Billy T: Te Movie Rebecca-Barry'S REVIEW
Ian Mune’s tribute to Billy T James is well-rounded, sensitive and funny. There’s plenty of warm-fuzzies nostalgia, from the source of that famous giggle to the comedian’s stints on Te News and Mune’s Came A Hot Friday; it’s just as amusing looking back at New Zealand in the pre-PC 1980s. Nor does the film shy away from the problems in the star’s life, including the conflict that arose following his death and burial on Mount Taupiri.
Te Movie paints a picture many won’t have seen of James: a shy man who found his confidence on stage with the Maori Volcanics showband, a man so passionate about comedy it led him to his peril. Remastered footage brings his dual personalities back to life, from his over-the-top satire to his well-spoken everyday nature. But the film is let down by a confusing sequence explaining his family history, with daughter Cherie appearing in much of the archival footage yet no mention of why she’s not interviewed for this. Perhaps she felt she’d said her piece in 1997 when she made the TV doco Billy T: A Daughter’s Story. Much of the editing too is disjointed and distracting, flicking between points of view.
Viewers are left with a respect for two things: the legacy of the incredible Billy T James, and the difficulties of telling a story about a man no longer with us.