Review: ‘Big and Little Men’

Director Ake Sandgren's new film tells a moody story of friendship, betrayal and jazz set during the 1930s. Well made, with the feeling of a sad, slow blues tune, pic deserves to find an audience, even though it's not as alluring as helmer's previous "The Slingshot."

Director Ake Sandgren’s new film tells a moody story of friendship, betrayal and jazz set during the 1930s. Well made, with the feeling of a sad, slow blues tune, pic deserves to find an audience, even though it’s not as alluring as helmer’s previous “The Slingshot.”

Three friends in the north of Sweden — Folke, Gosta and Karl-Otto — are drawn together by their passion for American jazz. They even try to play it themselves, despite opposition from Folke’s father, a stern pastor who uses every means to convince his son to stay in the village.

Thanks to some money left them in the will of an old woman, Mrs. Alm, the trio get the chance to go to New York, but once there don’t even manage to leave the ship. One of them is killed in an accident, and back in Stockholm the remaining two decide to make a go of it as jazz musicians. But problems of the musical and female kinds start to split them apart.

First part of pic is excellent, thanks in part to Goran Nilsson’s beautiful cinematography and Sandgren’s ability to capture the almost painful beauty of northern Sweden. Here, too, is the pic’s most interesting character: Folke’s father, played by the ever-fine Thommy Berggren.

This section also has some nice comedic touches, as when the kids play a Louis Armstrong record too fast and think the singer is a woman, Lois Armstrong.

With the trip Stateside, however, the movie starts to go awry. The N.Y. harbor scenes look wooden and staged (they were), and back in Stockholm there are lapses in the storytelling that make some of the characters’ actions difficult to comprehend. Despite these flaws, it’s a pic worth a look.

Big and Little Men

(SMA OCH STORA MAN)

Production

(SWEDISH) A Svensk Filmindustri release (in Sweden) of a Svensk Filmindustri/Nordisk Film/TV4 production, with participation of the Swedish Film Institute and Nordic Film & TV Fund. (International sales: Nordisk, Stockholm.) Produced by Waldemar Bergendahl. Directed by Ake Sandgren. Screenplay, Sandgren, Lars Lindstrom. Camera (color), Goran Nilsson; editor, Grete Moldrup; music, Peter R. Eriksson; production design, Lars Westfelt; costume design, Ulrika Wolff, Sven Lunden; sound (Dolby), Wille Peterson-Berger, Anders Horling. Reviewed at SF preview theater, Stockholm, Aug. 22, 1995. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Folke ... Peter Engman Gosta ... Torgny (Kingen) Karlsson Karl-Otto ... Fredrik Hammar Pastor Flodin ... Thommy Berggren Mrs. Alm ... Sif Ruud Inga ... Malin Svarfar Agnes ... Petra Brylander Hjalm ... Roland Hedlund
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