Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984)
Directed by Peter Webb
Written by Paul McCartney
The easy way to view Give My Regards to Broad Street is to see it for what it appears to be: INCREDIBLY BORING, pointless, choppy, scattered, and ridiculous. For it is all of those things.
Perhaps I am merely looking for ways to justify the fact that I spent 110 minutes of my life watching it, but I actually think it is very nearly a Buñuel movie, when you think about it. Not a good Buñuel movie, mind you, but a Buñuel movie nonetheless.
The movie basically presents the idea of Paul McCartney falling asleep in his limo and dreaming an increasingly surreal series of events centering around the idea that the master tapes for his most recent album have gone missing. He is worried that an ex-con he's hired has absconded with the tapes to sell them to bootleggers.
The tapes are supposedly worth £5-6 million. For the follow-up to Pipes of Peace??? Well, like I said, this is Paul McCartney's dream.
If you think about the movie in terms of reflecting deeper and deeper levels of REM sleep, it almost makes sense. The dialogue is banal and incoherent, with long pauses between speakers, and no particular connection between statement and response. Paul imagines himself driving hundreds of kilometers per hour in a flame-detailed, computer-voice-equipped Rolls, going from appointment to appointment, mainly consisting of recording sessions and video shoots. Now, why does he need to go to so many different places to record music and shoot videos, when clearly he could do that more efficiently in one studio? Because it is a dream.
And also because it is a dream, Paul gets to run through two or three songs in a row at each location. If you took the musical sequences out of the movie, you'd be left with about seven minutes of Bryan Brown snapping at people in frustration.
Also because it is a dream, and specifically because it is Paul McCartney's dream, Paul McCartney is portrayed as an unfazeably cool dude. Unfortunately, he has no super powers, although in one scene, he does have a breakdancer Moonwalking and body-popping to a 1984 re-recording of "Silly Love Songs." Compelling any self-respecting black man to do such a thing surely is evidence of some kind of super power, right? Either that, or of a very deep bank account.
About three-quarters of the way through, the movie suddenly plunges into deep sleep, going off on a 25-minute tangent with no dialogue, wherein Paul, in full Victorian get-up and muttonchops, watches Linda, Ringo, and Barbara Bach meet their deaths in a waterfall accident, while his suspected tape-thief, Harry, is stabbed by a gigantic bootlegger named Big Bob. This sequence is the key to appreciating Broad Street, in my opinion. It's surreal and seemingly full of symbolism, played out like a silent-film melodrama. If the whole film were like this part, it would be clearer that it's actually trying to be a work of avant-garde cinema.
Paul, after all, is a pretty good silent movie star, with all of his exaggerated facial mugging, and the Victorian sequence is actually shot with noticeably better cinematography. It's almost like he was filming this as his attempt to do a long-form "Thriller"-style music video (for "No More Lonely Nights," perhaps), and decided it was good enough to build a movie around. It isn't, but yay to Paul for trying.
That scene is followed by a baffling, Mad-Hatter-like interchange with Sir Ralph Richardson, in one of his final films. The scene seems to exist simply to have Paul on screen with Sir Ralph Richardson. Perhaps that is a selling point in Britain.
By the time the master tapes are finally located, you have forgotten that this a film about missing master tapes. What kind of music industry paranoia was Paul going through, anyway? It's like 1984 for Beatles nerds.
Ringo stumbles his way through a number of scenes, in what I imagine to be an obvious drunken stupor. Linda sports some terrifying hairstyles, and Tracey Ullman pays Paul back for appearing in her "They Don't Know" video. It's all a big sloppy mess, so thoroughly bad. Paul even says it himself: "So Bad."
And yet, is it? I can't really tell. If Paul was trying to make a movie about having a bunch of dreams, as dreams really are as opposed to how they generally look in movies, then he seems to have succeeded.
But if that's the case, I can only say that for such a creative guy, Paul McCartney sure has some boring-ass dreams.
Review by Petra Romulus