THE BALLAD OF HUGH (Marco DiFelice) Opens Tuesday (October 23) at the Royal Cinema. See times. Rating: NNN
Despite a lifetime of near-breakthroughs - Anne Murray almost recorded one of his songs - artistic glory has eluded local octogenarian troubadour Hugh Oliver. But he keeps plugging away, writing witty, pithy poems and lyrics about love and death, and performing every Friday at the Tranzac.
The Ballad Of Hugh, directed by Oliver's friend, producer and biggest fan, Marco DiFelice, seems designed to thrust Oliver into some new sphere of success. But, as DiFelice himself muses in the film's largely superfluous voice-over, success probably means more to him than it does to Oliver, who's pretty content with his gigs, bridge club and Saturday dinner dates at Swiss Chalet with his ex (conspicuously absent from the film).
Built around the two-day recording session DiFelice arranged for Oliver's debut CD (the session musicians include Polaris Prize winner Patrick Watson and a couple of Oliver's grandchildren), the film is an amiable profile, but it lacks structure, scope and momentum. Even at a slender 68 minutes, the smattering of animated sequences and cheesy special effects feel more like padding than elements integral to the subject.