Local Hero (Scotland, Bill Forsyth)
This warm-hearted fish-out-of-water tale highlights the cultural differences (and underlying similarities) between a big city American capitalist and small town Scottish villagers. Bill Forsyth directs the film with wry understatement and has gentle affection for all of his characters.
Paul Riegert plays Mac, an oil company executive sent to the quaint seaside Scottish village to encourage the townsfolk to sell out to the corporate interests. Just as Mac falls in love with the country and its people, the villagers are equally seduced by his promises of instant, immense wealth. However, there is one eccentric holdout, played by Fulton Mackay, who is determined to stick around and protect his beloved beach.
Rather than exploiting the cliché of an evil American oil company battling plucky Scottish townfolk, writer/director Forsyth pursues a quirkier and more intriguing theme of the seduction of the Old World by the New, an idea that has animated such dissimilar works as Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita.
Forsyth's use of "magical realism" is compellingly understated and restrained. This Scotsman's deadpan, self-deprecating satire of his countrymen is more indebted to Alexander Pope than to the more savage Jonathan Swift. The whimsical characters may be oddballs, but they are not gullible hicks: they want the Americans to show them the money. Forsyth's gags rarely occur at the expense of people's dignity, instead highlighting our basic human frailty.
Chris Menges gives us many panoramic shots of the surprisingly beautiful Scottish landscape, while Mark Knopfler's plaintive soundtrack perfectly accents the proceedings. The performances of Burt Lancaster as the eccentric and ambitious oil tycoon is a constant delight, while Peter Riegert's Mac is appropriately (and alternately) flustered and smitten.