22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Evocative portraits of England 40 years ago,
This review is from: Three Films by Roger Lambert (DVD)
Another reviewer has given an excellent appraisal of plot and character in these three rare films, so I'll confine this review to an appreciation of their value as social history. For some reason, big budget films using professional actors don't seem to capture the era in which they take place, and neither do earnest social history documentaries. Because these three very short films, two from the mid/late 1970s and one from 1986, use a largely amateur cast and a low budget we get a true look at what it was to be young in those times: I'm roughly contemporary with the kids in the 70s films and could recognise every aspect of the family life and boyhood friendships captured by Roger Lambert with his wonderful - and natural - actors. It's a vanished world, where a sarcastic PE teacher with horrendous sideburns could conduct a "Shirts vs Skins" football match and not be suspended by his school; a world where generally nice kids could have mud fights or get up to harmless pranks, be ticked off by an elderly neighbour and not feel the need to beat him up or stab him; a time of migraine-inducing wallpaper, Wade animals and Candlewick bedspreads (no TV-themed bedlinen in those days!). It's a world where a boy needn't conform and still be accepted by his peers: in "I want to be Famous" Steve (the terrific Steve Bratt) can paint birds or fly his kite, say "Football's rubbish!" and "Girls are soppy!" without being called 'gay', or the Children's Unit of the local authority being alerted. But we also see Britain in transition, lurching towards the social disasters of today: Steve's largely unmodernised Victorian school with its chalky classrooms, wooden desks and drab institutional paintwork can still exist alongside high-rise housing and aerial walkways, and even the nasty kids adhere to a rough code of honour. In "Follow You Follow Me" transport anoraks will have a field-day too, from a glimpse of the P&O liner SS 'Oriana' in Southampton Water, the ferry and quaint Hythe Pier Railway with its tiny engines and carriages now nearing their centenary, to the host of vehicles originally made in Dagenham, Cowley and Longbridge.
The last of the films, "A Seaside Story" of 1986, tenderly captures the last gasp of the British seaside holiday in the genteel faded resort of Lyme Regis. The wonderfully eccentric ex-Colonial landlady (Gwen Nelson giving the role everything it demands) developing a sort of complicity with two modern 17 year-old boy guests that mocks her contemporaneous ancient lodgers, and her inter-generational friendship with one of them (Sam, sensitively played by Sam Butterfield, father of modern rising star Asa Butterfield), both of them non-conformist outsiders, could so easily have happened 25 years ago: alas, not now. The true eccentrics are gone, and that gentle social scene has been swept away by the stifling conformity of a 'post-New Labour' Puritanism where the Government tells everyone what they must be, do, and think; and older generations may not have friendships with young ones (our 'enlightened' society fears such relationships to be 'clearly abusive'. Hah!!). There are some lovely touches in "A Seaside Story": the football incident referred to by the reviewer 'The One On The Left'; an unexpected and delightful shot of Sam's magnificent nude figure, clad only in de riguer 80s white sports socks, when his towel slips as he replaces a lightbulb for the landlady (who doesn't bat an eyelid as he tries to preserve his 'modesty', merely remarking that "In Borneo they do it with feathers!"); Martin's impossibly short shorts and his footballer's mullet hairstyle; the touching Milkweed butterfly sequence, and Sam's awkwardness with 'his' girl; plus a use of 1930s dance-band music for a soundtrack that captures the changing and fading atmosphere. It's funny and touching, but at the same time there's a melancholy feeling of something vast and precious dying even as we watch, without the least murmur.
If you're looking for films devoted to Directorial navel-gazing, explicit gay relationships, or dramatic action, then these three are not for you. However, if you're the slightly nostalgic type who can be content with gentle old-fashioned story-telling and a brilliant record of vanished small-town England at three precise moments in time (before our Great Social Experiment went terribly wrong), then I can heartily recommend them.
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Initial post: 10 Feb 2014 22:57:54 GMT
Monty Milne says:
I've just bought these films and enjoyed watching them. Your review is absolutely marvellous - and right on the money! Thank you!
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