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about the making of the film and its aims.
Wish You Were Here is a further gem in the recent collection of modestly-budgeted miracles mined by the ever resilient British film industry.
Set in a small English coastal town during the 1950s. it focuses on a spirited young girl‘s coming of age as she rebels against the boredom and frustration of the prevailing mores and other people‘s standards of socially and sexually acceptable behaviour.
A funny sad slice of British life. Wish You Were Here has been captivating audiences from Hollywood to 'I‘okyo since its triumphant reception at the (‘annes Film Festival. It has catapulted leading lady Emily Lloyd to international flavour-of-tlie-month celebrity status and made her the teenage face that launched a thousand 1987 magazine covers. The intensity ofthe spotlight illuminating Lloyd‘s stardom has tended to divert attention from the accomplishments ofthe film‘s writer and debutant director David Leland.
A man ofmany talents. including acting. Leland first came to writing via an intriguingly unorthodox route. ‘I had a doctor who was Indian and he really encouraged and bribed and bullied me into gl ost-writing a book on homeopathy and natural medicine. It‘s a very complicated subject and you have to write about it in depth so you have to deal with lots of layers and it was an initiation into discovering that I could write. It
wasn‘t part of my background to think that I could automatically write about anything. It was a very good education. So. I didn‘t write scripts to start off with although I always thought I‘d like to.‘
Over the last two years. Leland has concentrated his energies on the cinema. With Neil Jordan. he co-wrote the brilliant fairytale film noir Mona Lisa. He was the writer and unofficial co-director of the widely popular (‘ynthia Payne biography Personal .S‘ert'u‘es. Wish You Were Here would appear to share common territory with these earlier works of exploring the peculiarly British traits ofsexual hypocrisy and the class divide. although Leland is reluctant to pinpoint too clear cut a connection between the trio of films. ‘I think mythologies are created out of hindsight. If we were as coherent
‘Fifties were repressive‘
about why we wanted to make a film before we made it. then we probably wouldn‘t make it. I think there‘s always that element ofexploration in making movies which is missing when people analyse why they set out to make them. There is an enormous amount of His]: You Were Here that is about class: how the securities ofclass. the aspirations of class. become prisons from which it‘s very difficult for any individual to escape. We all sense that. but I think young people sense it more than old
people because olten. as we get older. we make compromises and settle fora particular kind of life. When one‘s younger. one often has an outward view of saying. ‘Well. I‘m not satisfied with where I am
‘Comedy about mortality‘
now and where I come from and therefore I want to change or be something different to my dad.‘ I think the moment you do that you‘re in class conflict; people accuse you of having aspirations beyond your status.‘
In some quarters the film has been seen as a prequel to Personal .S‘eri'iees. a notion that Leland quickly scotches. Whilst researching into (‘ynthia I’ayne's life he talked to many women of their first sexual experiences in the fifties and found the germ of an idea for ll'isli You Were Here. ‘I would hate it to be thought of as a film about the young lady who eventually becomes a prostitute.‘ he says. ‘I never wrote it like that. I was really surprised to find myself writing about the fifties at all because I have an aversion to nostalgic period films that romanticise and say wasn‘t it great to be at the drive-in. I remember the fifties: it was a pretty shitty period of time to be young in. I think the fact that a lot of young people who see the film now recognise her and the conflict she's in. indicates very clearly that not much has changed. We‘re living through a time of
highflung moral tones in which a lot of people get kicked along the way for being morally out of order and I think the Fifties were just the same. A very repressive era with the class system reasserting itself after the anarchy ofthe war.’
Although not expressly written to explore the parallels between the Fifites and the Eighties, Wish You Were Here points up the similarities and, in doing so. is liberated from being perceived as just another period film. ‘You can go and see a Fifties‘ film and know that it‘s safely locked in the past and we‘re somewhere in the present and whatever happened then has nothing to do with us now. I wanted it to filter through to now and challenge the attitudes of now. particularly those elements of ignorance. Personal Services too. by hindsight. is making a similar plea for a bit more tolerance. You may not like it. it may not be to your taste but somewhere aong the line you‘ve been in the closet as well and a hell ofa lot of people get hurt by intolerance.‘
In his acting guise. Leland has
A matter of personal taste
appeared in films like Sunday. Bloody Sunday and The Missionary and one of the strengths of Wish You Were Here. aside from its humour and observaton. is the performances. and especially that of Emily Lloyd as the indomitable Lynda. ‘l screen-tested five young ladies from 15 to about 1‘) and I think they could all have played the part but she just seemed to have more contradictions and a certain awkward charm about her that the camera seemed to like. She was lo on the first day ofshooting. I think she‘s a clever actress and I hope that the kind of attention this film has given her doesn‘t rob her ofthe opportunity to develop as an actress because she‘s so blatantly under a spotlight after the film‘s reception in America. which was phenomenal. She needs some real strong fellow travellers to help her along. I wish her enormous luck but. in many ways. I don‘t envy her situation.‘ Leland himself is off to America to direct a script by Joe Iisterhas (who wrote Jagged lz‘dge). called (‘liecking (ha. [I will starJeff Danielsand must have appealed to Leland‘s medicinal interests. ‘It‘s a black comedy about mortality really. The appalling discovery that we‘re all driving I)atsuns that not only break down and go rusty but eventually just fall to pieces and refuse to go at all. It‘s about one man‘s discovery of that and the hypoochondria that follows in its wake. I think the analogy ofour bodies to cars is quite a good one. It‘s very funny. When I read it. it frightened me and the more I thought about it the more it made me laugh. lt‘sall a matterof personal taste.‘ Wish You Were Here opens a! (lie ()(lt’rm. Glasgow; ('annon. Kilmarnock; ()deon. varand l.a Sea/a. XII/(coals on [5 January and a! the Edinburgh ()deon on 2.3 January. See ( .inema Listings for (lelails.
The List 8 — 21 January I988 5