"The Hours and Times," which opens today at the Charles, is a pressed violet of a movie, a faded forget-me-not of ineffable delicacy and poignancy from a time so vanished it's difficult to recall that it even existed.
It's set in that most ambiguous of no man's lands, the awkward terrain between hetero- and homosexual men, and it explores the sadness of their utter lack of etiquette or vocabulary by which to relate. (Usually, they just ignore each other.) It just so happens that the exemplars of either persuasion happen to be world famous, or rather, about to become world famous.
They are John Lennon, Beatle, and Brian Epstein, Beatle manager and guru. The scene is Barcelona, the time April 1963, before the Beatles' first American tour; Brian and John have decided to take four days off from the life and spend it in the Spanish city. The problem: Brian, who is homosexual, is in love with John. The complication: John, who is heterosexual, is not at all sure what to make of this situation.
The first miracle of "The Hours and Times" is that in an instant you are beyond impersonation; the two actors, David Angus (Brian) and Ian Hart (John) are immediately convincing and the dialogue (director Christopher Munch also wrote the film) is persuasive, elegant and heartfelt. Munch quickly establishes each personality as the foundation for the drama to follow.
Brian is educated, creative, ironic, neurotic; he seems to hate himself for his homosexuality and his longing for John. John, on the other hand, is dynamically bright, occasionally surly as a lout, and has a cruel streak in him. He's just beginning to understand how special his life is about to be, what magic possibilities are open to him. But he can be crude, too; he likes Brian, he loves being with him -- but he also likes to hurt him.
UI It's clear that John, besides his affection for his mentor, has an in
tellectual fascination with homosexuality and the secret possibility that its presence is hidden somewhere beneath the complicated whorls of his own mind; the discovery is yet one more item placed on the groaning board that will be his life. The movie follows as these two birds of very different feathers bumble and stumble toward some kind of agreeable relationship.
Of course we know from the get-go that such will not happen, and the movie's clear implication is to ascribe Epstein's subsequent suicide to the pain of his unrequited love. But "The Hours and Times" is never strident and it offers no answers: it's a fascinating peep into two private lives that quickly loses its fascination and becomes instead deeply moving.
'The Hours and Times'
Starring David Angus and Ian Hart.
Directed by Christopher Munch.
Released by Antarctic Pictures. Unrated.