Telstar is all flaw and no genius

PUBLISHED: 12:56 26 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:17 07 September 2010

Telstar (15) Director Nick Moran Starring Con O Neill, Kevin Spacey, Pam Ferris, Tom Burke, JJ Feild, James Corden and Ralf Little 108 mins Two stars Providing a strange companion piece to the bland period comedy of The Boat That Rocked, here s a bland p

Telstar (15)

Director Nick Moran Starring Con O'Neill, Kevin Spacey, Pam Ferris, Tom Burke, JJ Feild, James Corden and Ralf Little

108 mins

Two stars

Providing a strange companion piece to the bland period comedy of The Boat That Rocked, here's a bland period drama about 60s British pop music.

Directed and co-written by Nick Moran - who 10 years ago was the one most likely to succeed of the Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels quartet - the tragic story of Joe Meek, a pioneering record producer from the earliest days of British pop music, is a hybrid of Prick Up Your Ears and Absolute Beginners.

The subject doesn't lack interesting material - Meek was violent, obsessive, manipulative, a homosexual when it was still illegal, into the occult and made million-selling records in a flat above a shop in the Holloway Road.

He also turned down The Beatles, while championing Screaming Lord Sutch and eventually shot himself and his landlady when debt and changing music trends overwhelmed him.

Telstar started on the stage and the movie adaptation mostly leaves it there.

You are always aware that these actors are acting and it hasn't been opened out much.

Only in the middle does the film stray much from its main location - the north London recording studio flat.

The opening half hour resembles a particularly camp and bitchy sitcom. Various musicians lay down their parts in separate rooms - string section in the cupboard, band in the toilet, etc - and are occasionally interrupted by the complaining landlady from downstairs or Kevin Spacey as Meek's business partner - a much sharper version of The Major from Fawlty Towers.

As a portrait of flawed genius, it is all flaw and no genius.

Meek is relentlessly unpleasant. He starts out as vain and egotistical - so, when success hits, all he has to expand into is violence and paranoia.

His great achievement is Telstar, his tune to commemorate the launch of the first communication satellite.

Telstar may resemble a spaghetti western theme played on one of Rolf Harris's stylophones, yet it still sounds marvellous today, completely evoking all the optimism and hope of the early 60s.

But the film doesn't make much of a case for the rest of his achievement - this is a film that doesn't really have much interest in music.

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