I righted a wrong the other day. It was nearly three years since I moved to Los Angeles and had not been to the New Beverly Theater. When I learned the new Edgar Wright film Last Night In Soho was going to screen there in 35mm, that would make for a memorable first time I thought.
For the uninitiated, the New Beverly Cinema is a famous revival theater that only screens films on celluloid. Their monthly programs are listed in a calendar format, you can still pick up a printed copy of these at the theater when you visit. In 2007, the New Beverly experienced a revival of its own, when legendary filmmaker Quentin Tarantino took over as owner and head programmer of the theater.
I grabbed my buttered popcorn and butterscotch cream soda from the concession stand, and settled in for Las Night In Soho. The movie follows Eloise, an aspiring clothing designer played by Thomasin McKenzie (“Jojo Rabbit“) who moves to London to study her trade, but soon she sees visions and a horror/mystery unravels from there.
The trailers for Last Night In Soho do not fully represent the tone of the movie, but often the most interesting stories are difficult to market. I feel this was the obstacle they faced advertising Last Night In Soho. One element of the story is Edgar Wright’s take on a Once Upon A Time In Hollywood story, meaning it was a love letter to a place and time. London in the 1960’s in this case.
Quickly, a supernatural ghost story emerges from the narrative. The lines of reality are blurred for Eloise when she is seen as a different person. This other character, Sandie, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (“Queen’s Gambit (TV)”, “Thoroughbreds“, “The Witch”) has a style and personally in stark contrast to Eloise.
Sandie and Eloise look similar, which I feel was a very intentional casting choice. This was made more clear when Eloise decides to dye her hair blonde like Sandie. What does it all mean we wonder, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
A major tonal shift occurs when Eloise starts seeing horrific figures on the streets of London and visions of violent actions from the past. For the record I usually hate ghost stories, because they tend to have no stakes and feel uneventful by the end. This is not true for Last Night In Soho.
This is a well crafted tapestry. A haunting blend of mystery, suspense and horror. Last Night In Soho is not your standard ghost story. It was beautifully shot and directed. Parts of it reminded me of Black Swan, which is high praise.
Edgar Wright is the director and co-writer of Last Night In Soho. Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“1917“, “Penny Dreadful (TV)”) is also a writer of the script. Some critics may say that the story is unimpressive and that audiences must be dazzled by the visuals and art of it all. While I do see this point, one could say the same about 1917, and most people feel that is a fantastic movie.
Rounding out the cast are British film legends Terence Stamp (“The Limey”, “Wall Street”, “Young Guns”) and Diana Rigg (“The Hospital”, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”). Sadly, Diana Rigg passed away a few months after production wrapped.
As for watching it in 35mm. I’m sure there are nearly imperceptible differences, but I didn’t notice. The charm and raw power of projecting on film comes from older prints that grow to have their own personality. So, it would be nice to watch this film print screened 10 years later.
As an Edgar Wright fan, I have to say this feels like his most mature work. I am looking forward to what he does next. If you want to see a genre bending, well crafted period piece, Last Night In Soho is worth the ride.
29th October 2021
THE QUICK SELL
An aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker.