Oasis: Supersonic (2016) Director: Mat Whitecross
Wonderwall (1968) Director: Joe Massot 

Supersonic Wonderwall

Over the past coupla weeks I’ve watched two documentaries about filmmaking.

One, Hitchcock/Truffaut, examined the French auteur’s book on the master of suspense with Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Wes Anderson and others analysing Hitchcock’s techniques and legacy.

The other documentary was Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, which traced the careers of the men behind the company that specialised in bandwagon jumping movies about ninjas, break dancers and ludicrous all action affairs that usually starred Chuck Norris getting busy with a bazooka. Talking heads here included Bo Derek and Molly Ringwald.

I’m a big fan of Hitchcock and own many of his films on DVD. I also have a number of Trauffaut’s films in my collection and a quad poster for Jules at Jim hangs on my living room wall. I own nothing from the Cannon, em, canon. Albeit I confess I have enjoyed some of their output, the Ninja Trilogy and Runaway Train springing to mind.

You’ve likely guessed that I actually preferred Electric Boogaloo, although I would recommend you to see both.

I mention this to explain that while I’m not a fan, I thought I’d take a chance on Oasis: Supersonic when I came across it in a local charity shop earlier this week.

Supersonic traces the career of Oasis from the childhood of the Gallagher’s through to the Knebworth enormo-shows in the summer of 1996, thus avoiding the far from engrossing years following the fiasco of Be Here Now.

In many ways the most interesting aspect of the film is seeing the pre-fame days of Noel and Liam growing up in Burnage, a world of guitars and Greggs, marijuana and Man City.

‘We’re just lads from a council estate,’ Noel explains. ‘Two brothers. Headcases.’

Luckily the two headcases possessed a pair of traits that helped make them stand out: real self-belief and gargantuan ambition. And Noel was blessed with the capacity to come up with songs that were equal parts pop anthem and terrace chant.

‘I want the severed head of Phil Collins in my fridge by the end of the decade,’ a young Noel declares. ‘And if I haven’t, I’ll be a failure.’

To cut a potentially long review short, I found Supersonic only moderately engaging but the older Gallagher brother does repeatedly demonstrate his ability to conjure up a memorable quote.

A meat and two veg documentary on a meat and two veg band.

Wonderwall Tea Break title card

And now for the film that gave Oasis the title for their 1995 single Wonderwall.

Can you imagine the reaction of the team behind the film when they discovered that one of Britain’s biggest ever bands had decided to name their new single – certain to sell shedloads of copies – after their long neglected film?

I’m guessing some fist pumps and a very loud ‘Oh yeeeeesssssssss’.

Featuring a score supplied by George Harrison (and some friends) and made at a point when relations within The Beatles were more frosty than fab, Wonderwall tells the story of Oscar Collins (Jack MacGowran), a middle-aged scientist who is about to get a glimpse into the world of the beautiful people.

The professor lives in a cramped flat in West London. He looks perpetually puzzled by the world and is single, socially inept and staggeringly absent-minded – when he attempts to steep his feet in a bucket of warm water he forgets to take off his socks.

While analysing some scientific data he’s disturbed by some very loud Indian style Raga music. Through a peephole in a huge Pre-Raphaelite inspired canvas in his living room he sneaks a glance into the room next door and sees for the first time his new neighbour, a young woman clad in the latest Carnaby Street fashions who looks like the epitome of the Swinging London chick. This is Penny Lane (oh dear!) played by Jane Birkin.

This proves to be the start of an obsession for Oscar.

Soon he’s tearing out the painting, easing out bricks and drilling holes to get a better gander – and don’t ask why she doesn’t seem to notice any of this.

Next door is a different, very exotic world. Hip, happening and very definitely Hippy with a capital H, Penny’s pad is a vibrant pop art palace decorated in hand painted psychedelic art drenched in acidic primary colours.

Here Penny, a model, takes part in photoshoots and holds far out parties with her pals in some groovy fashions, some of the men’s outfits resembling the kind of kit favoured by Austin Powers.

Wonderwall, Jane Birkin

Oscar begins imagining some elaborate fantasies involving Penny. He stops going into work and rips his phone off the hook. When a work colleague visits to see if he’s okay, Oscar chides his behaviour as ‘Very strange indeed’. Which could act as a shorthand description of Wonderwall although another line of dialogue, when Penny’s boyfriend discusses his relationship and claims ‘It’s a drag,’ could again serve as an equally succinct way to sum up the film.

This is a pity as there was a lot of talent involved in its making. Apart from Harrison, there’s Jane Birkin who soon teamed up with Serge Gainsbourg; Jack MacGowran, a legend of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre who was later cast in The Exorcist; while the writers both had great pedigrees (Gérard Brach who devised the story often collaborated with Roman Polanski and penned the screenplay for The Name of the Rose while the screenwriter Guillermo Cabrera Infante co-wrote the script for 1971’s Vanishing Point under the pseudonym Guillermo Caín).

Then there’s The Fool, the design collective that forged a close working connection with The Beatles, most famously creating the three-story mural painted on the façade of the Beatles’ Apple Boutique on the corner of Baker Street. I was very impressed by their set designs, costumes and title cards which are easily the best thing about Wonderwall.

The film seems to have been put together with a hippy dippy, go with the flow attitude.

Structure and character arcs? Those are for straights, man!

The comedy also generally backfires and the music only intermittently excels. Oh and if you want to see this purely on account of Anita Pallenberg, then don’t bother, you might blink at the wrong time and miss her.

The main problem, though, is the fact that while seemingly innocent and definitely eccentric, it’s impossible for audiences to ignore the professor’s voyeurism – which at no time does he even question, let alone feel any guilt over.

Equal parts psychedelia, surrealism and Goonish absurdism, Wonderwall might be classified as a cult film but it’s nowhere near a cult classic.

Although Liam Gallagher might disagree.

It’s maybe worth a watch as a curiosity, a glimpse of the country in the immediate wake of the Summer of Love but I wouldn’t recommend anybody seek it out unless they are big George Harrison fans.

For a better film about Peeping Toms try, well, Peeping Tom, while for a better Swinging London film try Blow Up (which Birkin also appeared in).

If I haven’t completely put you off, here’s the trailer:

The accompanying soundtrack album, Wonderwall Music, became the first solo album by a Beatle and also the first release on Apple Records.

And here’s a little taster from it: