Kim Longinotto / UK / 2014 / 70 mins
Richard Hawley’s Sheffield drawl has never been as evocative as it was last Friday in the Mackintosh designed Queen’s Cross church in Maryhill. His bittersweet ballads form the backbone of Love is All, unique film that chronicles depictions of love, sex and courtship in British film over the past 100 years.
Essay films are very trendy right now; montage is making a comeback with the likes of Mark Cousins celebrating the early cinematic style in communicating academic concepts through video-art means. Drawing from amateur archive footage (weddings, holidays, parties), mid-century PSAs and actual feature films (Piccadilly, My Beautiful Laundrette and Brick Lane to name a few), Love is All is a joy and wonderfully paced. Devoid of narration, we traverse the history of the moving image through the melodies of Hawley and excerpts of dialogue. Longinotto’s film is a dreamy, hilarious and highly entertaining exploration of love on screen. It’s as much about sexuality as it is about national identity and is very similar to the BBC produced The Big Melt, which was a pastiche history of the steel industry in Sheffield in the tradition of John Grierson.
The film spans turn of the century pecks on the cheek, interwar exploits in Blackpool, home-front amours, free love, punks in love and contemporary affairs – but it is a decidedly democratic depiction of attraction too. Longinotto makes great efforts to plumb early examples of interracial and LGBT relationships, highlighting the heartache that prejudices induced. It should be noted that Longinotto had two films in the festival this year, though each entirely different: Love is All and the Sundance award winning documentary Dreamcatcher. Her strength as a story-teller is in uncovering the unusual in what seems pat, like Errol Morris or Steve James before her.
In recent years the success of these “pop-up” events have seen mixed results, with some sell-outs but other events suffering from ill-timed programming slots and venues, such as last year’s mishandled In The Mood for Love screening at the Chinese grocery. This year it seems the programmers are getting the formula right. Even if they did hammer home the love theme – there were the fresh roses that dotted the venue and Scottish soprano Layla Brown, who was brought in to serenade the audience before the screening – this unconventional film being shown in an unconventional landmark location definitely worked this time around.