Sunday, August 17, 2008

The movie thing...

Something about THE TOWN THAT BOARS ME

Now, shall I wear my electric-blue brogues? The high-heeled lilac boots? The traffic-light-red Patrick Coxes? The black python-skin? Hmm, no: let’s have the new patent-leather Joneses with pink edging and laces.

A journalist does not usually choose his shoes with such care, particularly when interviewing a 25-year-old neophyte director. But then Ben Charles Edwards is also a fashion and nightlife photographer, and his debut film is a 15-minute musical about a hybrid pig-boy with a shoe fetish who roams town by night stealing the high heels of local women — played, with fabulous casting, by Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Kelly Osbourne, Zandra Rhodes and the drag queen Jodie Harsh.

“I always look at a person’s shoes first,” Edwards confirms when we meet. He approves of my shoe selection with the rather backhanded compliment that it’s “how the Child Catcher might dress if he had been a dandy”.

And before long, we’re dipping our elegantly-shod toes into deep psychological waters, namely that a love of heels stems back to your mother, seen as a baby from ankle-height. This had not occurred to Edwards before, but he confirms: “Mothers are what the universe revolves around, aren’t they? And you’re right, I’ve never seen her without high heels, except once when she hurt her foot.”

The genesis of The Town That Boars Me came when he was sitting in a café in his home town of Woking, appalled by the lack of sartorial ambition in the girls who passed by. The only acceptable reason, he decided, why none was wearing high heels would be if some creature was stealing them, making women scared to wear them on the streets. This alchemised in his fevered imagination with a childhood obsession with Animal Farm, and a love of musicals and exploitation flicks.

Mix it all together, and what do you get? Actually, no one’s sure yet, including Edwards. Though the film opens the Portobello Film Festival on August 28, he hasn’t yet had the all-important sessions with the professional film editor Nick Barnes. But you could bet your Blahniks it won’t be anything like most British movies: as Edwards says dismissively, “They’re either about football fans or some lout bashing people’s heads in.”

That’s how he attracted his stellar cast: they loved the idea — and Edwards himself. “He seemed so sure of what he wanted to achieve,” Ellis-Bextor explains later, “that I trusted him. And I liked the idea of this twisted little fairytale; it’s quite Tim Burtonish.”

It’s not just acting talent that Edwards has attracted: the songs are co-written by Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene, with assistance from the film music composer Angus Havers. And all for love, not money — though Edwards has hopes, if the film is a success, of turning it into a feature, or perhaps a full-length stage musical. To garner more support, he will be putting the film on MySpace after its festival run. Big dreams for a lover of low-budget Grindhouse movies. “You can’t exactly call this Grindhouse,” Edwards laughs. “Grindhouse is low budget, and this is zero budget! So I’d have to call this council-house, not Grindhouse.”

Edwards is refreshingly free of pretension, though he is articulate and questing, conversation ranging freely from evolution through semiotics to star signs. If he has a visual philosophy, it’s that he loves the intersection of “glamour and filth” — hence the pig creature and the shoes. But in the end, he’d rather we just relaxed and enjoyed the show. “It’s like those dandelions that you blow on; when they’re in that state, their only purpose is to reproduce. And that’s what we are, in a sense. We’re all so preoccupied with enjoying luxuries and thinking we’re better than we are, and we’re not, we’re still animals. That’s why this film isn’t that serious — nothing in life is.”

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