Backbeat

Iain Softley, UK, 1993, 100 minutes

John Lennon (Hart) persuades best mate and fellow art student Stu Sutcliffe (Dorff) to buy a guitar with cash from the sale of one of his paintings, and to join him and his mates playing clubs in Hamburg. There Stu falls for Astrid (Lee) and her existential friends, and chooses a life of art to a life of rock and roll. It's to be a short life. And John's little skiffle band is on the brink of going supernova.

Following the success of The Hour And The Times (in which Ian Hart played the same role) Backbeat provides further evidence of a revival of Liverpool's greatest export. It's far more nostalgic and commercial than Christopher Munch's imaginative debut, with Softley basing his script on interviews with Astrid for an authentic reconstruction.

The pace of the film is relentless, though the band performances are the best things about it as befits a director who made his name in music videos -watch for some great time-lapse photography in one of the Reeperbahn scenes. Unfortunately casting two Americans in the lead roles doesn't quite work Sheryl Lee is great as the bohemian art freak but Stephen Dorff doesn't take it seriously and sports a well dodgy Scouse accent (I should know), so it's left to Ian Hart to carry the film; he is worth watching. With a soundtrack performed by members of Nirvana and REM this film certainly deserves to be seen. You'll be glad you came.

Review by Stephen Cox
Taken from EUFS Programme 1994-95