BBC4’s Scotland on Screen was a curates egg of a programme. It was always interesting, and the premise of returning to the locations of some of Scotland’s best loved films was a strong one, but surely the BBC should have made a 4 or even 6 part series. This would have enabled more films to be discussed, but even more importantly they could have used the fantastic guests and talking heads that they did have to much better use. David Hayman, Peter Mullan and Andrew McDonald were all under employed, but the real sin was to take The Wicker Man director Robin Hardy and Gregory’s Girl writer/director Bill Forsyth back to the scene of their movies and then only giving them a couple of minutes on-screen time. This brings me to the second problem with the programme. Alan Cumming is, I think, a charming comic actor (although I may be biased as I have happy memories of Victor and Barry’s pantos at the Tron theatre as a child, which were built around Cumming’s and Forbes Masson’s comical Kelvinside parodies) but he doesn’t strike me as a film buff. His insights and questions to those involved in the film were naive bordering on painful. His appearance only made sense when he was interviewing a group of ladies, and one hugely uncomfortable minister, from Morningside about the influence of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Here the natural performer appeared and charmed and disarmed the group.
Surely it would have made more sense to have had the film fronted by a director, producer or critic, or at least some one who has a reputation for their love of film. To have film critic and presenter Andrew Collins as one of the talking heads, and then Cumming presenting, appears to me a waste of both their talents, and a simple swapping of roles would have rectified this. Perhaps I’m being a touch harsh, but when Cumming’s role as presenter and guide is compared to that of Peter Capaldi doing the same job brilliantly in A Portrait of Scotland (see Malcolm Tucker, Art Historian) he can only suffer. In fact how perfect would Capaldi have been fronting Scotland on Screen? Not only is he a writer and director but his first film role was in Forsyth’s Local Hero. I would have loved to have seen Peter Capaldi and Bill Forsyth reunited and reminiscing on screen.
If you get the chance to see the programme I would recommend it, but with the knowledge it could have been so much better. To see a real film lover talking to Bill Forsyth about his work, in this case Local Hero, have a look at Mark Kermode’s film for The Culture Show from earlier this year. It not only captures the charm and magic of the original film, but he allows Forsyth time to inform the viewer about how Local Hero came into existence.