When the great John Hurt died earlier this year, there were many references to the highlights of his career but I don’t recall this 1997 film which I saw on its UK cinema release and enjoyed.
Hurt plays Giles De’Ath, a distinguished author not known for his forays into popular culture. However, he heads to the cinema one day to avoid the rain, having locked himself out of his house. The film on offer is an E M Forster adaptation, so he is prepared to watch. The film awakens something in him; nothing to do with E M Forster as the film is called ‘Hotpants College 2’. The star of the film is a young American actor, Ronnie Bostock, played in a knowing way by Jason Priestley.
De’Ath becomes infatuated with the young actor, buying teen magazines with pictures of him and buying himself a VCR to watch old films. He restricts his housekeeper’s access to his study so that his obsession is not disturbed but his friends notice and one suggests he takes a holiday. He heads to Long Island, New York to Ronnie’s home town.
The film shows us the transformation of the author from other worldly figure to a man obsessed with the beauty of the actor he first saw on-screen. When they meet, Ronnie is actually enchanted by the older man’s interest in his career. Ronnie’s girlfriend is suspicious of his motives, though, and as meetings and joint trips are engineered by the older man, she sees that he is actually a rival for her boyfriend’s attention.
As with ‘Death in Venice’ which this story cleverly references, the ending is bound to be tragic but, in this case, we do not get a clear idea of what becomes of De’Ath, although we can guess. Ronnie emerges intact from the encounter but still affected by it.
The film was written and directed by Richard Kwietniowski and was based on a novel by British writer, Gilbert Adair. It is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?