Bohemian Rhapsody – film
***** (5 stars)
I think this is the first time I have seen the Brunton’s cinema packed almost to overflowing – friends of mine were only able to get tickets in the restricted view area which is not usually sold for films: and almost all the audience were grey-headed.
Were they all reliving their lost youth? Certainly, the film was a superb one for anyone who simply wanted to revel in the music of Queen: but there was so much more than just a selection of ‘Queen’s Greatest Hits’ [though there was a satisfying large number of those]. Fashion, music, social history, and a reflection of the changing attitudes towards ‘deviants’ are all charted, and for those of us who remember closet life, there’s a trip down memory lane.
Opening with a shot of Freddie Mercury preparing to go onstage for Live Aid, we are cleverly taken back to 1970 with newsreel footage of Charles and Diana showing on the screen of a TV mobile studio. Cut to Heathrow airport with the young Farrokh Bulsara unloading luggage from a plane and refuting one of his colleagues’ assertion that he’s a “Paki” – the story has begun… We follow Freddie as he asserts his independence from his Farsi family, changes his name, becomes involved with Mary Austin and joins Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon to form what becomes Queen. We meet the goodies and baddies in the band’s and Freddie’s life: the goodies are mainly saints and the baddies straightforwardly bad [though it takes Freddie a long time to unmask the worst of these]. We see glimpses of the lifestyle that resulted in AIDS, but there’s nothing really explicit or shocking: there is great sadness but also much humour, and the grey-haired audience laughed a lot. The film ends as it began with the Live Aid concert: Freddie’s decline and death are only listed on screen as the credits begin to roll.
What sticks with me? The moment when Freddie explains to the sceptical record producer that Queen are a band of misfits who are playing for each other and for the misfits at the back of the room; the beginnings of the creation of We will rock you, with Brian May wanting to write a song the audience can join in with – stamp stamp clap silence [repeat ad lib]; a lonely Freddie standing in the rain after dismissing the man he’s finally realised is the snake in the grass; and the incredible warmth coming from the audience to envelop the band wherever they played..
Oh yes, and the music – which is brilliant, of course; the incredible portrayal of Freddie by Rami Malek which has, rightly, already won him a Best Actor Bafta and Golden Globe – surely an Oscar awaits. I was impressed by the equally outstanding Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy and Joseph Mazzello as May, Taylor and Deacon: either they are all superb musicians or exceedingly talented mimics!
It’s visually gorgeous, a film which I’d gladly see again and again: it may not be 100% truth, but if it’s a lie it’s so well told that it can be forgiven… This is the first film in the Brunton’s series celebrating LGBT History Month: don’t miss A Fantastic Woman on February 20th and The Miseducation of Cameron Post on 27th.
LGBT History Month and Pride Saltire: Bohemian Rhapsody – film, The Brunton, Musselburgh, Run ended but go to: https://pridesaltire.org.uk/lgbthistory.html For Further schedule performances.