Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

British film: the Swinging Sixties

Why the random seriousness all of a sudden? Well...this is all the background work I should have been doing for film studies all this time. We're studying two complimentary modules - one on British film, and one on the Swinging Sixties, which is mostly ok.

So the sixties. Peace and love. Freedom. Post-war fun. I'm told there was all this optimism, rationing was over, and the baby boom after WWII had grown up - which meant rock music and drugs were in. London was relatively cool! We had hippies, minis, the Beatles, James Bond, Carnaby Street, Twiggy, leg warmers and awful TV as parodied on Monty Python. Meanwhile, America had the atom bomb, the cold war, the Doors, Vietnam, the Beach Boys, Woodstock, Student protests, lots of them. Lots of students, in actual fact. As far as I can tell through my research into conspiracy theories, the 60s was also a prime period for assassinations - Marilyn Monroe, Martin Luther King, two Kennedys etc etc. We win the world cup, America walks on the moon. Bob Dylan! Jefferson Airplane! The Rolling Stones! Pink Floyd! Hope you can't tell I'm cribbing this all off wikipedia!

And in cinemas we had: 2001: A Space Odyessy, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the early Bonds, Bonnie and Clyde, Breakfast at Tiffanys, Kes, If..., Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Zulu, Dr Zhivago and Dr Strangelove, the spaghetti westerns, Faster, Pussycat! Kill Kill!, Psycho and the original Ocean's Eleven to name but a few. Suddenly, social realism and downbeat endings sprung into cinema – not to mention colour film.

We’re studying what influence 60s life had over 60s films. It makes me wonder what influences will be read into current films in the future. We’ll get a question like “How is [Gender and class issues/ youth vs age and austerity/ changing moral whatevers] represented cinematically in the films you’ve studied.” I’m hoping for one about youth culture or class, because then I can talk about A Hard Days Night – and not gender and sexuality, because then I have to talk about Darling. The third film we’ve had a look at is Alfie, which I’m a bit indifferent on (I like it as a film; but it’s hard to discuss in cinematic terms. Once you’ve mentioned the cheery music and the breaking-the-fourth-wall audience addresses, there’s not much cinematic merit left. We’ve got to make sure come up with camera angles and colour schemes to back our points up, which is tricky in a film where much of the effect is a result of the script.)

Alfie stars Michael Caine as – what else? – a cheery working class Londoner and serial womanizer. You probably knew that already, if not from it than the remake, which I haven’t seen but is (naturally) worse ;) Darling, starring Julie “she got an Oscar for that?!”* Christie, as a woman who really screws up her life while social climbing. It’s a lot grimmer than Alfie, and I recon she ends up unhappier overall. And A Hard Days Night, chronicling everything that goes can possibly go wrong when trying to get a band to a TV station for a show. It’s by far my favourite, and also has the best soundtrack – well, it’s the bloody Beatles isn’t it? Though it does mean “Can’t buy me love” gets stuck in yer head in the exam. Incidentally, Ringo is now my favourite Beatle.
*quote from classmate
As may be evident, I know HDN best – I’ve seen it most often, because I actually like it. I’m watching it at this very moment with quite a grin. It’s 11 o’clock, and I don’t have any commitments until 3. Which means that yes, I have enough time to rewatch Darling. And I really don’t want to. It’s not that it’s a bad film. It’s a very good film – wonderfully well made and all that, even if the acting is a tad hammy at times. It’s just no fun at all, feels like it’s 400 hours long and tedious and frustrating to watch: the lead character behaves like an idiot and she doesn’t have the charm of Alfie to carry it off. Even the presence of Dirk Bogarde doesn’t make it any more rewarding (and I may be the only person in the history of mankind who’s ever found him attractive) I think I’ll have a long lunch. That’ll waste a bit of time. Or write practise essays. That’s meant to be helpful. Two 45-minute practice essays and it won’t be worth watching the first half…

All three films are really about lies. Alfie continually spouts his life lessons to screen, even as the events of the film increasingly prove him wrong. But that cheery-cheery contrapuntal music carries it, and smile for longer than you strictly should as he jaunts his way through increasingly distasteful circumstances. Without the music and asides to screen, he’d just be a louse. Darling is structured as the lady herself recounting her life to a magazine – the occasional voiceover puts the best possible light on everything. In one scene, she she’s smiling and mincing for a photoshoot, quickly breaking down as the fa├žade falls off. The smily shots still go to the magazine – she is, after all, the face of “The Happiness Girl”. And HDsN, which is so much fun as a film, you forget you’re watching four ordinary guys who get mobbed wherever they go, and trodden on by The Man whenever they so much as squint. They spend the entire film either been shafted from place to place or running away from it. The Beatles – especially Ringo – only ever seem to be happy when playing music. It’s actually quite a sharp satire on the whole industry.

Allright. Here goes lunch and Darling. The time is 12:00 precicely. I am armed with two sandwiches (pate and philidelphia respectively). The video, I see, cost $9.75, which is a bit steep. It’s rated 15 – unfortunately, this is not because of the gunfights and bloodied bodies (might have been a more exciting film...) Hell, I’d even prefer some horror! The below is obviously a tad spoilery, and probably incomprehensible if you haven't seen it.

5 minutes in It even starts with downbeat music, as a guy posters a massive advertisment over a charity poster of starving people. Meanly, Jule Christie does not get top billing. The poster proclaims “Ideal woman”. Friend 2 says that Julie Christie is ugly, which is a tad mean – she is attractive, sometimes stunningly so. Although her accent does grate a bit – I’ve got a very correct (read: posh) way of speaking, but hers gets even me.

7 mins in “Oh, how I’d love to live here!” she declares. She says that later in Italy, and thinks it in a palace. Oppsites attract as married ‘Mr BBC’ Dirk Bogarde and married fashionista Julie Christie skim stones and fall in love. She describes her husband as “desperately immature” and “unaware of his responsibility”, again ironic as her behavior reveals pretty much the same about her. “Oh, it should be so easy to be happy. It should be the easiest thing in the world. I wonder why it isn’t.” she declares. It’s an interesting comment at this stage, because right now her problems are very small. As a journalist, Robert takes her along to an interview. She comments “Here’s one of the greatest writers of the century, and here I am!” she hasn’t read his books, but she’s more impressed by being there – by the prestige of meeting him. Already we see she and Robert are somewhat incompatible – there’s an intellectual divide.

20 minutes: Diana declares that “the thought of breaking up somebody’s family is absolutely repellant”. Yeh right –does she care? My foot. More pretty lies to make her glow. A moment later, we see her shopping for an apartment, and him moving out on his nice wife and children. While settling the flat, Diana comments “Your books have arrived” and Robert replies “And your records”. A similar exchange after a party: “Your friends are so pretty” “Yours are so intelligent.” There’s this divide again.
Diana lies again: “I was absolutely insistent Robert still saw his children…I never was the jealous type,” instantly barraging Robert with suspicious questions as soon as he returns.

30 minutes Robert interviews some London peeps, one complaining about “how rife homosexuality has become”. I always smirk at this. Diana attends a charity event. All these rich diamond encrusted people touch up their hair, eat and donate to starving African children. One woman exclaims “but I’ve only just come back!” on winning a trip to the Bahamas. Meanwhile the waiters (all young, black and in colonial liveries) serve luxury food. No wonder a director comments, when approached about making an advert, “A lie can be shot with integrity just as anything else”. The woman who plays “Mrs Butterman” the Number 2 in the Prisoner walks through. It’s pretty offputting.

35 minutes: She engages in flirtatious talk with Miles, the rich executive who’s been taking care of her career. It’s notable for a) being not at all subtle and b) she’s wearing a stunning stunning dress-coat-thing. Miles is also fairly attractive, in a slightly sleazy way. Meanwhile, her audition for a film – reading Shakespeare – is performed with allure to cover a lack of talent.

40 mins: “I was always absolutely honest with Robert.” Doesn’t Diana live in such a pretty world? After she mentions him being jealous of Miles, she reminds him: “you’re the one I bed with” “at present” is his reply. Yup, he knows what’s going on.
Then Diana gets murdered screaming by a mystery gunman! Alas, this is only in the EdWoodyular film she’s earned a bit role in. Still, I enjoyed watching it happen.

45 mins: Diana has fun shopping for baby clothes when she learns she’s pregnant. Again, the idea of being a mum is more fun than the reality, so she settles on having a “miscarriage”. Compared to Alfie’s abortion sequence, it’s very clean and tidy and pretty – even though she is pretty remorseful. She expresses instant concern for her goldfish, and then seen playing with children in the country.

Her sister declares she and Robert are “completely finished” – at the same time, Darling is wearing her nightdress under a coat and traveling back to London on the overnight train. But there is a splinter there now. She pokes at the goldfish with a pencil, annoyed by Robert’s typing. She goes off to audition for a play, but can’t be bothered to wait – or work that hard for it. A rival actress has done hundreds of things, while Diana has done nothing.

55 minutes – yeh, auditioning is far too tricky a way to get a job. She goes and sees Mr Miles for it instead, who is fencing – a nice cold and calculating sport. And he has something of a different auditioning process…Miles even provides a coathanger for her to hang her clothes on. It’s a desperately unsexy scene – and her comment “I do love Robert, you know” rings very hollow. Robert is resigned when she returns – he’s
perfectly aware what’s going on. She claims she’s late because the car got towed away – he pays back her for getting it back, knowing she’s lying. Poor dear Robert…

1 HOUR! Woot! 1 hour to go! And 40 minutes to the suspected swearing incident.
Bored, I trawl the imdb boards for something interesting. I come across this exchange:

“She does indeed say the f word 1 hour 42 minutes into the film, on the telephone. Not sure if this was the first f word in films but it must of been one of the first.” Ooooooh, that’s something exciting to look forward to in an hour’s time. Alas, someone corrects: “She said 'mucking' on the telephone and it would take another 2 years for the f-word to be heard in a movie: I'll Never Forget What's'isname (1967)” Spoil my fun…now poster 2 mentions the title, I remember it: Marianne Faithful gets the dubious honour.

65 mins – odd party games in Paris. People change clothes, then pretend to be each other when asked personal questions. They all know how Diana has been getting her jobs. Perhaps it’s the only truly honest scene in the film. It’s ironic that after a guy-dressed-as-Diana and Diana-dressed-as-Miles are both entirely frank about the way she’s been sleeping her way into a career, they immediately kiss. Miles and Diana pull the same telephone exchange trick on Robert as Robert and Diana used on their respective spouses earlier.

70 mins - my favourite shot of the movie. An artist standing in front of his painting of a face-on gun smiles as he is photographed – the flashes of light combined with a non-diegetic noises of gunfire. I just like it. Robert confronts Diana with the glittering accusation “your idea of fidelity is not having more than one man in bed at the same time”. They finally have a proper argument. Diana is all contrite, but he walks out on her.

75 mins: the aforementioned scene. Mal the photographer takes her photo as she swishes her hair with pop-art style freeze frames whenever the camera noise clicks. But she breaks down and cries for Robert. Moments later, the same smiles are given to executives who give her the job as the face of whatever, “The Happiness Girl”. Break. I need more food to stick this out. So does she, evidently – they rob a shop for the hell of it. Momentary sadness when her husband wants a divorce, and similar sadness over the death of the goldfish (which she killed). I could write an essay on the symbology of the fish as representing Robert - her treatment and reaction to both of them is similar.

85 mins – as a princess in a fairytale advert for chocolates, she gets swept up by the romance of the palace. She meets an Italian prince. Take a second break to do a favour for an internet randomer who needs help, who I’m never going to see again. But it’s about R+GaD, which I consider myself the unofficial guardian of, especially since tracking down the exact filming location all on my ownsome. Furthermore, even updating you on random critical opinions has become boring. So I'm gonna give it up now, save to say that that debated word on the phone was indeed mucking. I'm strangely disappointed. It would have livened up my afternoon somewhat.

(PS my friends they be nice. They're always nice, but they're particularly nice when they a) let me have the uber-bumoer QT poster that came with their copy of Total Film and b) randomly giving me copies of True Romance. It's smiles all round over here.


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