We often start our holiday film viewing with this quirky little comedy by director Bill Forsyth, whose best-known film is probably Local Hero (1983). Even though Comfort & Joy is one of the outlier films this year (i.e., with no connection to New York City) we always include it on our Christmas watchlist because it is so charming and because of the soundtrack by Mark Knopfler.
Scottish disc jockey Alan “Dickie” Bird is a local celebrity whose private life has come unraveled when his kleptomaniac girlfriend suddenly leaves him. Looking for some new direction, he stumbles into a Glasgow “ice cream war” between competing ice cream truck companies (Mr. McCool vs. Mr. Bunny), who vandalize each other’s trucks and even Dickie’s precious red BMW sports car. Caught up in the madness, Dickie mediates the feud and eventually suggests a cooperative business: ice cream fritters.
The film begins with a scene in a department store bustling with holiday shoppers, and it ends on Christmas day with Dickie Bird at the radio station spinning records and tales for his loyal audience.
WHY WE LOVE THIS MOVIE
The soundtrack by Mark Knopfler is jazzy and clever, with an allusion to The Godfather that fits the film’s satire. One track on the soundtrack album is called “A Fistful of Ice Cream,” echoing an old Clint Eastwood western. Comfort & Joy also includes repeated brief cuts from Knopfler’s Love Over Gold album by Dire Straits, and for aficionados a quick quote from one of the lyrics. (Barbara wants to ask Mark Knopfler, should we ever meet him in a bar, if he also wrote Mr. Bunny’s ice cream truck tune.) But mostly we just love this charming, funny and wistful story with its amusing characters. See if you can catch an allusion to The Godfather Part 2 in a piece of business in the confectioner’s shop. There is also an allusion to a classic Marx Brothers bit from A Night at the Opera when the station manager asks his secretary to find out if there is a “sanity clause” in Dickie Bird’s contract.
WHERE CAN YOU SEE THE FILM?
Sorry to say, but I can’t seem to find this movie on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. You can purchase used VHS tapes via Amazon. Be careful! The DVD available on Amazon is non-USA format, and there is a 2003 made-for-TV movie by the same name that is available in loads of places, but it has no connection (other than title) to Bill Forsyth’s film. You can see a short clip on YouTube and also listen to a track from the album with some sample scenes from the film. There is also a lovely, lengthy review of the film here: https://offscreen.com/view/comfort_and_joy