You Have Been Watching…The Near Room
Glasgow Noir. A surprisingly small genre. The city lends itself to the dark shadows, dodgy characters and indecipherable dialogue that noir demands. I don’t doubt that one of the reasons for Taggart’s long running success is down to the noirish qualities of the city of Glasgow.
The Near Room was released in 1995, and disappeared about a week later. I saw it at a Friday night late show at the Sauchiehall St ABC in the slot they used to put ‘cult’ and horror films. I remembered it as being rather good, so was pleased when it was released on DVD. Directed by and starring David Hayman, the strong cast also includes a young Julie Graham, Tom Watson, David O’Hara, the underrated Robert Pugh, the always excellent Adrian Dunbar, Andy Serkis, Peter McDougall, and the first on screen appearance of Mr Tumnus himself, little James McAvoy.
Dunbar is journalist Charlie Colquhoun whose life over the latter years has fallen apart. He is contacted by Tommy, brilliantly played by Emma Faulkner, the now 17 year-old daughter who was placed in a foster home when she was younger, and who now finds herself at the centre of the blackmailing of a high-profile policeman. The Near Room is unremittingly dark. Set in the underground world of pornography,drugs and prostitution the film revels in the seedier side of life, as is only right for noir. I recently saw it for the first time since 1995, and it holds up well. It is beautifully shot, although so dark in some scenes as to be almost pitch, and it’s a genuinely thrilling film. Below is a rare clip, including some excellent swearing. It features McAvoy, and suggests that he has a portrait in his attic as he doesn’t seem to have aged in the last 15 years:
It is quite amazing to consider the number of the films featured on these pages which have only the briefest of flings in the cinema. Complicity, 16 Years of Alcohol, Urban Ghost Story, A Shot at Glory, The Near Room and many others have come and gone before many people knew of their existence and were never given the chance to find an audience. This also applies to recent Scottish feature film Donkeys, nominally the follow up to award winning Red Road, which has received mostly glowing reviews. I’ve probably said this before, but if you’re going to make these films, something which is an extraordinary achievement in itself these days, at least allow them the possibility of finding an audience. I realise that it is a question of economics, but those films named, with the exception, perhaps, of A Shot at Glory, could have found an audience outside of art house cinemas. It would be nice to think that the New Year would see some more inventive programming at the local multiplexes, but I imagine that’s overly optimistic.
(a shorter version of this review appeared on the 26/1/10)