By John Armstrong, Rock At Night Columnist-Manchester
Midnight Of My Life – Steve Marriott short film at Manchester Film Festival 5th March 2016
The Manchester Premier and also first showing outside London of Midnight of My Life took place at Manchester Film Festival last night–a successfully crowd funded film which is directed by Phil Davis (best known as ‘Chalky’ in Quadrophenia), starring Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit), and screenwritten by Nina Gerstenberger. The subject matter is one of the greatest voices in popular music; Steve Marriott.
I first knew of the film was during its funding stage; the initial thought when I heard there was going to be a film about Steve Marriott was that it would cover the early part of the Small Faces career, the bright colours of mid 1960’s Carnaby Street clothing, the dizzying lights of fame and the fans screaming louder than their primitive PA system, making it impossible for them to hear themselves when playing live. I felt it would be all very cinematic but could so easily have descended into the kind of cheeky-teen-film (Live It Up and Be My Guest) that Marriott acted in prior to full time music. Instead the mid-1980’s was the chosen time frame, twenty years on, with Small Faces and Humble Pie no longer in the limelight. Instead, a string of far less glamourous venues made up a continuous tour of 150-200 gigs a year. Picking this later era allows a huge amount to be packed into the eight minutes length. The film deals with the nature of fame, rock’n’roll with its stardom, adulation and cynicism, and authenticity verses mere theatricals.
Considering the importance of sharp clothing to the Small Faces look, Marriott’s accurately replicated 1980’s rig of open necked shirt, dungarees and a big coat provoked disdain, as one bartender character asks another “How can you adore someone who dresses like Huckleberry Finn?” But the clothes were ultimately unimportant. Marriott remembered his roots, and also remembered the excess boutique spending in ‘the Decca years’ largely because the band thought the label were picking up the clothes-bill tab and not deducting it from their own fees. The dungaree look can be seen the same way as Pete Townsend’s boiler-suit and Dr. Martens worn at Woodstock; hard wearing work wear and a rejection of the façade of stardom.
Martin Freeman is convincing in the role of a man for whom it was always about the music not the fame. Despite Freeman being naturally left handed and not a guitar player (in the live scene his finger movements are cleverly masked by crowd members or shot from behind the guitar neck), the Marriott stance and mannerisms are there. “I would rather play to three people than not play at all” his character said–and we believe him.
There was a Q&A session after the screening, with Nina Gerstenberger representing the film. Her next plans are to work towards a feature length film about Steve Marriott and she has already started a screenplay for it. I saw Steve Marriott play live in the 1980’s and he clearly loved performing. This short film conveys the essence of the grind of an eternal tour, the itinerant life, and the excitement of real music. Bring on the long version.
Midnight Of My Life download site: http://midnightofmylife.vhx.tv/
Midnight Of My Life website: http://www.midnightofmylife.com
Manchester Film Festival: http://www.maniff.com
Midnight of My Life-Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/midnightofmylife/