This uncategorizeable, unforgettable one-hour film experiment posits what might have gone on between John Lennon (Ian Hart) and his gay manager, Brian Epstein (David Angus), during a weekend for two in Barcelona in 1963, just before the Beatles conquered the world. Speculative, but never luridly so, this black-and-white curio stirred things up at festivals in Berlin, Sundance and New York. Written and directed by Christopher Münch, 29, a Californian who spent eight days shooting it and two years editing it, the film is an evocative mood piece that takes in a startling range of complicated emotions.
Though both men were from Liverpool, the reserved, cultured Epstein would seem to have little in common with his playfully loutish client. But in Angus’s rending performance, Epstein can’t hide his longing. Lennon’s reaction is by turns curious, teasing and deflective. Hart is uncanny; you can sense Lennon thinking on his feet. He flirts with a stewardess (a fine Stephanie Pack), talks of his wife and baby and then seems about to give in. Münch leaves the resolution ambiguous.
Sex isn’t the issue anyway. Both of these brilliant, troubled men – bonded by mutual affection and respect – want a deeper closeness. But neither can agree on how to achieve it. A compassionate delineation of this kind of friendship is rare in the arts (William Finn’s Falsettos, the most vitally entertaining musical in many a Broadway season, is the closest equivalent), but Münch’s brave and moving film achieves his goal beautifully. The Hours and Times is a small miracle.