Thirty years ago this week, Kate Lock asked me to review Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider for the Oxford Star. I have lost count of the number of films I have covered since - both in print and online - for that publication and for the Oxford Times and its stable mates. A deep debt of gratitude is owed to Kate and the likes of Chris Gray and Tim Metcalfe for enabling me to to write about cinema for their readers for so long. It has been a privilege and a pleasure and and I hope to continue doing so for a long time to come. That said, had some of the titles on offer this week been screening three decades ago, it might have been tempting to pursue another line of endeavour.

Back in 1985, Nanni Moretti announced himself as a talent to watch with The Mass Is Ended, which brought him to the attention of an international audience after enjoying modest domestic success with his first four features, I Am Self Sufficient (1976), Ecce bombo (1978), Sweet Dreams (1981) and Bianca (1984). His latest offering, Mia Madre, is a study of loss that suggests a kinship with The Son's Room (2001). But this study of a film director coping with a misfiring picture and the imminent loss of a parent has more in common with Moretti's early snapshots of Italian society than with seminal recent works like Dear Diary (1993), The Caiman (2006) and We Have a Pope (2011). Inspired by the death of Moretti's own mother during the editing of the latter title, this is typically flecked with autobiographical detail. But it also contains some neat inversions and a light relief sub-plot that doesn't quite come off.

Roman film director Margherita Buy is about to start work on a political drama about a lock-in at a factory facing redundancies. But she is distracted by the fact that her elderly mother, Giulia Lazzarini, has been admitted to hospital with cardiac problems and Buy spends most evenings visiting with her engineer brother, Nanni Moretti. Although separated from Stefano Abbati, they remain friends and indulge daughter Beatrice Mancini with skiing holidays and a new scooter. However, she is struggling at school with her Latin, which is the subject Lazzarini taught for many years.

Buy meets American actor John Turturro at the airport and takes him to dinner with producer Tony Laudadio. He has been hired to play the intransigent boss and boasts under the influence that he was a close confidante of Stanley Kubrick. On set, however, he can barely remember his lines and repeatedly challenges Buy's authority. Compounding her woes, Buy breaks up with boyfriend Enrico Ianniello, while Lazzarini goes into decline and is moved into intensive care. As a consequence, Buy starts having dreams (or are they confused memories mixed with fears) about seeing her mother and her younger self in a long cinema queue, about trying to take the wheel of a car and crashing it into a wall, and about being powerless to prevent Lazzarini from wandering off the ward and into the busy street in her hospital shift.

Waking one morning, Buy finds her apartment has been flooded and she moves into Lazzarini's place while she finishes the film. Her relationship with Turturro continues to deteriorate and she becomes flustered during a press conference, in which she is asked whether she still has her finger on the pulse of Italian society. Moretti takes compassionate leave from his job and agrees that Lazzarini should spend her final days at home surrounded by her family. She takes delight in helping Mancini with her Latin homework and Buy feels huge relief on finishing her feature. However, Lazzarini dies shortly afterwards and Buy and Moretti take great comfort from the number of ex-students who pop in to offer their condolences and assure them that she was a fine teacher who touched countless lives.

Nobody explores the anguish of bereavement with more sensitivity and insight than Moretti and François Ozon. Anyone who has watched a loved one slip away will recognise the emotions experienced by Lazzarani's family, as they try to make the most of the remaining time allotted to her while also preparing themselves for the emptiness that will result from her imminent absence. In this regard, the attempt to lighten proceedings by lampooning actorly pretension is laudable. But, even though Turturro excels as the preening star with nothing to offer but self-delusion, Moretti struggles to integrate this side of Buy's highly pressurised life, even though he drops sizeable hints that he shares many of her directorial foibles.

Despite this slight disjointedness, Moretti and co-scenarists Francesco Piccolo and Valia Santella convey the difficulties of trying to get on with one's life when it is about to be irrevocably transformed. This is clearly a personal picture for Moretti, hence the use of old favourites Arvo Pärt and Philip Glass on the melancholic soundtrack. But Paola Bizzari's production design and Arnaldo Catinari's camerawork reinforce the significance of the everyday details that root the drama in an authentic, but unforced reality that each of us will have to endure at various points on our journey.

Moretti is a respected member of the cabal of actor-writer-directors and 24 year-old Craig Roberts joins its ranks with his debut feature, Just Jim. First seen in Richard Ayoade's acclaimed bow, Submarine (2010), Roberts has enhanced his thesping reputation with a number of American pictures (although the one reviewed below does him few favours). But he looks set to have an even more promising career behind the camera, as his sure visual sense is one of the strengths of an idiosyncratic rite of passage that makes pointed reference to Ayoade's offering, as well as the works of Nicholas Ray, David Lynch and Wes Anderson.

Seventeen year-old Craig Roberts lives in the Gwent village of Maesycwmmer. Barely able to hold a conversation with parents Nia Roberts and Aneirin Hughes, he is bullied at school and treated with disdain by headmaster Richard Harrington and his staff. He daydreams about dating pink-haired classmate Charlotte Randall, but his social skills are so feeble that even his dog runs away from him. Left to his own devices, Roberts hides away in the local fleapit watching endless re-runs of a cornball film noir, The Piper's Revenge.

Everything changes, however, when American twentysomething Emile Hirsch moves in next door and he puts Roberts through a crash course in growing up. He orders him to stop being such a loser and gives him the confidence to chat to Randall. Hirsch even helps Roberts win a cross-country race by threatening the other competitors with a gun and convinces him to host a wild house party while his folks are away. But Roberts soon comes to see the dark side of his new pal and suspects him of not only killing his dog, but also turning his mum and dad against him.

Disturbed by his behaviour, they seek to Roberts institutionalised. But, when Hirsch takes them to the pictures, Roberts lures him into the street and bundles him into the boot of his car. In the ensuing reverie, Roberts appears to kill Hirsch and he suddenly finds himself running in the cross-country race again. However, it is never entirely clear whether Roberts has imagined everything.

Bearing the influence of Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Tony Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), John Schlesinger's Billy Liar (1963) and David Fincher's Fight Club (1999), this is a highly cine-literate first outing and Roberts is to be commended for the acuity of his borrowings and the audacity of his decision making. He is ably abetted in creating a curiously 50s retro vibe by production designer Arwel Jones and cinematographer Richard Stoddard, whose work is particularly effective during the movie pastiche and the dream interludes (one of which sees Roberts suspended in an underwater shaft of light).

But, while he sustains the suspense around the stranger, the storyline leaves a lot to be desired, as Roberts struggles to know what to do with his character's Tyler Durden-like mentor. He also seems to find it harder to pitch a gag than explore graver adolescent issues. Most enervatingly, however, Roberts looks too old to play a misfit teenager and might have been better advised casting someone of the right age. But this is a more than decent first step towards what could easily become Roberts's métier.

It's not that Roberts gives a bad performance in Dan Beers's Premature, it's just that what he is asked to do is puerile, chauvinist and wholly unworthy of his talents. Beers and co-writer Matthew Harawitz have clearly seen a lot of 80s teenpics and believed that hilarity would be a foregone conclusion if they sprinkled some American Pie crumbs over their shamelessly derivative retread of Harold Ramis's Groundhog Day (1993). But everything that made that warm, witty and wise treatise on self-discovery and acceptance is missing from this crude rip-off that rapidly runs out of ideas and stumbles around with increasingly deplorability and desperation in search of a denouement that was actually signposted within the first five minutes.

Waking in horror to see shocked mother Kate Kneeland gazing at the aftermath of a wet dream, high-school senior John Karna comes down to breakfast to receive a pep talk from father Steve Coulter about doing well in his interview for his alma mater, Georgetown. Cycling to collect best buddy Craig Roberts, Karna is disgusted to hear about his latest encounter with girlfriend Zoe Myers and is relieved to arrive at school to hook up with gal pal Katie Findlay, who has plans for them to spend the evening watching a spelling bee on the television in her bedroom.

Findlay is accompanied by Adam Riegler, a monobrowed Iranian prodigy who plans lessons for bone idle teacher Elon Gold. He asks Karna if he wants him to put in a good word with admissions tutor Alan Tudyk and he almost regrets saying no when his best trousers are doused with a urine-filled water pistol by some volleyball jocks in the locker corridor. Forced to wear a pair of orange shorts that scarcely match his jacket and tie, emerges from his meeting convinced that he has blown his chances because the recently widowed Tudyk has an emotional breakdown.

Needing to feel better about himself, Karna follows Roberts's advice to skip the spelling bee and lose his virginity with blonde classmate Carlson Young, who seems very keen to move their regular private tutoring session to tonight. However, having been spooked by Israeli weirdo Jonathan Kleitzman smoking on the doorstep, Karna gets a little overexcited when Young makes her move and his premature ejaculation brings him back to the precise moment that morning when his mother had burst into his room and urged him to put the sheets in the wash.

Initially bemused by being given the opportunity to relive the same day over and over again, Karna slowly realises that he can make mistakes without consequence simply by climaxing and starting afresh. Yet, while he fails to get any further with Young or stop Tudyk from bawling during their interviews, he does get to smoke a joint in a school bus with Findlay, squeeze the breasts of buxom English teacher Cara Mantella and punch tomboy Christian Orr in revenge for humiliating him as a kid. However, the latter act backfires spectacularly and he has to resort to using mayonnaise as a lubricant in order to escape arrest during a showdown with principal Brian Huskey. And he endures further embarrassment when he consults Riegler about lifting his curse and finds himself being sandwiched between his voluptuous mother (Parisa Johnston) and his psychotic nana (Janet Meshad)

This coarse, crass farce is merely the preamble to Karna's inevitable discovery that he has loved Findlay all along and that Coulter will still be proud of him even if he doesn't go to Georgetown. The sequence in which this bombshell is dropped sums up this tasteless enterprise, as it involves Coulter, Tudyk and Findlay's father (James Thomas Moore) all but encouraging the pair to sleep together. It says much for Findlay that she manages to retain her dignity in such a situation, but no one else emerges from this farrago with much credit beside Tudyk, whose sobbing fits are laced with cartoonish pathos.

Karna is a cut-price cross between Jason Biggs and Michael Cera and lacks the nerd-next-door charisma to excuse his more questionable antics once he realises he can never be held accountable for his behaviour. Roberts is required to do nothing but spout innuendo, while the depiction of Young and Mantella as objects for the gratification of a horny kid is reprehensible in the extreme. Charlie Lyne went to great lengths to aver that the teenpic had reached a new maturity in his clip documentary, Beyond Clueless (2014). However, this insult to the intelligence suggests it has not strayed too far from the smutty, laddish softcore of Bob Clark's Porky's (1982).

Scot Tom Vaughan stoops every bit as low with Lessons in Love, which also went under the entirely misleading title of Some Kind of Beautiful after it was decided that How to Make Love Like an Englishman didn't have the right box-office ring. Scripted by Matthew Newman without a shred of insight into the psychology of the sexes, this romcom is all the more dismaying because it has attracted such a stellar cast (although Kristin Scott Thomas had the sense to drop out) and because it continues the seemingly inexorable big-screen decline of a director who began so brightly with Starter for 10 (2006) before failing to bring the best out of Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher in What Happens in Vegas (2008), Harrison Ford in Extraordinary Measures (2010) and Miley Cyrus in So Undercover (2012).

Cambridge literature professor Pierce Brosnan specialises in the Romantics, which is somwhat apt for an ageing lothario who cannot resist sleeping with his students. When Jessica Alba announces she is pregnant, Brosnan does the decent thing (after vomiting) and gives up the groves of Academe for a Spanish villa in Malibu. Older half-sister Selma Hayek is far from impressed with her bibulous brother-in-law, as he tried to chat her up on their first encounter. But she is pleasantly surprised when Brosnan proves to be a doting father and even moves into the pool house to be close to his son after Alba cuckolds him with Ben McKenzie, a dull financier of her own age.

All goes well for a while, with Brosnan trying to instil some culture into a class of Californian slackers. But, with his visa about to expire, he is facing up to the prospect of abandoning his child when his own misanthropic father, Malcolm McDowell, arrives for a visit and proves to be as much of a reckless rake as ever. Naturally, Brosnan and McDowell cross swords. Brosnan also gets done for drunk driving and has to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. However, he ends up delivering a defence of British drinking habits that is as risibly unfunny as his community college tutorial on Lord Byron that descends into a sermon on following the dream.

Amidst the rancour, McDowell takes a shine to grandson Duncan Joiner and Hayek (who had earlier mocked Brosnan with a public impression of the noises men make during coitus) allows her heart to melt when she sees three generations taking a leak off the edge of the pier at the beach. But all is not destined to end entirely happily ever after, as there has to be a funeral before Brosnan can finally plant his feet on the ground and sweep Hayek and Joiner to his bosom.

This might have passed muster as the kind of risqué sex comedy that Hollywood started churning out after the collapse of the Production Code in 1968. But it would have raised few laughs then and its Neanderthal approach to gender politics is wholly unacceptable now. Reuniting after Brett Rattner's comic caper, After the Sunset (2004), Brosnan and Hayek display an alarming lack of chemistry and they are only spared more opprobrium by the depressingly grim contribution of Malcolm McDowell, who seems to have been asked to trot out the bad boy mannerisms he once delivered for Lindsay Anderson and Stanley Kubrick.

But even he gets off lightly, bearing in mind the ponderousness of the direction, the hackneyed blandness of Stephen Endelman's score and the sexist shabbiness of a script that seems to think it's admirable for men to sleep around and utterly deplorable for a woman to realise she has made a mistake by marrying the man who exploited his status to seduce her. One has to wonder why anyone thought this was worth making, let alone releasing, halfway through the second decade of the 21st century.

While the romcom seems close to exhausting its plot options, sci-fi continues to cannibalise itself in search of secondhand novelty. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) and Rian Johnson's Looper (2012) are among the numerous influences on Justin Trefgarne's Narcopolis, which puts a time-travelling spin on the police procedural. Considering he was operating on a restricted, crowd-funded budget, the debuting Trefgarne has made a decent fist of imagining a futuristic London. But making the leap from shorts like Life: XP (2007), Unborn (2008) and Leyman's Curse (2012) has proved too daunting a challenge, as the idea-strewn script is nowhere near as taut as it needs to be, while the characterisation and dialogue belie the fact that Trefgarne spent four years developing projects at Working Title after graduating from the LAMDA acting school.

In the London of 2044, energy shortages are common and drugs are completely legal, courtesy of giant pharmaceutical corporations like Ambro, which is owned by James Callis, who was determined to eradicate the horrors of addiction after being abused by junkies as a child. However, a couple of disgruntled agents break into his high-security facility to destroy the computer mainframe and one of them perishes in the attempt. But this is merely the preface to the real story, which takes place 20 years earlier when Ambro was still in the throes of cleaning up the capital's mean streets.

The extent of the task is made manifest by the fact that black market drug hunter (or `dreck') Elliot Cowan is hooked on heroin and cocaine. He is intrigued, however, when he finds a corpse with half its head missing that cannot be identified through the surveillance state's all-potent DNA database. Despite the presence of a mysterious substance in the victim's veins, superior Robert Bathurst urges Cowan to forget about the case and concentrate on sorting out his marriage to estranged wife Molly Gaisford, who is raising their son, Louis Trefgarne.

However, the prowling presence of Ambro heavies makes Cowan suspicious and he discovers that not only has Callis got a several senior coppers on his payroll, but also that his wife, Cosima Shaw is possibly bribing an influential councillor in a bid to swing a shady land deal. Just as Cowan appears to be hitting a brick wall, Elodie Yung conveniently jaunts back from the future to point him in the right direction and an encounter with technophobic Russian scientist Jonathan Pryce leads Cowan to uncover some sinister connections.

Any film with 15 credited producers runs the risk of having too many cooks. But surely one of them should have taken Trefgarne to task over the muddled storyline and the grisliness of the dialogue. For the remainder, however, Trefgarne directs steadily and makes the most of Takis and Paul Booth's atmospheric CGI-assisted production design and cinematographer Christopher Moon's noirish lighting. But he never fully establishes the rules of his brave new world and keeps bending them in order to get the narrative around its tighter corners. He also struggles to integrate the domestic and time-travelling subplots and often resorts to wilful incoherence.

Taking his cues from Harrison Ford in Blade Runner and Ray Winstone in Nick Love's version of The Sweeney (2012), Cowan makes a suitable down-at-heel anti-hero. But, while Callis contributes some sneeringly urbane villainy, Yung is underused and Pryce feels entirely miscast as an eccentric boffin convinced of the evils of mobile phones. In truth, this is all a bit predictable and half-baked. But Trefgarne undoubtedly has ambition and, with a better script and a little less bravura, he might do much better next time.

The dystopic vision that informed the 1979 Pink Floyd album, The Wall, keeps haunting Roger Waters and he joins forces with director Sean Evans to explore the sources of some of his nightmares in Roger Waters The Wall. Essentially, this is an excuse to meld highlights from Waters's recent stadium tour with digressions designed to demonstrate how deeply the 72 year-old thinks about the world. Floyd fans will always believe there will be room for another movie about this epochal project, after Alan Parker's Pink Floyd The Wall (1982) and Ken O'Neill's The Wall: Live in Berlin (1990), which Waters respectively wrote and co-directed. But this feels far too much like a vanity project that would have been better had it stuck to chronicling the 2010-13 tour that was supposedly seem by a record-breaking four million people.

The song track follows the fortunes of Floyd Pinkerton, who suffered grievously at the hands of his overbearing mother after his father died. Bullied at school and disregarded by his teachers, Pink bounced back to become a rock star. But he was betrayed by his adulterous wife and he begins to construct a metaphorical wall to protect himself from the cruel world. However, in the depths of his drug-induced despair, he decides to tear down his defences and confront his demons.

Complete with classic numbers like `Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)' and `Comfortably Numb', this is a landmark concept piece that is splendidly played by a band that includes Dave Kilminster, Smowy White and GE Smith. The concert material was captured over three nights on two different continents and it is somewhat fitting that Waters duets with himself on `Mother' using footage filmed at Earl's Court three decades earlier. But the show staged by Evans looks pretty familiar, as giant inflatables of Gerald Scarfe's cartoon characters compete for attention with a children's choir, fireworks, big-screen projections and the brick-by-brick erection of the wall that will eventually divide the audience from their hero.

There is no doubt that Waters is the man the crowds have come to see and he commands the majority of the close-ups, even when others are playing complex guitar solos. However, he does cede the screen to the odd set-piece along the way. A montage of victims from conflicts across the world is movingly effective, but there is something wince-inducingly heavy handed about an animation that shows bombers dropping crucifixes, Stars of David, hammers, sickles and Chevron and Mercedes logos from leaden skies. Given the self-pitying misogyny of some of Waters's lyrics and the ruthlessness with which he asserted his intellectual rights over his erstwhile bandmates, he isn't really in much of a position to preach about the imperfections of others.

Nevertheless, this is very much a mission statement and Waters drives around Europe in a vintage Bentley to visit war graves and memorials with personal significance. It can't have been easy losing one's father at the age of five months and it's touching to see Waters tell children Harry, India and Jack about their grandfather Eric's sacrifice. The trumpet salute by a proud son is also poignant, as is the reading to commemorate the grandfather lost in the Great War. But the in-car exchange between Waters and Hungarian film director Peter Medak feels less relevant and, for all the worthiness of the pacifist sentiments and the validity of the intimation that Waters is himself a victim of violence, this becomes such a self-indulgently egotistical showcase that it occasionally comes close to unintentional parody.

It isn't always easy to keep a straight face during Kahlil Joseph's Arcade Fire: The Reflektor Tapes, as this is sometimes so pretentious that it's almost unwatchable. Yet, having opened in a blaze of fanboy fawning and stylistic excess, this doggedly experimental rockumentary decides to focus on the music and the inspiration behind it and, consequently, settles down into something curiously compelling, if never less than self-consciously crass.

Anyone unfamiliar with Arcade Fire could be forgiven while viewing this choppy profile for thinking that Win Butler and his wife Régine Chassagne are the sole members of this arty Canadian combo. But Will Butler, Richard Reed Parry, Tim Kingsbury and Jeremy Gara chip in periodically with their own asinine aphorisms, as Joseph compiles collages of canted handheld images that look positively amateurish in isolation and downright unintelligible in jumbled juxtaposition.

Mercifully, this flit into Tap territory gives way to an array of clips from recording sessions and gigs in Jamaica, Haiti, Montreal and London that vaguely clue the audience into why the band adopted the alter ego of The Reflektors to make this album. Win Butler helpfully intones `Sugar Plum Fairy, Sugar Plum Fairy' at the start of one track to alert Beatle fans to the fact they took their inspiration from the Sergeant Pepper conceit, as John Lennon uttered these words before a take of `A Day in the Life'. But other clues are harder to find, as Butler and Chassagne commune with their inner artiste and mine childhood memories, the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, Marcel Camus's 1959 Oscar winner Black Orpheus and the sights and sounds of Carnival for tracks that consistently bring to mind Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and others of their ilk.

Unfortunately, Joseph seems so dazzled by the Fire that he scarcely knows where to point his cameras (one of which was operated by the estimable Lol Crawley). But the real trouble comes in the editing suite, as he editors Matt Hollis and Daniel Song crash monochrome and colour-forced images into each other as though they were making their first pop promo. Frustratingly, Joseph is an old hand and should know that what works over three minutes is quickly going to outstay its welcome over 75 minutes, especially when he and sound designer Ollie Nesham keep messing around with the length and mix of the songs.

There are lovely moments, such as when Chassagne coaxes some Haitian drummers into reproducing the sound her father used to make while drumming with his fingers on the steering wheel. But there is too much posturing and gambits like wearing giant papier-maché heads to channel some `communal energy' risks distracting from the genuinely fascinating music. In a typical refusal to make concessions to non-aficionados, none of the tracks are captioned. But `Here Comes the Night Time', `Normal Person', `Joan of Arc' and `Afterlife' leave an impression, in spite of Joseph's tiresomely clichéd and focus-stealing visuals, which make this feel less like an insight into the artistry of Arcade Fire than a glorified showreel for its director.

Butler reveals that he once had a dream in which Elvis Presley urged him to practice for 37 hours a week if he wanted to make it to the top. But, sometimes, sheer hard work just isn't enough, as Jeanie Finlay explains in her poignant documentary, Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, which chronicles the chequered career of Jimmy Ellis, a 1970s singing sensation who had the misfortune to sound too much like Elvis to become a star. Making the best of meagre archival resources, Finlay also exposes the exploitative chicanery of the music business, while reflecting on the psychological strain that striving for success can have on those who never quite fulfill their dreams.

Born to a single mother in Pascagoula, Mississippi in February 1945, James Hughes Bell spent the first five years of his life in orphanages until he was adopted by Alabama farmer RF Ellis and his wife, Mary Faye. They had high hopes the boy would take over the business and develop his talent for training walking horses. But Jimmy had discovered his singing voice and he made his first public appearance at an Orrville High religious event when he was 17 years old. Such was the impression he made that he was persuaded to enter a talent show and he started performing in clubs when he landed a junior college sports scholarship.

Buddy Jerry Hatfield, homecoming date Mary Middlebrooks Calloway and his teammates on the football squad were amazed how much he sounded like the King of Rock`n'Roll and they were convinced he would soon be on the charts. But, having made a test recording for Dradco of `Love Is But a Love' by Jimmy Ellis and The Apollos that started to get airplay, his parents refused to sign his recording contract and he returned to the farm, married Mildred Martin and had a son, Jim Ellis, Jr. But Jimmy was not the settling sort and he informed his family that he was going to Hollywood to seek his fortune. Separating from his wife, he began dating Nancy Crowson. They eventually got engaged, but she found it difficult to cope with the women who were starting to throw themselves at her fiancé.

But, while Ellis was forever travelling between gigs, his voice prevented him from making discs until he was signed by Bobby Smith of Boblo Records, who teamed him with a disco backing band and issued a single entitled `I'm Not Trying to Be Like Elvis'. The combo enjoyed a certain amount of local success across Dixie, but Ellis was getting no younger and he began to fear his chance of fame had come and gone. Then, on 16 August 1977, Elvis Aaron Presley died at the age of 42 and Jimmy Ellis's once-cursed vocal chords became his biggest asset.

The first to spot his money-making potential was Shelby Singleton, the new owner of the legendary Sun Records label (who had flirted with Jimmy in the early 1970s), who signed Ellis in 1978 and had him overdub Elvis-like vocals on a number of archive recordings, including `Save the Last Dance for Me', which was mischievously credited to Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends. Further cuts by Carl Perkins and Charlie Rich received the time treatment and songwriter Carol Halupke was blown away by the similarity of Ellis's voice to Presley's when she heard him singing live.

She introduced him to novelist Gail Brewer-Giorgio, who had invented a character named Orion, who becomes a prisoner of his own fame. The plan was to turn the book into a film, with Ellis providing the vocals. But, when Ellis told Singleton about the concept, he appropriated it without crediting its originators (according to Halupke and Brewer-Giorgio's version of the story) and reinvented Ellis as Orion, a masked crooner whose air of mystery gave the King's grieving fans something to cherish in their hour of despair.

Standing 6ft 6in, Ellis was much taller than Elvis and bore only a passing facial resemblance. Nevertheless, Finlay coyly posits that he might have been Vernon Presley's love child, as that forename alone appeared on the birth certificate and his profile was somewhat similar. But audiences were just happy to hear him sing and his 1978 album, Reborn, sold surprisingly well. Singleton made sure next to nothing of the profits wound up in Ellis's pockets. Yet, while he was glad to be reaching an audience, Ellis disliked the charade and he looks distinctly uncomfortable in the footage of him doing television interviews in cod-Elvis costumes and an array of masks that made him look like a Rockabilly Lone Ranger. However, he was contractually obliged to wear the mask in public at all times - most amusingly in a grainy black-and-white photo posing alongside Kiss - and he got to tour Europe, which is more than Elvis ever did.

In fact, Ellis was much more than an Elvis impersonator as he rarely performed songs from his back catalogue. Moreover, he could sometimes handle a ballad with more finesse, as the version of `Georgia Pines' playing over the closing credits ably demonstrates. But Ellis ran out of patience in 1983 and removed his disguise to severe his ties with Singleton. Any hopes he had of being taken seriously in his own right were quickly dashed, however, and Ellis had to don the mask again four years later. He was playing smaller gigs by this stage and the adoring crowds had thinned out. But he refused all offers to make easy money in Vegas and decided to return to Orrville and open a pawn shop rather than sell out entirely. Sadly, as former workmate Helen King recalls, his decision cost him his life, as he and his wife Elaine were gunned down on 12 December 1998 by an armed robber who fled with nothing after failing to open the till.

At its best exploring the genesis of the Orion myth and the complicity of the audience in sustaining the illusion, this is a melancholic tribute to a journeyman whose talent denied him the career he craved. The talking heads sympathise with Ellis's plight and concur that he was a decent man who deserved better. However, a little more might have been made of his womanising and it might have been instructive to hear an outside opinion of both Ellis's gifts and the machinations of the industry that manipulated and fleeced him, as he is certainly not an isolated case. Occasionally struggling to overcome the sameness of the anecdotes, Finlay over-relies on slow motion to tease out her meagre home-movie resources, but she tells her unlikely tale with wry affection for its anti-heroic subject and with genuine admiration for his sound.