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4.0 out of 5 stars98
4.0 out of 5 stars
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on 20 August 2010
My husband and I went to see this at our local Picture House purely because the premise of a comedy all about Morris dancing was too silly to overlook, plus I was intrigued by press reports on the struggles which the makers had to get this to distribution. The cinema experience was fairly surreal as the rest of the theatre was taken up by numerous Morris dancing groups complete with jangling bells and staves, but judging by the reaction everyone enjoyed it as much as we did.

'Morris: A Life With Bells On' is is a beautifully-made small independent British film, enhancing the pedigree of bigger-budget British comedies of yore - an observational comedy with pathos that is clearly rooted in an affection for all things Morris-related, whilst appreciating that there is something unavoidably funny about Morris dancing. I am no Morris dancer and certainly not 'alternative' but I enjoyed this film more than I ever imagined, and have been boring others about it ever since. A particularly large coconut or cigar should go to Richard Lumsden for his music, which stands on its own merits as a beautiful collection as well as being an excellent and complementary film score.
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on 1 September 2010
This is a mockumentary about the life of a Morris dancing nut, with subtly funny English humour by the bucket full. It helps that it was filmed over the hill from me, so I recognise that the training area is the car park of The Compasses or that the Professor of folk history is named after a village. However, anyone who likes anything English - pubs, landrovers, cider making, small lanes, green fields and of course Morris - will enjoy this for a celebration of our modest and passionate nature that simply does not appear in any American film.

Derek Jacobi, Greg Wise, Harriet Walters and Sophie Thompson were persuaded to appear, and the film was finally dragged to publication after being turned down at every door. More fools the distributors - you've missed the chance of the decade.

Charles Thomas Oldham, who imagined this film and carried it through to DVD, should be knighted for service to the nation.
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on 24 September 2010
I first saw this film at one of the local Moviola venues. The village hall was packed - which is a bit of a rare event!

I enjoyed the film but worried how it would be perceived by Morris Dancers and aficionados of Morris. Reading the reviews here confirms that Morris Dancers approve and I know an aficionado who enjoyed it: he has watched it a couple of times in a short space of time.

It simply gets better and better with each viewing. The views of the English countryside are wonderful, the characters are so quintessentially English with all the added eccentricities, the music is excellent. I've even started introducing some of the language into everyday use: 'Tubs of Lard for my Old Lady, anyone?'.

This film will go down as a cult movie in the vein of 'Withnail and I'. I will judge future friends on the merits of whether they enjoyed it or not. Highly recommended to all.
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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2011
I was in a morris side a bit like The Millsham Morris for 17 years (The Breinton Morris, Herefordshire) as Squire and Foreman for 15. And we had our run-ins with the Morris Ring (or Morris Circle in the film). In our case it was because we felt The Ring weren't upholding standards and we were the ultra-traditionalists! So I guess I watched this as an "insider". And I was very pleased by this portrayal of The Morris. OK it's not really a documentary and several liberties are taken. But enough rings true to make this film work.

The film acknowledges the hard work and obsession that goes on behind the scene, to present The Morris to the sometimes appreciative public.

Issues of tradition and innovation and standards are part of every folky discourse. It's great to see them aired here in this warmhearted film as Derecq Twist, tractor mechanic from Dorset, becomes a USA media star and has second thoughts.
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on 4 May 2010
I admit it. I'm a Morris Dancer. So I'm probably biased. I saw it with my partner (a non-dancer). And both of us never stopped laughing. Admittedly I was laughing for different reasons sometimes, but what the heck. We had an audience that were predominantly Morris, and it was like being at a folk eqivalent of Rocky Horror....interactive.

This is the sort of film that could have only come from Britain. It's funny, moving, sad...in fact runs the gamut of emotions. Well scripted, directed, filmed and acted.....and more to the point, well danced!!!

This film deserves to be seen by many more people....

And yes, I (and a couple of friends) want to join Orange County Morris.
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on 8 August 2011
The lack of a wider theatrical release was a scandal. From the moment Derecq Twist (Charles Thomas Oldham, who wrote the story) is seen dancing on the Cerne Abbas Giant and the camera pulls out to show the figure holding a hand across his crotch this was full of great humour both in the words and the visuals.

Aidan McArdle plays the producer Jeremy, who breaks the golden rule of documentary - "I intervened". That's after Derecq is plunged into despair following his rustication from the Morris Circle. From its offices in the City of London, Chief Executive Quentin Neely (Derek Jacobi) defends the Englishness of Morris Dancing against such foreign influences as the Brazilian "morrizio".

Manchester's Moss Side Morris are the reluctant enforcers of the Circle's dictates. They wear black but unfortunately don't have any black dancers, but Ian Hart as their "squire", Endeavour Hungerfjord Welsh, takes his duties seriously. Academic credibility on the history of Morris comes from Harriet Walter as Compton Chamberlayne, Emeritus Professor of International Folk Dance at Cambridge. You're never quite sure whether it's true history or absolute cobblers.

The outrageously camp Orange County Morris in California give Derecq a refuge, and romantic interest from Sonja (Naomie Harris). Derecq follows her to her new job in Iowa where he's reduced to the "devil's dance" (line dancing, you can learn all the moves in ten minutes). The lure of the Morris (and the prospect of a pint of Onan's Revenge cider) takes him back to Dorset and redemption.

There's just so much good stuff in this: a superb evocation of grief as well as the laughs, and a marvellous turn by Dominique Pinon as a French fisherman washed up on the Dorset shore after a storm, who decided to stay rather than go back to a million empty whelk shells.
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on 6 May 2010
I confess I'm not a Morris dancer, nor a particular follower of anyone waiving hankies, crashing sticks (no doubt they have a technical name) or dancing with bells on, BUT this was an absolute first-rate, must-see British-made film with a quintessentially English plot, and some first-rate actors and acting. I was lucky enough to see it in its rare first-round screening and hope that reaching a wider audience it may be screened further in cinemas across the globe.

For a great evening with a DVD, a pork pie and pint of beer it is a must (works well too with smoked salmon and champagne - or chocolate and a mug of coffee - or...).

Support British rural arts (and film-making) and buy a copy (then support your local Morris Troupe)!
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on 15 February 2013
I gave this top marks because I like quirky films. And this is funny.
I watched this with out reading the critic on the box because sometimes you are disappointed when a film is not really five star
If you like British humour this is for you.
It's a very English film set in the West Country.
Filmed in the style of a documentary it takes you on a emotional journey of a young Morris dancer.
There are highs and lows, lots of jingling .the actors are well cast and brilliant .
If you want to cheer yourself up ,or have a chuckle ,sit down with a cold pint of cider ( under 18 you will have to make do with shandy)and watch this film.
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on 7 March 2012
This is great movie about a fictional character who loves morris. It's not a documentary about the dances or the history of morris, but a great tongue-in-cheek look at a dedicated morris dancer and a close knit community who love their world. Too many best bits to mention, but the halucinagenic cider scene and the guys from America have to be at the top of the list. Loads of stereo-typed characters and a certain dry sense of humour...Brilliant. On a par with Nuts In May! Can't wait for the Morris sequel!
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on 19 October 2011
I haven't laughed as much for a long time. Tears were streaming down my face at times as these dedicated fringe eccentrics took them and their dance form as seriously as if they were protecting the planet from global warming. The characters only lived in the dance context, no other aspect of their lives was important, but neither did it seem to matter, though the characterisation was as wide as it was bizarre.
The middle section would have benefitted from being cut quite dramatically without losing the message it was trying to convey and the ending rescued it to a large extent. The first bit is golden, though. I couldn't recommend it highly enough to any person with pretensions towards truly British eccentricity.
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