - in and around the streets of Soho. After a frank exchange with his girlfriend, he finds himself out of the relationship and out onto the street. Without a place to live, and evidently hard-up financially, he is left to seek solace (and a roof) through his friend, Luc, and his old Mercedes. In order to make ends meet, he takes tourists on rock n' roll history tours around the cobbled backstreets of London. This is not the resounding success that he hopes for, and when he finds his friend has struck gold with his ex, he is stranded once more.
Shot in a stylish monochrome, it must be said that rarely has London looked so clean and beautiful. Soho Cigarette really does offer a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Gavin Northover, the Photographer on this picture, is a star in the making.
Sadly, the material does not do the direction or the cinematography justice. Fairbairn has managed to weave a tale where practically all of the characters are reprehensible for one reason or another. They begin as shallow beings and go nowhere. That can be fine. After all, if not be of substance then at least be outrageous. Sadly, they are not interesting enough to be outrageous.
It is in possession of a killer soundtrack and there are some neat segments. The scene where D talks in his native tongue to the vacant space in the back seat of his car as he drives through the night time streets is a stand out moment.
It would be interesting to see Jonathan Fairbairn directing someone else's material. Like a footballer played out of position, his effectiveness in the writer role has diminished the strong vision elsewhere.
Some of the performances have a wonky-edged charm and, to its credit, Soho Cigarette has a sassy, street cool.
Is it a victory to say style over substance? No. Will it reign at Raindance? Not for my money. For those in awe of the French New Wave (for instance, there are strong shades of Truffaut's Jules et Jim in there), may find much to admire in the technique and presentation. However, Soho Cigarette is ultimately an engagement of the eyes but not the head and the heart. A better script and a stronger set of performances would have made this a triumph. As things stand, it is a valiant misfire.
Soho Cigarette will premiere at this year's Raindance Festival on 30th September at 8:45pm. Screening info can be found at http://raindancefestival.org/films/soho-cigarette
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