" In this Damned Country, that we hate and love....",
This review is from: My Beautiful Laundrette [DVD] (DVD)
So says Saeed Jaffrey, easily one of the most recognisable Indian actors, at the film's start and sets the tone for this early Film 4 offering from 1985 as the wheeler-dealer uncle, and who typified Thatcherism's era of entrepreneurial immigrants.
Radio Times awards a rare five stars for this provocative and ground-breaking film from the now hugely successful director, now, of Stephen Frears and of course, for Daniel Day Lewis, it might have been his last, presumably such a contentious issue inter-racial gay sex would have been seen (and still viewed as), had he not been both brave AND very good.
This was just Frear's second feature film and whilst today the production values lag, many of the scenes are (necessarily?) contrived and the acting variable, it still says a lot. Lest we forget, launderettes were actually in wide existence then, romanticised by jeans adverts and featuring regularly in TV soap Eastenders. If that last bit sounds pedantic, Eastenders itself was seen as ground-breaking and immensely popular, with ratings in the 10s of millions.
Saeed's hypocritical (he has a white mistress) Nasser only hands over the laundrette to his nephew (Omar) because he's too lazy to run it himself and it's a thorn in his side. Omar, being one of Thatcher's mass army of 3 million unemployed takes to the challenge and equally unemployed white, former National Front member Johnny (Day-Lewis), a schoolfriend of Omar's get drafted in to help refit the run-down laundrette and to turn it into a Palace full of washing machines.
As you can imagine, Johnny's past friends find much to dislike about the company he now keeps, especially as he's been to prison for his past activities and now is not only only cohorting with the Front's seen enemy but having unbridled, active sex with one who is the same sex. Issues around the pressure for Omar to get married, by arrangement are very relevant, both as in being Pakistani and homosexual.
For my money, there are just too many small characters, doing little things that we never see again; they do not contribute to the film and if anything, dissolve its strengths. I'm also not keen on Gordon Warnecke's (Omar) performance, his monosyllabic recital of his lines show no depth. Omar may actually have spoken like that but it fails to convince.
The romance element is boosted by the way that the refurbished laundrette is to be launched as a dreamy magical palace, with a razzle-dazzle showbiz look and can be seen as the aspiration for people who have little to make a life for themselves.
I first saw My Beautiful Laundrette about when it was released and knew friends in the gay community - and have watched the DVD a couple of times since. Those friends saw it more of a championing beacon to their cause and lifestyle and less of a political and economic barometer. Almost no such films were made almost thirty years ago and whilst I'm sure many did just see it as a pro-gay drama, that it was (and remains) a good film is a huge bonus.
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Initial post: 28 Jan 2013 12:09:52 GMT
My Beautiful Laundrette [DVD] Why has this DVD version cut out so many of the scenes which are in the original film? The first obvious cut is when Omar visits the car showroom to get a job. He is beaten up, not seriously, because he is mistaken for a criminal. Instead, we just see him looking at a car and next he is talking to his uncle - who refers to the fight (which we haven't seen).
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