Local Hero (1983)
Conceived by producer David Putnam as a blend of Ealing and Frank Capra – and starring Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster – this comedy about a Texan oil company’s attempt to purchase a remote Scottish community to make way for a refinery marked a huge leap in scale for writer-director Bill Forsyth, following his breakthrough hit 'Gregory’s Girl' in 1980. It follows similar territory to Powell and Pressburger’s ‘I Know Where I’m Going’ (1945) and ‘Laxdale Hall’ (1953) in its wry culture-clash comedy and the narrative resolution where the ruthless outsider falls for the charms of the Scottish village he’s supposed to be buying up.
Forsyth’s gentle pacing and taste for surreal running gags makes this a delight to watch. The director is less concerned with plot than with incidental sketches celebrating the lovable traits of his gallery of dreamers and eccentrics, from Lancaster’s astronomy-obsessed tycoon to Peter Capaldi’s lovelorn linguist and Jenny Seagrove’s web-footed marine biologist.
Dire Straits star Mark Knopfler made his film-composing debut with the synth-heavy score.
Chicago Times critic Roger Ebert called it: “A small film to treasure ... What could have been a standard plot about conglomerates and ecology turns instead into a wicked study of human nature.”