This is the film for which the word `quirky' was invented. Based on Gilbert Adair's cult novel, it's a delicious story of opposites, a coming together of two generations, cultures and artistic leanings. It is, uniquely, Remains Of The Day meets Animal House.
The monkish De'Ath, untainted by the chaos of the 20th century, becomes inexplicably obsessed with pretty poster-boy Bostock. He dreams of becoming a transatlantic good Samaritan, a lifelong mentor to Bostock, who's lost in a hell-hole world of straight-to-video shockers like Hotpants College 2 and Skidmarks. So Hurt, here in absolutely blinding form, re-enters the modern world to be confronted by TVs, videogames, teen magazines, loud music, street slang and the arrogant strut of US youth culture, before discovering America itself.
Priestley is perfect for the role as a dippy teen idol (it's been the basis of his whole career so far). But when the two of them finally meet and he's required to do some real acting as a `real' person in the `real' world opposite Hurt, he acquits himself only averagely (but then, maybe that's the point). Still, there is much culture-clash-inspired humour here (Hurt reading through the actor's next script `in character' is hysterical) and the film's premise is well-executed. As a result, Priestley's shortcomings matter little.
This could so easily have been embarrassing or even an unsavoury Lolita-a-like (lonely old man stalks/lusts after fresh-faced lad). But Hurt remains convincingly believable, while his highbrow, high-culture world clashes with Priestley's no-brainer-films-within-the-film excerpts, excellent one-liners and splendid cameo roles, all combine to make Love And Death On Long Island never less than enthralling.
John Hurt devours the lens in this unexpectedly enchanting gem. A gentle paean to the fantasy and power of cinema, Love And Death is highly original, funny, poignant, intelligent and ultimately delightful. It's like, radical, dude.