"Local Hero" is as gentle as Capra corn and as magical as the Misty Isles. An insightful, international commentary -- badly named, but beautifully drawn -- takes us roaming in the gloaming and questing among stars.
Like Spielberg in "E.T.," Scots filmmaker Bill Forsyth searches the heavens for miracles, the last horizon seen from the lost horizon. His intent, he says, is to hold "Apocalypse Now" in "Brigadoon."
Forsyth's Brigadoon, a North Sea fishing village called Ferness, is endangered by the black gold under its shoreline. His four horsemen are nothing more ominous than a quartet of greedy businessmen. A Houston conglomerate, headed by Burt Lancaster, wants to convert Ferness into an oil refinery, and merger whiz-kid Mac MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) is sent to close the deal.
Mac enters paradise, with his electric briefcase, his eyes bright with urban stars, like sodium-vapor lamps. His gawky Scots counterpart Danny (Peter Capaldi) seems a fool opposite Mac's smart American sass. But nothing is as it seems. And as the two drive toward Ferness, a sudden fog wraps the car like a wraith from the barrow. The young executives sleep and are changed, awaking in a valley, enchanted till a passing jet breaks the spell -- an omen of greater industrial carnage.
At Ferness, the handsome innkeeper (Denis Lawson), who's also the unofficial mayor, barkeep, waiter and accountant, welcomes them with lilting style. However, he and the villagers are in cahoots to take Mac for millions. The citizens of Ferness (from a punk girl to the church's black African minister) are all for selling out and the devil take natural beauty.
Only two stand against the tide. Marina (Jenny Seagrove), the marine biologist with webs between her toes, who may or may not be a mermaid. And old Ben (Fulton MacKay), a hermit by the silvered surf, who won't sell his driftwood home on ancestral sand -- six miles crucial to the deal. He watches the stars and maps the sky, prophet and bum.
Lancaster (Felix Happer, chairman of the board) helicopters in from Houston to persuade him. Crosscuts to Texas accommodate the actor's talent and hold the film steady. They also allow him more screen time, including some wonderfully mad scenes with his abuse therapist (Norman Chancer), an insane doctor for a world gone ape. Happer, also a stargazer, seeks immortality in Virgo, hoping to discover a comet there and give it his name. This also provides Forsyth with a heavenly excuse.
"Local Hero" offers opinion and characterization more than plot. Its only finite act is to cast Mac out of paradise. And like anyone coming back from a vacation, he looks around his apartment -- yes, just the way it was -- then tacks three photos on his bulletin board. Houston's upside down. The night sky is empty and neon stars shine at his feet. LOCAL HERO -- At the K-B Fine Arts.