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on 20 June 2012
Tragi-comic misadventures of a young man who invents a fantasy world as cover for his troubles and dreary middle-class existence in sixties Yorkshire.

Billy Liar was always a terrific film, but like so many of its kitchen-sink contemporaries (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, A Kind of Loving) it has actually grown in substance and depth since its release. Part of the reason is the extensive use of on-location filming all these movies utilised - crystalising a post-war industrial landscape long since lost and therefore all the more vivid in its posterity. But where Billy Liar gets a bigger march on its predecessors - whether by intent or accident - is that it captures this landscape on the cusp of the swinging sixties, when architecture, culture, leisure and morality were all rapidly changing. In doing so it heralds many of the issues that were to dominate western culture for the remainder of the 20th Century - pop, TV, advertising, celebrity obsession, race relations and escapism.

Billy seemed an endearing but essentially lost soul in his day; an immature weakling unable to face up to the realities and responsibilities of adulthood. But looked at from the hindsight of 50 years he now seems symptomatic of what is today regarded as normal, almost aspirational, behaviour - self-absorption, irresponsibility, opportunism.

Whether director John Schelsinger and writers Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall foresaw all the cultural and sociological changes they captured is something only they would know (they surely couldn't have seen the significance of casting Julie Christie - about to become one of the definitive swinging sixties icons). Whatever the case, what makes Billy Liar such a fascinating film is the casual, uncritical and unselfconscious way its many themes are observed. Its lack of preachiness or self-righteousness help keep it a fresh and funny entertainment that can be enjoyed at that level. Its historical importance as a perfect snapshot of a country at a time of rapid and fundamental change is nothing less than priceless.
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on 8 February 2014
Have really enjoyed this film since I was a kid. Looks very old now, life has really moved on from the sixties. Video quality is very good. A great walk down memory lane.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 December 2011
Billy Liar," (1963), is generally considered a British comedy classic, as it adds some romance, some drama, and some sci-fi fantasy to its screwball beginnings. It was written by the British novelist/screenwriter Keith Waterhouse(), who unapologetically based it upon the Walter Mitty stories by the American humorist James Thurber. As directed by John Schlesinger, (Darling [DVD] [1965]), it gave the young Tom Courteney (The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner [DVD] [1960])the opportunity to show off the comic chops that have served him well throughout his long career. It also introduced the luminous young Julie Christie,(DARLING) when Topsy Jane, who had costarred as Courtenay's love interest in LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER, became ill while filming. And we know what became of Ms. Jane, though she can still be seen in some puzzling-to-me (that isn't Julie Christie!) long-shot sequences, principally at the beginning of the film. And we know what became of Ms. Christie (); this picture made her a star, even though she had but 12 minutes of screen time. (The audience's first introduction to Christie's character "Liz" was shot cinema verite style on the streets of Bradford, where the story is set: we see the passersby turn their heads to follow her as they react to Christie's magnetism.)

Courtenay plays Billy Fisher, a young man who lives at home in Bradford with his family. Dad: Geoffrey, played by Wilfred Pickles; Mum, Alice, as played by Mona Washbourne; and Nana, as played by Ethel Griffies. (Courtenay, Washbourne, and Griffies are recreating their original London stage roles.) (Albert Finney had created the title role of Billy Liar on the stage, before Courtenay took it over, but Schlesinger chose Courteney to play the lead of his film, as Courtenay was a less physically imposing presence than Finney and therefore, the director thought, was more believable as a dreamer.) Finlay Currie, (Whisky Galore - Digitally Restored (80 Years of Ealing) [DVD] [1949]), plays Duxbury; Leonard Rossiter, (The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin: Complete Box Set [DVD]), is Emanuel Shadrack, the undertaker who employs Billy; George Innes, (The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby [2001] [DVD]).

The black and white, 98 minute film certainly features a gallery of the best-known and loved British comic actors of the time; it gave George Innes his first role in a feature film. It figured prominently in the transition from the glum "kitchen sink" realism that had previously characterized British cinema to the much more optimistic 60s. And, as a low-budget film, it was shot on the streets of Bradford: you can see the era's cars, milk floats; World War II bomb damage versus Victorian grandeur, 60s tower blocks rising as older housing falls.

Billy is a lazy, emotionally immature and irresponsible young British clerk who works in Shadrack's gloomy office. It's the dawn of the Swinging 60s, and Billy is bombarded daily by the media's self-serving, transparently false propaganda that all things are anyone's for the asking. This bombardment, as coupled with Billy's boring job and his unbridled imagination, leads him on frequent flights to the mythical kingdom of "Ambrosia," where the young man can be anything he wants to be: king, general, respected novelist, debonair playboy. Meanwhile, as he confuses his fantasy life with real life, he's alienating friends, girlfriends, family, his employer. He's become engaged to two different girls, simultaneously, while he's actually in love with a third, Liz, as played by Christie. And he's spent rather a large amount of his firm's postage money on his personal desires. And last, but not least, his dream of escaping from it all, becoming a highly-paid, famous scriptwriter in London seems simply pathetic.

Well, the movie's got nostalgia for place and period going for it, and it can be quirky and thought-provoking. It's got a powerful comic cast, and the luminous young Christie. I remember being much taken with it on its first release, way back in 1963, real time, but I found it rather painful now. It seemed like all concerned were struggling just to fill up that 98 minute running time; Billy's fantasies began to annoy. Furthermore, I sure don't have the hearing ability I had way back then. The picture lacks subtitles, and the cast has been encouraged to trot out its best Yorkshire accents; as high as I could turn up my TV's volume, all the way to 99, I missed most of the dialog. Recommended only to devoted Julie Christie fans.
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on 19 January 2015
Great film
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on 7 February 2003
... A superb widescreen copy, english subtitles, a commentary by John Schlesinger and Julie Christie (not very interesting), a theatrical trailer and a 15 minutes excerpt from a BBC serie about british cinema (very interesting) are offered as bonus features.
Tom Courtenay is William Fisher, a young man with problems. He doesn't like his job as a funeral furnishings employee, he still lives at his parents's home and spends a lot of time lying to his two girlfriends. In order to quit for a while his everyday life, he has created an imaginary world - Ambrosia - that has got some resemblance with the South or Central America bananas republics of the sixties. He is the leader of this country and people adore him. In short, he is an escapist.
BILLY LIAR has been shot partly on location, partly in studio and I often had the feeling to watch two different movies on the screen. Like Billy. The destructions of buildings shown throughout the movie add to the strange impression that a world is collapsing. When Billy meets Liz, played by a terrific Julie Christie, he has the opportunity of his life to give some reality to his dreams because Liz is so real. Let's admire how John Schlesinger, in a french New Wave style, films her strolling in the streets. A great moment of cinema.
Comedy, social study or metaphor on the Cinema, BILLY LIAR can easily be seen at different levels and is, in my opinion, a valuable addition to your library....
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on 10 February 2015
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on 6 April 2013
Excellent film ,it totally takes me back ,I remember watching this as a child ,a good old English film about the the trials and tribulations of Billy who tells lies to try and get himself out of the complicated mess that he has created.
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on 15 November 2011
Filmed in 1963 this film was proberly inspired by thurburs Walter Mitty,an undertakers clerk lives in a world of fantasy.Its cleverly Written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall And directed by the very talented John Schlesinger.Its cast Tom Courtenay,Julie Christie,Wilfred Pickles,Mona Wishbourne,Finley Currie and Leonard Rossiter not to mention a excellent supporting cast spotted all throughout the film.The urban scenes were filmed in Bradford and the photography are exceptionally good.The comedy in this film rests very well with the serious side and the director seems to have a good balance of both.
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on 11 August 2014
It's a great, timeless classic, with some devastating insights into British working class life during this time. But when it all comes down to it, despite some very funny moments, it's really a drama. The whole cast is perfect, and Tom Courtney, who's not a natural comic, is perfect because he has the ability to make Billy not only very endearing, but deeply sad as well. Billy knows he's going nowhere, and so do we. The last scene is heartbreaking. John Schlesinger was a brilliant director, and he knows how to move us while we're laughing. If you love this film and you've never seen 'A Taste of Honey', add that one to your 'must buy' list.
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on 5 December 2017
I love the film but hate this cheap release from studiocanal - WHY NO SUBTITLES ??? Arthur Lawrence 9/9/31
I have the superior release from the US firm, Criterion but it's now OP so expensive if you can find it - Criterion of course always has subtitles for us oldies
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