FILM / Ryan Gilbey On Cinema

Has the MTV promo finally killed off the old phenomena of pop stars playing pop stars in the movies? Bands toil so hard to have those precious three minutes encapsulate their essence that the effort required to sustain a 90-minute feature would be tough to muster. The standards would need to be so much higher. When Elvis polished off 31 movies in 13 years, quality control was not on the agenda.

Although Jailhouse Rock was far from his best, Elvis looked comfortable in the rock star milieu. Cliff Richard found his feet too as a bongo wiz in the enduring Expresso Bongo. The torch was carried by the Beatles, co-habitating in a snazzy bachelor pad for Help], though Joe Orton cranked the heat a tad high in Up Against It, his unproduced Beatles script which had the boys sharing a girl, a bed and a Camberwell Carrot.

The Seventies got its fix - The Harder They Come, That'll Be The Day, Slade in Flame - but the Eighties coughed up It Couldn't Happen Here, Hearts of Fire and Purple Rain, all of them dogs. Pop stars are such capricious creatures - perhaps the safest bet is to let actors play them. The fine Ian Hart recently upstaged the pants off Stephen Dorff in Backbeat, but his first excursion as Lennon was in Christopher Munch's The Hours and Times. A short, sweet musing on the alleged romance between Lennon and Beatles manager Brian Epstein, it's a rare success in the tempestuous pop/film affair. Perhaps we're on a wild-goose chase: is it pop stars who should be playing actors? Morrissey as Dirk Bogarde; Bjork as Audrey Hepburn; Snoop Doggy Dogg as Sammy Davis Jnr. After all, it's time pop wreaked its revenge for Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison.

The Hours and Times: tonight, 8.30, NFT (See Independents).

(Photograph omitted)

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