*Buy Any DVD or Blu-ray and Get £1 Off Amazon Instant Video
Enjoy £1 credit to spend on movies or TV on Amazon Instant Video when you purchase a DVD or Blu-ray offered by Amazon.co.uk. A maximum of 1 credit per customer applies. UK customers only. Offer ends at 23:59 BST on Tues, June 30, 2015. Learn more (terms and conditions apply).
I first saw this when I was 17 or 18 in the mid-eighties, late night on Channel 4, since which time it's felt as if I dreamed it: a funny, intelligent, alternative movie made for buttons in the UK -- Indie before the letter by 20 years and not from America. Who knew? Practically no one, it seems. Like so many of the BFI's recent heroic rescues, this appears to have been in danger of total omission from the textbooks, leaving the official story artificially anaemic.
As other reviewers have noted, it's probably best not to add much to the official plot summary, but that still leaves plenty to talk about. First off, and more to get it out of the way than anything else, there seem to be interesting relationships to certain French films. Bruce Robinson's character, Peter, is reminiscent of Jean Pierre Leaud's Antoine Doinel in Truffaut's BAISERS VOLE and DOMICILE CONJUGALE, with both characters harking back to earlier heroes of silent comedy and neither suffering by any of these comparisons. (There are also thematic similarities with the film Leaud made with Jean Eustache two years after Private Road, LA MAMAN ET LA PUTAIN.)
Visually, the film looks very like Eric Rohmer, the same wide, full figure shots of characters in ordinary, un-set-dressed rooms and streets, static frames, occasional almost imperceptible pans, naturalistic colour and light and, above all, the same pleasure in the every-day that has the power to heighten your perception of and pleasure in your own life.
Having made the French comparison, I'll also make one with the American mainstream: for anyone caught up in the esoteric mysteries of screenwriting, this is a masterclass in breaking the Syd Fieldian rules; essentially, there's no arc.Read more ›
PRIVATE ROAD, written and directed by Barney Platts-Mills, is as I suspected, better than it at first seems. It's a month or two since I first saw it, but certain images recur...are quietly haunting. Though some obvious things date it (mostly perhaps the music) in other ways despite its strong sense of period, it seems strangely timeless. That could be because aspects of it are, like the "I see a boy running barefoot over fields..." story from the brilliant NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947), universal, and if well enough told (and the naivety/naturalness of some of the acting, or perhaps presentation, here, adds to this) can echo with everyone's memories, emotionally if not literally.
At first PRIVATE ROAD seems pleasant but inconsequential when contrasted to so many other more dramatic stories, but it's this very lack of overstatedness that gives it the truth beyond its surface. As always, this truth in films is made up of so much more than what the characters do or say, or what the story does or says. It's as much in the landscapes and rooms and in all the moments inbetween - and to really work must stimulate our own memories and dreams, past, present and future. All of which is precisely what most films, indeed most art, so signally fails to do.
Susan Penhaligon, despite the obvious shortcomings of her character remains largely sympathetic, but it's Bruce Robinson's weak but very appealing, good naturedness, that holds the film together. It is interesting to see the obvious parallels with WITHNAIL & I - a film that despite its deliberate overstatedness also succeeds in carrying a strong, though to my mind ultimately melancholic and self-protectedly cynical, charge.
The extras on this dvd are ST.CHRISTOPHER - a wonderfully vivid documentary and THE LAST CHAPTER, a silly but enjoyable short film with Denholm Elliot and Susan Penhaligon again - you can't have too much of Susan Penhaligon! There's a very nice booklet as well. Highly recommended!
Was this review helpful to you?
All throughout Private Road I kept thinking "I have been there." Not in terms of geographically being where the characters were, but emotionally. The events and characters in this film are so true and so real without having that usual "Oh, this is TOO real, I'll turn it off."
I can't really say anything without spoiling the film, and I have gotten used to the fact of never hearing anything, good or bad or anything about the contents of BFI DVD/Blu-ray packs that I just order it and watch it with fresh eyes - not having any previous experience with the film, and that's it what you should do to.
Buy it and experience Private Road. It's certainly in my favourite films. Of course, the usual booklet and DVD and Blu-Ray copies are provided which provide some great background into the film. Highly, highly recommended.
Was this review helpful to you?