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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: UK DB7's Avatar
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    Nov 2002
    151 times
    For raw emotion look no farther than the kitchen sink

    The angry young men of our New Wave films of the 1960s remain an affirmation of freedom and vitality

    What? The DVD store has no copies of those classic New-Wave films of the 1960s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning? Should I throw something? Toss out colourful challenges as did Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney in those films? �You rattle-faced ratface! Daft loon! I believe you, thousands wouldn't!�

    �They're being reissued with DVD extras next Monday, March 23,� says the man behind the counter. (Oh, thank you.) Luckily, I found remaindered copies locally - thousands wouldn't.

    Patience is not what these movies peddle. Both written by Alan Sillitoe, Long-Distance Runner (1960) is directed by Tony Richardson and Saturday Night (1962) by Karel Reisz. These two films initiated the British New Wave cinema, followed by Look Back in Anger, Billy Liar, This Sporting Life and A Kind of Loving. Known as �kitchen-sink dramas�, these breakthrough movies of the early 1960s were about the hopes, fears and foul-ups of young working-class fellows entering adulthood in a culture that held no rewards for their unique vitality and emerging vision, but only drudgery and repetition.

    Drawing on physical vigour, boredom and an inner life just beginning to find expression, these youngsters struggled to escape gravity and the dearth of opportunities that they saw around them. They weren't always successful - but glory is in the attempt. These kids were among many in 1960 - somewhat respectful of parents, bringing home pay packets bled out of them by mind-numbing factory work, gearing up after postwar austerities for a creative explosion that in a few years would ride in on the music of the Beatles. We forget how much of an impact these very British films had on the psyche of a nation. They may have been the birth of individualism as a value. (Rock groups such as Arctic Monkeys, the Stranglers and Iron Maiden have all referenced Long-Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning in their lyrics.)

    Now, it seems, we've come full circle with a thud. The days of the angry young men may be over, their wings clipped by a world too politically correct, too incendiary to make instinctual rebellions against authority look as sexy as they once did. But there's nostalgia value in that call and response: �What are you rebelling against?� �What ya got?�

    These two great films introduced Courtenay and Finney to the world for the first time, and were soon followed by other iconic roles played by such new actors as Rita Tushingham, Michael Caine, Alan Bates, David Hemmings, Terence Stamp, Rachel Roberts, Richard Burton and Richard Harris.

    In Reisz's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Finney plays Arthur Seaton, a reckless steelworker in industrial Nottingham, fond of ale, women and practical jokes. With this role, for which he won a Bafta, Finney was hailed as the British Marlon Brando. He plays a happy-go-lucky cad who is yet able to assess his mistakes: that painful crux when Saturday night becomes Sunday morning.

    Arthur is carrying on an affair with a married woman, Brenda (Rachel Roberts), both of them longing to escape the grim suffocation endemic to their class. (�How's things at the pit?� �Black.�) Her husband Jack is played by my old friend Bryan Pringle (Diary of a Nobody), who represents the dull, compliant plodder aiming to get ahead, spending his free time with army buddies who beat people to pulp for sport. Arthur, our antihero, is a lover, not a warrior. A prankster, he takes an air gun to a gossipy neighbour's big behind.

    He begins growing up when he falls in love with a �nice� girl, Doreen (the gorgeous Shirley Anne Field, pictured with Finney), at the same time as Brenda gets pregnant. His knack for self-sabotage culminates when a Saturday night at the fair has drastic consequences. The film is full of surprises, the women's roles are bold and intense, and the poignancy of that last line, �Let's go down� (when you know that's just what he'll do, down the hill to a domesticated life), breaks your heart.

    In The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner Tom Courtenay plays Colin Smith, the downcast but likeable petty thief living with his folks on the seedy side of Nottingham. Eventually busted for hiding �71 of stolen money up a drainpipe, he is sent to a youth detention centre, Ruxton Towers. There he shows an unexpected talent for cross-country running, developed by years of running from the police. This supports the ambition of the grim warden (played by Michael Redgrave) to win the cup in a match against a posh public school.

    Colin earns the right to go on practice runs outside the gates, during which he reviews his life in flashbacks - his beloved father dying, his mother's �fancy boy�, his lack of a future. There's much humour - in TV advertisements for �Rolling Roy�, in his mother's shopping spree, in scenes with a cop. Some of the whimsy is unintentional, as the clean-cut felons (by today's standards) wrestle on their beds, play the guitar and do calisthenics until lights out.

    A slim lad with a sometimes pained expression, Courtenay may lack the glaring physical beauty of young Finney, but he makes up for it by being less cocky and more likeable. He too has romance in his life - Audrey, with whom he shares a weekend of passion among the dunes of Skegness. His ambivalence towards becoming an Olympic prospect is played out in a shocking denouement (which includes a contest with a very young James Fox).

    This may be the better film, with jazz music by John Addison, ironic versions of the hymn Jerusalem, beautiful solitary runs and a parallel action montage in which an inmate is beaten while the assembly sings; but Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (with music by Johnny Dankworth) may have the more compelling character interactions. It's a toss-up. The former is for the rebel, the latter for the rascal in you.

    Spawning a genre, these two movies are original. Unexpected and touching ceasefires arise in the overt battle of the sexes. The characters could be called self-indulgent or self-destructive. But these working-class philosophers, with their colourful voiceover monologues, remain an affirmation of freedom, vitality and the passionate folly of growing up. Inchoate yearnings, desperate solutions, pleasure from blood-roaring moments, refusal of power trips: there's much to love here. As the original trailer shouted: �Stand in a queue if you must, but see these films!�

    The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning are released on March 23 by BFI Video

  2. #2
    Senior Member Country: Europe Bernardo's Avatar
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    Jun 2003
    13 times
    Good read DB,

    I associated myself with the trend by my trademarked rollneck pullover, intense expression and unkept hair (still have it so I suppose it is kept hair now)

    Films mentioned are works of art now, beautiful, good or well made don't fit as a description.

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