It was my fourth favorite film of 2013. Now, thanks to the miracle of modern technology – okay, more likely thanks to the erratic release pattern afforded British comedies in the U.S. these days — Alan Partridge (originally titled, somewhat cryptically, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa) finally appears stateside, opening on Friday, April 18 at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas.
For those unfamiliar with the character, Alan Partridge is a massively egotistical radio and television personality plowing a rather small furrow in the backwaters of BBC Norfolk. The subject of several wildly popular UK mockumentary series (including ’Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge’ and ‘I’m Alan Partridge’) that somehow never made it to the States, Partridge went into semi-retirement in 2002, but his rabid fan base clamored for a comeback. This is it.
The creation of comedian Steve Coogan and writer Armando Iannucci (In the Loop, Veep), Partridge (Coogan) is an incredibly unctuous and hugely deluded media non-celebrity with a penchant for back-stabbing. In Alan Partridge, he’s still in East Anglia, where he hosts ‘Mid-Morning Matters’ (“Music and chat for the Norfolk Generation!”) on North Norfolk Digital. Alas, an evil media company has purchased the station and plans to re-brand it in hopes of attracting a younger audience – with either Alan or his folk-music promoting colleague Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney, excellent as always) likely to get the chop.
The film features a host of familiar faces (at least to fans of British television) and Partridge veterans. There’s Tim Key as Sidekick Simon (a character introduced in a brief online Partridge series that appeared in 2010-11), Alan’s co-host who spends most of the film wrapped in duct tape and wearing a pot on his head; Felicity Montagu as Alan’s long-suffering but loyal agent Lynn; and Simon Greenall as security officer Michael, described by Partridge as “the big Geordie Anne Frank”. Viewers may also recognize action movie regular Sean Pertwee, here perfectly cast as a testosterone-laden police firearms specialist.
Penned by Coogan in collaboration with twins Neil and Rob Gibbons, Alan Partridge was – by far – the funniest film I saw last year. Its dry British humor and broad streak of absurdism may not translate well for all American audiences, but Anglophiles of all generations will surely enjoy it tremendously.
‘Teenage:’ An eye-opening and surprisingly inspirational documentary
If you’ve got an extra hour and a bit to spare after enjoying Alan Partridge, stick around for Teenage, also opening at the Shattuck on April 25.
Based on Jon Savage’s magisterial history of early 20th-century youth culture, Teenage is an eye-opening and surprisingly inspirational documentary in which child labor, the World Wars and the Great Depression all play a role in the development of adolescence.
‘Trap Street:’ Satisfyingly audacious
Last but definitely not least, it’s time once again for Pacific Film Archive to host the San Francisco International Film Festival, now in its 57th year. Early in the schedule comes the satisfyingly audacious Trap Street, in which a young Chinese man (impressive newcomer Yulai Lu) finds himself obsessed with a mysterious woman and a street that doesn’t seem to exist on any official maps. Screening at the Archive on Saturday, April 26 at 8 p.m., the film offers a pointed critique of the surveillance state that somehow got past Chinese censors.
Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly.
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