Storefront Hitchcock

USA 1997

Reviewed by Neil McCormick


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Cult British singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock stands in a shop window chatting and playing songs to an unseen audience inside the shop. He is joined intermittently by violinist Deni Bonet and guitarist Tim Keegan. A constant stream of cars and pedestrians can be seen passing behind Hitchcock's back. Occasionally someone will stop and peer through the window. During what appears to be one continuous performance, the background shifts from day to night and back again.


Robyn Hitchcock is not exactly a household name. His seminal band, The Soft Boys, surfaced in the late 70s playing what he himself has described as "sedate hippie gibberish" when the music industry was being engulfed by punk rock. Confronted by widespread indifference to such singles as '(l Want to Be an) Anglepoise Lamp' they broke up in 1981, though Hitchcock has continued writing and recording in much the same vein ever since, at first backed by a band called The Egyptians but latterly completely solo. He draws on 60s psychedelic pop as the basis for melodic and emotional compositions, blending bitterness, weirdness and surreal humour in unusual settings. Some critics would argue that Hitchcock's sprawling body of work (he has released over 15 albums) remains one of the great undiscovered treasures of modern pop. But there are probably just as many who think it should remain undiscovered.

Rock superstars REM are among Hitchcock's biggest fans and their endorsement in the 80s helped introduce him to the American college audience who comprise his most loyal fan base.

It was after a typically low-key show in New York that Hitchcock was approached by Jonathan Demme about making a movie. At first glance, the very idea of a feature-length concert film being made about an obscure English eccentric by an Academy award-winning American director seems almost as absurd as one of Hitchcock's off-the-wall monologues. Attempting to explain his appeal, Hitchcock has previously commented: "My stuff is not widescreen. It doesn't look good from a distance. It's more like an etching. You have to get right up close and look at it carefully." So what is he doing on the big screen?

Winning new friends and influencing people, probably. Before the enormous success of Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, Demme enjoyed critical acclaim for his simple, performance-based films about author and raconteur Spalding Grey (1978's Swimming to Cambodia) and art rock group Talking Heads (1984's Stop Making Sense). Shot over four days and nights in a storefront in New York, Storefront Hitchcock follows the same stylistic pattern as the earlier films: a stripped-down minimalism that forces the viewer to focus intently on the performer. It is, in this sense, closer to the etching Hitchcock imagined than to anything routinely thought of as a widescreen experience.

Apart from a somewhat incongruous four-panelled split-screen during a guitar solo, Demme employs few of the techniques usually associated with rock videos and performance movies. There is almost no camera movement (discounting the occasional subtle zoom or slight pan), no rapid-fire cutting or extravagant staging (one song is performed by candlelight, another beneath a single electric bulb), no audience-reaction shots. The only distraction is provided by the intriguing setting. The out-of-focus, constantly moving backdrop of the city and the subtle yet peculiar shifts from day to night create a dreamlike sense of distorted time. Hitchcock truly seems to be in a world of his own, which some would say has always been the case.

Hitchcock is an acquired taste - and if you don't acquire it, the film is likely to prove unbearable. His thin, reedy voice will have some wondering whatever might have convinced him he could sing. And his epic monologues (which sometimes resemble jokes without a punchline) are as likely to baffle as many people as they delight. Yet if you have the patience to settle in, relax and slowly adjust to his peculiar point of view, Hitchcock is a revelation. Although there is much humour in his act, he is not a comedian. His songs address a huge span of ideas and emotions and Demme's close-up style allows all Hitchcock's nuance and subtlety to register.


Peter Saraf
Director of Photography
Anthony Jannelli
Andy Keir
Robyn Hitchcock
©Orion Pictures Corporation
Production Companies
Orion Pictures presents a Clinica Estetico production
Executive Producers
Gary Goetzman
Edward Saxon
Associate Producer
Steven Shareshian
Production Associates
Neda Armian
Eric Kim
Location Supervisor
Lauri Pitkus
Assistant Directors
Ron Bozman
Kyle McCarthy
Script Supervisor
Anne Gyory
Camera Operators
Patrick Capone
Christopher Norr
David Knox
Thomas Weston
Location Visual Team
Stephen Beatrice
Kara Cressman
John Souto
Roseann Milano
Carl Fullerton
Francesca Paris
Tibor Kalman
Music Editor
Thomas Drescher
Music Recorder
John Hanlon
"Devil's Radio", "1974", "Filthy Bird", "Let's Go Thundering", "I Something You", "I Am Not Me", "You and Oblivion", "All Right Yeah", "I Don't Remember Guildford", "Airscape", "Freeze", "Glass Hotel", "I'm Only You", "I Got a Message for You", "The Yip! Song" by/performed by Robyn Hitchcock
Sound Supervisor/Mixer
Jonathan Porath
Sound Consultant
Mark Wolfson
Production Sound
Chris Newman
Sound Effects Editor
Lewis Goldstein
Creative Adviser
Kirsten Coyne
Robyn Hitchcock
Deni Bonet
Tim Keegan
guitar/backing vocals
United International Pictures (UK) Ltd
6,942 feet
77 minutes 8 seconds
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011