London isn’t what you think it is,” says Rita Tushingham in a love letter. That is playfully distorted in Britain’s pop culture film past. Director and co-writer Edgar Wright’s resume ranges from the country action comedy Hot Fuzz to the latest dramatic musical.
The Sparks Brothers boldly describe Last Night in Soho. As “Peeping Toms Midnight Garden,” a dry mix of nostalgia for Soho and melancholic magic. It’s a headache with superb locations in the West End and Fitzroy and a cast that includes Terence Stamp.
A silhouette cut oddly reminiscent of William Hartnell’s Doctor Who and Diana Rigg in her latest role. Retro excitement to piercing slasher fantasy. As he dances the streets not lined in gold. But with sparkles, sand and spiky blood splatters.
Thomasin Mackenzie, who disappeared into Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, is Eloise Turner:
Wide-open, 60s obsessed, a fashion student with a “gift”. That leads her to pursue her vision of her dead mother in a “don’t look now” style. After winning a place at the London College of Fashion.
“Ellie” finds herself in bed upstairs, from where she walks through the ghostly mirror life of coveted singer Sandy (Anya Taylor-Joy) every night. In her dreams, Ellie (who says the 60s speak to me) watches and becomes Sandy, fighting for the stars.
But falling onto the streets as the realities of London life collide. Is Sandy the fruit of Ellie’s hot imagination – wish-fulfilment turns into a nightmare. Or does she somehow create a real connection between generations?
The line “London Can Be Much” is repeated throughout the script, co-written by 1917 Oscar nominee Christy Wilson-Cairns, and the same goes for the film. Some viewers may be overwhelmed or dissatisfied with the dizzying blizzard of intertwined topics, references, and motifs thrown onto the screen.
But anyone who shares Wright’s insane enthusiasm for the film’s literary setting. That will delight in the excitement of Ellie’s early flashbacks as the director takes us from dark streets to the shining cinema (Thunderball posters have never looked better). !) the heady world of Café de Paris.
From the jukebox fights of Shaun of the Dead to Scott Pilgrim’s S*x Bob-omb to The World to Baby Driver’s choreographed car chases. Wright’s films have always been on the verge of becoming musicals.
Here the promise is fulfilled in a film that starts with Ellie dancing in Redruth’s room in A World Without Love. Then moves on to Sandy and Jack (the super slick Matt Smith) playing London nights to the voice of Graham Bond. And then this includes a central a cappella show. A city as scary as it is provocative in an empty theatre.
Like a beautiful melody barely visible from the tune before falling into a screaming argument:
Last Night in Soho glides seamlessly between harmony and dissonance. With Julie Christie nodding at Darling and mutating into Suspiria in Jessica Harper’s spell. As usual, Wright’s jukebox antenna is on a sharp note. At least in scenes that use a weird German violin stroke.
“Downstairs is still the same old London,” says a taxi robber when Ellie first arrives at Dima. A connection reinforced in some scenes by the Mona Lisa vibe. And the resulting neo-noir connection between past and present. Elsewhere there are nightmarish satire to John Landis’.
“American Werewolf in London” (Dreams in Dreams) and George Romero’s favourite zombie flick. With homeland spirit Nigel Knill casting the longest shadow. With all its starting points, Last Night in Soho turns out to still be Wright’s most personal film. You can tell how much he loves the material. Honestly, I feel the same way.