Review: Breaking Glass DVD

Breaking Glass DVDSTUDIO: Olive Films | DIRECTOR: Brian Gibson | CAST: Hazel O’Connor, Phil Daniels, Jonathan Pryce, Jon Finch, Peter-Hugo Daly
RELEASE DATE: 8/16/11 | PRICE: DVD $24.95, Blu-ray $29.95
SPECS: PG | 94 min. | Musical drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Breaking Glass movie scene

Hazel O'Connor is shattered in Breaking Glass.

Movies about pop musicians always follow the same trajectory: The musician is sincere about their music while he/she plays hole-in-the-wall venues, then is seduced by fame and faces a crisis of conscience, “selling out” and leaving old friends behind. Breaking Glass followed that formula in 1980, during the flashy, inventive and slightly loopy “new wave” period of pop/rock.

The film is awash with extremely familiar plot twists, yet it also contains a fascinating and somewhat typically British sub-theme about political messages in pop music, which was clearly derived more from the punk and ska music of the period than new wave. Half of the picture is thus a Jailhouse Rock-ish portrait of a determined musician seduced by stardom, and the other half is reminiscent of the class-conscious British dramas made during the 1970s and 1980s.

Real-life singer-songwriter Hazel O’Connor stars as “Kate,” a politically minded rocker playing punk clubs. She is groomed for stardom by a young manager (Phil Daniels, Quadrophenia), who also becomes her lover. After Hazel achieves fame by performing at a protest event that becomes the scene of a riot, she succumbs to the charms of a more established but sleazy producer/manager (Jon Finch, Frenzy).

The film has much in common with two American girl-punk movies, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982) and Times Square (1980), but it diverged from those two cult favorites by having an extremely abrupt and grim conclusion, which is present on this DVD release. The odd thing about that finale is that it isn’t the film’s true end — the original version shown in England (and released on DVD in the U.K.) is 104 minutes and has a “happier” conclusion in which there is indeed hope for our damaged heroine.

Regardless of that unique bit of cinematic “surgery,” Breaking Glass remains an enjoyable artifact of the new wave period, distinguished by O’Connor’s very memorable, hook-driven songs, given the full Bowie-esque production treatment by Bowie’s own.

One downside: There are no special features on the DVD. But we’re happy with the movie.


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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”