Looking for Eric (2009)

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Released 2-Feb-2010

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director Ken Loach and actor Steve Evets
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 111:49
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Ken Loach
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Steve Evets
Eric Cantona
Stephanie Bishop
Gerard Kearns
Stefan Gumbs
Lucy-Jo Hudson
Cole Williams
Dylan Williams
Matthew McNulty
Laura Ainsworth
Max Beesley
Case ?
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

British film maker Ken Loach shares with fellow Brit Mike Leigh the mantle of king of social realism.

Whilst Leigh occasional cracks a smile (Secrets and Lies, Happy-Go Lucky) Loach's writing is often a far more serious place. His greatest works, (Kes, Riff-Raff, Raining Stones and My Name is Joe) are all snap shots of working class Brits struggling to make headway in an uncaring world. His last film The Wind that Shakes the Barley was a harsh look at mother England's rule of Ireland at the turn of the last century. It therefore comes as a surprise that there are plentiful laughs to be found in his latest film Looking for Eric. What is perhaps not surprising is that those laughs are interspersed with drama and heartbreak.

When we first meet Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) he is literally and metaphorically going round and round in circles. Trapped in a bottomless funk he drives his car the wrong way around a roundabout until the inevitable collision. Picked up from hospital by his best mate Meatballs (John Henshaw) Eric is at a loss to explain his actions.

In fact, he is a man adrift from almost everything. A postman by occupation he lives by the strength of his friendships. He needs to as his home life is a disaster. It's seven years since his last partner departed, leaving him with two step kids in his care, the late teens Ryan (Shameless actor Gerard Kearns) and young teen Jess (Stefan Gumbs). But the problems in his love life stretch far further back. For reasons he has kept to himself Eric walked out on his wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop) 30 years ago and hasn't spoken to her since. Their daughter Sam (Lucy Jo-Hudson) is the only reminder of the last time he was truly happy.

Actually, that's not true. Eric has been intermittently happy when watching his beloved Manchester United play and his name sake the great Eric Cantona slotting incredible goals. At the crossroads of his life, stealing dope from Ryan's hiding place, Eric is visited by Cantona himself. The great Frenchman, a figment of Eric's imagination, then schools the unhappy Manchurian in the lessons of life.

To a Manchester United supporter Cantona is a godlike figure. Captain and chief goal scorer for many years he was passionate and controversial (witness the kung-fu kick that saw him banned for nine months) and prone to spout philosophical comments.

If there is anyone who can inspire Eric to give himself a go it is Cantona. By chance Eric is forced into meeting with Lily and begins reconciling with his past and gently rekindling their love. Amongst this tenderness is a far more serious sub plot. Ryan has got himself associated with nasty hard case Zac (Steve Marsh) who forces the youngster to keep a gun at Eric's house so that it will be ready whenever he needs it. Eric discovers the gun and tries to stand up to the hoodlum with predictably poor results. Whilst Cantona is on hand for inspiration it is ultimately to his friends that Eric needs to turn to solve his problems.

Looking for Eric marks, as said, something of a departure for Loach, injecting humour into the gloomy landscape. He is ably assisted by a fantastic performance from Steve Evets as Eric Bishop. Evets lives and breathes the fags, lagers and faded dreams of Bishop. Each deep sigh resonates with the realisation that life could have been so much better.

It is not entirely clear how closely Cantona the actor represents Cantona the individual. Regardless, he plays himself well and has a ball with the role. When Eric Bishop says to him "people forget that you are just a man" and Cantona replies "I am not a man … I am Cantona!", staring him down with Gallic intensity before breaking into a wide smile, he is not only playing with his fame but also showing his skill as an actor.

Loach likes to work with unknowns or non-actors. He has gathered a wide cast of stand-up comedians and sometime actors to perform alongside Eric as his post office mates. Excellent comic timing makes the humour stand out proud.

The film is not perfect. The script, by long time Loach collaborator Paul Laverty, comes to a juncture where it doesn't know whether to tell the love story of Eric and Lily or the underworld drama. The result is at times an uneasy mix. The conclusion of the film, however, which draws from the crime story is so funny, serious and effective that worries about inconsistency are washed away.

Whilst some knowledge of Cantona is helpful, the inclusion of film clips of the great man in his prime are spine tingling whatever your level of football appreciation. Sometime actor Cantona, who co-produced the film, describes in it his desire to give his soccer fans "a gift" whenever he walks on the field. With this film Loach and Evets have given us an undeniable gift, a diamond in the rough.

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Transfer Quality

Video

Looking for Eric was shot on 35mm film and projected in the cinema at 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

That ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. It is 16 x 9 enhanced.

Looking for Eric would not fit into anyone's list of great looking films. That is no insult to Loach and Cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd. For the film captures the grit and grim reality of everyday life in working class Britain. Colours are subdued, flesh tones are on the pale side and there is not a gleaming surface in sight. There is slight grain throughout however the night scenes and dimly lit interiors are very murky and grainy.

The transfer is sharp enough and there are no problems with compression or artefacts of any kind. There was a minor telecine wobble during the opening credits which, it must be said, name over a dozen contributing financiers!

There are sub-titles in English for the hearing impaired which are entirely accurate.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

Looking for Eric carries an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s.

Again it is no slight to the film to say that the surround effects are subtle as most of the film comes front and centre. The sub-woofer is also used subtly.

Aside from the normal soundtrack there is an audio descriptive Dolby Digital 2.0 sound track running at 224k/bs.

Audio sync is fine.

At the cinema it was sometimes a struggle to hear all that was being said. It is not that the actors are particularly bad at annunciating - it is just that they have such strong accents. Steve Evets speaks clearly but quickly and his postal worker mates tend to throw in rapid fire lines in heavy accents. Eric Cantona is very French and his accent is strong. One of the joys of DVD is to be able to play the film with sub-titles (even with the Hearing Impaired audio cues) so as not to miss a line. This was particularly useful for picking up Cantona's pearls of wisdom - an example; he who is always checking the weather forecast will never go out to sea!

Music is by six-time Academy Award nominee George Fenton. He provides one of his sunniest sound tracks with a lot of brass thrown in for good measure.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

The Looking for Eric DVD contains only 2 extras.

Theatrical Trailer (1:14)

A short trailer for the film.

Audio Commentary - Ken Loach and Steve Evets

Ken Loach is now in his 70's. He is a careful speaker and deliberate thinker. This is not a track wanting to delve too deeply into the themes of the film although he does state at the outset what he thinks the film is about. The commentary track does benefit greatly from the interaction between actor and director.

Loach shoots in a fairly unique style. Fellow Brit director Mike Leigh workshops his actors to develop the script. In contrast, Loach has a script but gives it to the actors piece by piece. This has its upsides and downsides. Evets frequently relates how certain scenes came as a great surprise. The greatest, of course, was the appearance of Eric Cantona. Loach had provided Evets with the script only up to the point where Cantona speaks. The footballer was hidden on set until the moment when Evets turned around, and almost passed out, to see Cantona standing in the room.

There are other examples in this film and Loach's other films where this technique was used to surprise and motivate the actors.

It is fairly low key for a commentary track but definitely worth a listen. It starts with an almost literal bang as Evets relates how in the opening scene (Loach's films are shot in the order of the script) a stunt woman driving a vehicle travelling in the other direction swerved into their path causing a collision. Fortunately, says Loach, only he the expendable director was bruised.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   This DVD of Looking for Eric is marked Regions 2, 4 and 5.

A reader has advised that he purchased a Region 2 version of the film which has a second DVD of extras. These are:

The extras are, in fact, included on the Blu-ray release of the film, which will be reviewed shortly. They are a useful addition to the package.

It has not yet been released in region 1.

Summary

Looking for Eric is a sometimes prickly blend of humour and drama but it is a worthwhile ride featuring a brilliant performance from Steve Evets and a great cast of supporting characters including Eric Cantona.

The DVD quality reflects the look of the film in the cinema. Although some further material would have been nice to supplement the extras, the commentary track is a very worthwhile listen.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, March 05, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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