Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live In Budapest '86

Fri, Sep 21, 2012, 01:00

Directed by Josh Schwartz. Starring Victoria Justice, Jane Levy, Thomas McDonell, Chelsea Handler, Johnny Knoxville, Abby Elliott 12A cert, general release, 90 min

THEY DON’T make concert films like they used to. Nowadays even straight-up show recordings are duty bound to include faux-fly-on- the-wall cutaways, last-minute dramas and – take cover – New Material. Luckily, here’s one Queen prepared years earlier.

The date and time are significant. In 1986, the band are at the height of their powers on the back of a storming Live Aid performance. Freddie Mercury, some five years away from his tragic early demise, still looks rosy in canary yellow sweats and turquoise boxer boots.

It’s a great gig, as you’d expect. There’s no warn-up required; the gang simply arrive on stage with the kind of boom and intensity most bigger, better live acts are happy to muster during the grand finale. There are lessons to be learned here about the virtues of group practice and the brotherhood of rock.

Sixteen years into their history, Queen are professional, proficient and polished. Watching this rousing Budapest engagement, the first ever stadium rock concert staged behind the Iron Curtain, we come to believe the four members are taking turns breathing. How else could Freddie possibly simultaneously move and sing like that?

János Zsombolyai’s film, made using many, many state-sanctioned cameras, has a great view of the proceedings. The new digital restoration is unobtrusive. Inserts are kept to a minimum – a pity, as Mercury is uncharateristically chatty (“Oooh, I shouldn’t say that here”). There’s something magic about the way he plays to the crowd, all 100,000 of them. The girls sport big hair and hoop earrings in keeping with the style of the times; the boys wear plastic glasses and are probably all called the Hungarian equivalent of Derek. They know and sing every word.

Looking back from an era when live events are defined by designer pies and Mind Body Spirit tents, Hungarian Rhapsody is a poignant reminder of a time when people went to gigs to, you know, see the band.