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‘Wider still and wider’.

Posted by keith1942 on April 10, 2014

Widescreen

After the delights and surprises of the Bradford International Film Festival we have the Widescreen Weekend. Three and half days of big screen entertainment now firmly established as a film buff’s must. The Festival offers all the major widescreen formats, 35mm anamorphic, 70mm, 2K and 4K digital theatrical projection and Cinerama.

This years programme is as varied as usual. There is a tribute to the VistaVision format with White Christmas (1954). Sadly this is a digital version. Apparently the Museum does have an old VistaVision projector but it needs major technical attention. And I am not sure how many of the originals VistaVision prints now survive. We have just faint memories and its occasional use in technical effects.

The 70mm presentations include The Big Blue (1988), Big Trouble in Little China (1986) and West Side Story (1961) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). The Museum is able to project on both flat and curved screens. The latter a rare treat. The main 35mm print is For a few Dollars More (1965) in a Scope print. There is also The Way We Were (1973, a personal favourite) in the next best thing to celluloid print, 4K digital.

There are also interesting presentations and talks. There is a session by restorers on working digitally on 70mm prints. A panel will be Remembering Widescreen, with illustrations. And Christopher Frayling is coming along to talk about Sergio Leone.

The brochure [online at the Bradford Film Festival’s pages] is impressive. The programmer Duncan McGregor, provides both the original technical details of the films and those of the print or digital version being presented. This makes a pleasant contrast to many of the multiplexes where on cannot even tell if one is going to see – film, theatrical digital and video. Duncan heads an experienced team of projectionists so we will get not only memorable films but also the films presented with skill and attention.

 

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Early short films by Sally Potter

Posted by keith1942 on April 3, 2014

Thriller

Thriller

This was the opening event in a full retrospective of this filmmaker at the Bradford International Film Festival. The films varied in length between 2 minutes and 32 minutes and were filmed on various formats, including 8mm and 16mm. The Festival included a quote by Potter in a 1998 interview:

“Sally outlined the questions she implicitly considered in these early films: ‘what is film space and film time? What is the frame?” However watching the films I was also struck by a focus on bodies and movement – a preoccupation that explains why, though she says she always wanted to become a filmmaker, she also studied dance and ballet.

The programme consisted of five films. The three shortest are clearly early experiments in the medium of film. The other two are more substantial explorations of narrative worlds. The London Story (1986, colour 15 minutes) seemed to me to be a nicely produced but essentially lightweight spy story. In fact, it was the only one of the film funded by a public body, the BFI. I rather thought that said something about film funding in them UK.

Thriller (1979, black and white, 32 minutes) was a much more substantial work and really impressive in its linking of themes and style. There are two major strands in the film: the first is a series of still photographs of a performance of Puccini’s opera La Bohème in Italy in the 1930s. This accompanied by a recording of an opera performance in London in the 1950s. The second strand combined a drama and dance rendering of the opera’s plot. The setting is some sort of attic room. The performers are in contemporary dress. And the lead performer, re-enacting Mimi, is a young Afro-Caribbean woman. In the course of this we hear Bernard Herrmann’s accompaniment to the shower sequence in Psycho (1960) several times on the soundtrack. Towards the end we also hear a commentative voice that asks questions about the drama.

One question poses what would be the effect if Musidora rather than Mimi was the protagonist in the drama? This pursued only briefly. The main question suggests that Mimi’s death could be murder – hence the use of Herrmann’s score. This raises a much larger question given the predilection of modern melodrama to present the woman as victim, and therefore as an object rather than a subject.

Like much of Potter’s work the film is full of what seem to be deliberate references to cinema and to other arts. She appears to have a taste for references to Surrealism. I discerned hints of Luis Buñuel, Marcel Duchamp and Rene Magritte. I found the film both enthralling and stimulating. It also seems to illuminate preoccupations that recur in Potter’s later work. There is certainly a recurring address of issues found in Feminist theory and practice. And there is a continuing interest in what is called intertexuality – the way that cinema, and other arts, intertwine their meanings and motifs.

 

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20th International Bradford Film Festival

Posted by keith1942 on March 6, 2014

BIFF logo

March 27th sees the welcome return in the 20th edition of this showcase for films from all over the world and from many different periods of |International Cinema. The launch on February 26th saw the Festival co-directors, Tom Vincent and Neil Young, present some of the highlights of the eleven days of screenings and a show reel of trailers for these. What can, I presume, be called their mission statement offered ‘We think we put the world before you’. The programme will include 127 films, of which 43 will be UK premieres.

Many of the latter will be in the Festival Official Selection, hosting films from 20 different countries. These include dramas, melodramas and documentaries. And among these are a number of promising new UK productions.

There will be a complete retrospective of the work of Sally Potter who will receive the Bradford International Film Festival Fellowship. The retrospective includes her early short films and all of her seven features. The only disappointment is that it seems that Orlando (1992) is only available in the HDCam format.

Then we have five ‘crime films’ directed by Japanese filmmaker Nomura Yoshitaro. A major director he worked at the Shochiku Studio from the 1950s to the 1970s. These films were all adapted from the stories of the writer Matsumoto Seichō,

The regular section of the Festival Uncharted States of America features a tribute to James Benning. His films have been a recurring feature in the programme over the years. They are distinctive studies of Americana, with a strong minimalist feel. The programme includes both his work on 16mm and using digital formats.

There is also the regular horror strand, Bradford after dark. The films seem to include comedy, the surreal and the genuine unsettling.

Biff also provides tributes to important contributions to British Cinema. So this year the Lifetime Achievement Award goes to the actor Brian Cox., The Festival is greening one of his television works – Nigel Kneale bizarre but forward looking The Year of the Sex Olympics (BBC 1968) – and five of his features. The one disappointment is that this does not include Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda (1990), a film with a fine performance by Brian Cox which deals with a somewhat taboo subject, Britain’s ‘shoot to kill’ policy in occupied north of Eire. This last film would, of course, be extremely topical at this point in time.

There is also a selection of Short films and several silents. There are specialist talks and interviews and a range of supporting cinematic material. There is also a Filmmakers’ Weekend organised together with the Northern Film School at Leeds Metropolitan University. And a special bonus for traditional cinephiles – after the opening Thursday and Friday there is at least one 355mm screening every day. The Festival uses the Pictureville, Cubby Broccoli and Imax screens, and there are also screenings at Bradford Cathedral, Bradford University, the Impressions Gallery and [in nearby Leeds] the Hyde Park Picture House.

See http://www.bradfordfilmfestival.org.uk for full details: there is also a complete Festival Brochure.

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Dog Star Man

Posted by keith1942 on May 4, 2013

title_by_brakhage

This film was the centrepiece of the Tribute to Stan Brakhage at the 19th Bradford International Film Festival. The other five of his films screened ran for one and two minutes: this film ran for 78 minutes. Neil Young’s introduction was spot on when he stated that this film marked a change from a ‘lyrical style to an epic style’. Like the whole programme the film was screened in silence and on 16mm, so we saw Brakhage as he intended. The film is composed of five parts, constructed by Brakhage between 1961 and 1964. We saw all the discrete parts in sequence. Apparently the early screenings presented the separate parts individually and I did feel that at least a break between reels would have assisted viewers.

The opening part is a Prelude and runs for about 30 minutes. Part 1 is not quite as long: Parts 2 and 3 are shorter, though of about equal length. And Part 5 is the shortest, about 5 minutes. In P. Adams Sitney’s classic study of The American Avant-Garde 1943 – 2000 (Oxford University Press) there is a long section on this film. He quotes Brakhage himself on the film:

“The man climbs the mountain out of the winter and night into the dawn, up through spring and early morning to mid summer and high noon to where he chops down the tree.. There’s a fall – and the fall back to somewhere, mid-winter …”.

This gives an outline sense but Brakhage’s work is neither as simple nor as chronological as this suggests. Certainly the man, accompanied by a dog, is seen in recurring sequences struggling up a mountain: at times through snow and in darkness. But there are whole other sequences of seasonal variations, solar flares [this is found footage and the only credit in the film], sexual activity [explicit] and a newborn child. Much of this, like the baby, is partly autobiographical. Much of it is recurring references to art and symbolism: William Blake, Ezra Pound and the Vorticists are the most easy to identify.

The range of techniques bought to this is extremely varied. Most of Parts I to 4 involved superimpositions, often using different layers combined together. There are also scratching, painting, punched holes and inlaid materials on the celluloid. And the cameras uses most of the possible movements and angles, plus zooms, filters, distorting lenses and occasionally anamorphic lenses. Many of these techniques are familiar from Brakhage’s shorter films. And as with them much pleasure can be derived from the films’ distinctive aesthetic qualities. However with Dog Star Man it becomes clear that whilst this is not a narrative film Brakhage has invested the work with complex but [for him] important meanings, symbolism and metaphors.

Adam Sitney has several pages of comments, including attributing meanings rather different from those of Brakhage himself. I suppose this is fair comment, viewers responses are part of the developing meanings of films. However, my sense was that the film has a poetic rather than explicable set of meanings. And what struck me after the screening was that as the film is clearly autobiographical it could in one sense be an extended commentary on Brakhage’s own artistic endeavours. Certainly a Freudian approach to sexuality is central to his films: like Blake he is obviously concerned with the movement between innocence and experience: and the rise and fall of his career [in a rather esoteric field] parallels the sojourns of his protagonist.

In the end of the pleasures of Brakhage’s films are much closer to the art works of a group like the Vorticists, found in art galleries: or the poems of Blake and Pound, which we read in books. But his real achievement is to bring these into the darkened chamber of projected film, where the experience takes on a whole different dimension.

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Widescreen Festival Weekend

Posted by keith1942 on April 22, 2013

The chief projectionist and colleague in the PIctureville projection box

The chief projectionist and colleague in the PIctureville projection box

This is one of the most popular features of Bradford’s Annual International Film Festival. This year film buffs and the organisers have a week in which to catch their breath before the next programme of events. We are now sixty years on from the re-introduction of widescreen cinema, or from Hollywood’s point of view, the introduction of widescreen film into mainstream cinema. And there are quite a few popular classics on show: The Guns of Navarone (1961, in a 4K digital version) The Great Escape (1963, also in a 4K digital version), and The Sound of Music (1965, on the 70mm curved screen). I have seen these all several times before though they all have sufficiently good production values to revisit. Then there is the regular focus on Cinerama, a speciality that can be seen in few other cinemas. This year they are featuring The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), though I think the process is more about spectacular imagery than telling stories.

What strikes me as especially interesting are the following. Hello Dolly! (1969, in 70mm on the curved screen). This film suffers from miscasting, but it has some fine mise en scène and some fine onscreen dance sequences, mainly down to director Gene Kelly. There is How to Marry a Millionaire (1953, in 35mm CinemaScope). Director Jean Negulesco does not have the panache of Howard Hawks, but the stars, Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable, make this a must. Then on the final Monday there is Gettysburg (1993 in standard widescreen 35mm). We are in the 150th anniversary of this epic battle: more intriguingly it follows on from Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012), which was fine bionic is still informed by rather conservative ‘American’ values. I am taking care that my eyes are rested and ready for these visual treats.

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Stanley Brakhage

Posted by keith1942 on April 11, 2013

notes-on-mm_brakhage

The 19th Bradford International Film Festival includes a Tribute to Stan Brakhage, one of the outstanding figures of the US avant-garde. In the programme are five of his short film works, only one or two minutes long, and his much more substantial Dog Star Man (196-64), which runs for 75 minutes. The short films precede features in the programme and are spread over the ten days of the festival. Dog Star Man screens on Saturday April 19th. All the films are being screened in their original 16mm format and without any sound or musical accompaniment. Most also feature ‘montages’ which include rapid flicker effects.
Brakhage was a central figure in film art in North America from the early 1950s until his death in 2003. He exerted immense influence in this field of artistic expression and was himself influenced by other major avant-garde filmmakers like the Surrealists, Maya Deren and Jonas Mekas. Among his other influences were the psycho-analytical guru Sigmund Freud, artists like William Blake and modernist writers like James Joyce and Ezra Pound. His films are far from the conventions of mainstream feature films, closer to artworks exhibited in galleries. It should be emphasised though that they are intended for cinema projection and this is where they can be seen and appreciated to their full effect.
The films are challenging and full of complex references and symbolism. Often there are rather different interpretations of their meaning or significance, including between Brakhage the author and critics who write about and discuss his work. But his film work is also full of beautiful and often riveting images. They can be viewed and enjoyed on purely visual aesthetic grounds. I should ad this will be my first opportunity to view the much longer Dog Star Man, and I am intrigued as to what will be the impact of a film that is so much more substantial than the bulk of Brakhage’s output, relatively short painstakingly crafted films. Dog Star Man is an epic film poem, crafted over three years and constructed in five parts. The Festival catalogue has some introductory comments on the film.
Of the five short films the one I would especially recommend is Mothlight (1963). Brakhage produced this work by using actual moths and gluing them to a thin 16mm film. This in many ways typifies his craft. His films include carefully selected shots, montages and superimpositions. But to these he adds manually altering the celluloid by scratching and other techniques, colouring and painting on the celluloid and attaching other materials, as with Mothlight. The results are both distinctive and idiosyncratic.
Brakhage’s films are extremely subjective, the aim being the expression of a personal vision. It is generally called Abstract. However, he makes great use of film of the actual world about him, including his family and himself. But these are blended in with more conventional abstract imagery. He also is at pains to produce films that are contrary to the mainstream conventional aesthetics.
He is quoted on his approach “Imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic, an eye which does not respond to the name of everything but which must know each object encountered in life through an adventure of perception.”
Perspective in composition in art is the norm for much or recent history, and is still dormant in the visual conventions of cinema. By comparison Brakhage’s images have a sense of flatness which is markedly different.
The Festival offers the rare opportunity to see these films as originally crafted, in their proper format and in a cinematic presentation.

Quotation from Visionary Film The American Avant-Garde 1943 – 2000 by P Adams Sitney, Oxford University Press, 2002. There are two chapters dealing with Brakhage’s work.

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Happy Birthday, Indian Cinema!

Posted by keith1942 on April 2, 2013

Deewaar

This is a strand in the 19th Bradford International Film Festival. The title points to the centenary of the production and release of D. W. Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra. This is generally treated as the first indigenous film feature in Hindi cinema. There had actually been earlier documentary-type films and dramatic features of stage plays. But Phalke’s film is a 40 minute long drama presenting one of the great Hindu stories onscreen. The event will offer a range of Indian films from its earliest days right up to the present. Alongside this, but already open for viewing] is Bollywood Icons: 100 Years of Indian Cinema.

This is an exhibition of between 45 and fifty posters spread across the history of the Raj India and post-independence Indian cinema. The earliest posters are a set of those for the films of ‘Fearless Nadia’. aka Mary Evans, from Australia. After a circus tour of the Asian sub-continent she ended up as the Indian equivalent of ‘Pearl White’. She appeared in a series of action films involved in great stunts and fantasy adventures in which she defeated stereotypical villains.

Another set follows the dynasty launched by mega-star Raj Kapoor. His films from the late 1940s and through the 1950s exploited an onscreen persona, which offered echoes of Chaplin but also involved melodramas that had a hint of Frank Capra movies. Various family members are still leading stars in contemporary Hindi cinema. Karisma Kapoor stars in Zubeidaa (2000), a film whose poster is an example of the films of Shyam Benegal, part of the New Indian Cinema.

Amitahb Bachaan, the greatest and most iconic star in Hindi cinema has a set of posters. These include his famous early films like Deewar and Sholay (both 1975), where his is a violent and ‘angry young man’ persona is central. There are also his later films where he has become the father figure of Hindi cinema.

And there is also a set of films featuring Shah Rukh Khan; the contemporary star whose fan base stretches far beyond India as ‘Bollywood’ has become a global player. Unfortunately my favourite of his films, Dil Se (1998), directed by the talented Mani Ratnam is missing.

There are posters of the classics such as the original poster for Mother India (1957), and for Mughal-E-Azam (1960), and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). The latter was the work of one of the finest directors of melodrama in Hindi Cinema, Guru Dutt. There is a poster for the Urdu movie Unrao Jaan (2006) centred on the courtesan characters common in Indiana films.

The styles and formats of these posters are as varied as they films they publicises. And they also, to a degree, represent the different language and regional cinemas, which contribute to the large totals of film production each year. Some examples show the influence on foreign cinemas, especially borrowings from Hollywood films. Whilst there is variation there is also development, given a sense of how the cinema has evolved over it history.

Pick up a copy of the Festival Brochure, handily available. It contains and excellent article by the curator of the exhibition Ima Qureshi, Decoding the Bollywood Poster. Ima Qureshi is giving an illustrated talk during the Festival, on Saturday April 13th.

Added to all this are some video projection. The larger offer music clips from a range of Indian films from the 1950s to the present. The clips have been provided by major distributors of Indian films in the UK. Unfortunately, as with quite a number of the UK DVD releases, some of the films have been cropped and it does show. The smaller video exhibit is from the 1913 version of Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra. When I visited the DVD from India had not arrived and the exhibit used a YouTube version. Unfortunately this has very poor image quality and has been filmed askew [probably from the rear of a cinema auditorium?].

Note one of the surviving fragments of Raja Harishchandra is being screened in the festival programme alongside A Throw of Dice (1929). The latter is a co-production involving Germany and is one of the few surviving films from India’s silent era. Mother India also gets an outing, as does Mughal-E-Azam, both in their original 35mm format. The other classic to catch is Kalpana (1948) recently restored by the World Cinema Foundation.

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La Maladie Blanche / The White Illness [or disease]

Posted by keith1942 on May 5, 2012

France 2011, Christelle Lhereux, 43 minutes, black and white and colour.

Shown in the New Features at Bradford International Film Festival.

This is an intriguing and visually splendid film. It was screened from HDCam. I did not spot what format the film was actually shot on: and have not found a source yet with that information. It is visually very distinctive: it reminded me of some of the odd formats that Michael Almereyda used in the New York ‘Indie’ scene.

The film is a variation or –re-interpretation of Beauty and the Beast: at one point we se a father reading the book at bedtime to his daughter. This is Myrtle, a little girl who wakes to discover a wandering wild boar, which she follows into the woods and to a cave. The cave also features primitive wall drawings of wild life, including a wild boar. The father, discovering his daughter’s absence, follows, with his gun loaded and ready.

Clearly the film’s narrative is full of symbolism, mainly I would guess to what is generally referred to as ‘patriarchy’. The Festival Catalogue mentions both Jean Cocteau and Apichatpong Weerasethakul as influences. And the director has developed a reputation in the field of video installations. One can discern all three stands in this half-length feature.

Apart from the ambiguous resonance in the plot the film offers an observational pleasure. The village in which father and daughter live is hosting a festivity. And in the early part of the film we constantly return to observe the children, the passing back and forth in the street and a bar, and an outdoor disco where the teenagers mix and socialise.

The Catalogue describes the film as a ’magical, monochrome, moonlit reverie’, an apt description. It is somewhat delicate but very graceful. It is also offers a substantial fairy tale.

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Marcel Ophüls and Jean-Luc Godard: The St-Gervais Meeting

Posted by keith1942 on May 4, 2012

Switzerland 2011. Subtitles, 44 minutes. Directors: Frédéric Choffat, Vincent Lowy.  Screened at the Bradford International Film Festival in 2012. 

This short documentary records a meeting in 2009 between two of World Cinema’s leading directors: Jean-Luc Godard, the uncompromising, quixotic and modernist director and Marcel Ophüls, a director whose films tease out through a forensic cross-examination the actual events behind a deafening social silence. The conversation seems to have followed a screening of Ophül The Sorrow and the Pity (Le Chagrin et la Pitié, 1969). The is a film that addressed the German Occupation of France in World War II and the collaboration by many French people, including actions against Jewish people. If you have never seen this film it is one of the truly great film documentaries: it meets Andrew Briton’s criteria, ” great documentaries are analytical, in the sense that they present the corner of reality with which they deal not as a truth there to be observed, but as a social and historical reality which can only be understood in the context of the forces and actions that produced it. Secondly, they are engaged, in the sense that they lay no claim to objectivity, but actively present a case through their structure and organisation of point of view.” (Invisible Eye, Sight & Sound February 1992).

Part of the fascination of the film is the contrasting styles and ideas of the two protagonists. A contrast that is writ large in their film output. The occasional referee in this debate, Jean-Pierre Rehm, opines that ‘two great filmmakers reveal their faces and their smiles.” The exchanges are courteous and restrained; though at times it appears that there is more substantial disagreements beneath the polite surface.

Godard, as one might expect, he being so experienced in argument, starts off. His plays with his famous cigar as he eloquently sets out thoughts on film and filmmakers. Ophüls is much more restrained and tentative: Godard dominates the early exchanges. However, as the discussion develops Ophüls’ subtle, often needling comments, have an effect on Godard.

It transpires that some years previously they had discussed a possible film on Palestine and Israel. Here the issues of national, ethnic and cultural difference become important. Ophüls a German Jew, with first hand experience of the European Holocaust, who has lived and worked in France for most of his life. And Godard, Swiss, but again having spent much time and filmmaking in France and who also had experience, different from Ophüls, of World War II. The project for a joint film was never realised, and some of the factors become apparent in this conversation. Godard, however, has addressed the subject in his 2011 Film Socialisme. This is a vastly different work from that of Ophüls. With brilliant visual and sound design, it is a film of such complexity that one viewing is clearly insufficient. Yet, like that of Ophüls, it facilitates viewers in engaging with ideas and issues that most other filmmakers fail to address. And like the Ophüls film it is both analytical and dramatic.

If the two filmmakers’ conversation is fascinating it is also extremely entertaining. Both are able to offer subtle phrasings and sly digs. Ophüls make good use of the term ‘establishment’ at Godard’s expense. Both are extremely witty. There is great humour in Ophüls description of his endless faxes to Godard.

Godard’s strong points, as one would expect, concern being precise about what tends to be called ‘film theory’. He makes the point about how all the words and sentences about the ‘auteur’ tend to forget about the importance in the original articles of the word ‘politique’. And he, like his companion, pays tribute to their mutual friend François Truffaut.

My only concern with the film was with the translation of the sub-titles. At one point Godard refers to a metteur en scène, which is translated as ‘director’. Whereas, of course, this is an important term in the continuing debates about where authorship resides. What this film does demonstrate is that both these filmmakers are ‘auteurs’ in the original sense of the articles in Cahiers du Cinèma, in that they bring a personal vision to their films, but importantly this is a vision that is analytical and political.

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That Summer

Posted by keith1942 on May 1, 2012

UK 1979, Eastmancolor, 94 minutes. AA Certificate on release.

The film has not apparently been seen since its initial release. It was screened at the Bradford International Film Festival as part of a Ray Winstone retrospective. The Festival discovered that the director, US born Harley Cokeliss, had a 35mm print. In fact the Eastmancolor had faded and turned rather ‘pink’. However, a London lab was able to scan and achieve some colour correction. The film looked pretty good, though some of the night scenes were a little murky.

The film was Winstone first feature screen outing after the Television version of Scum. He was nominated in the BATA ‘Most promising newcomer to a leading film role’ for his performance. He plays Steve [sometimes called Brodie] and just out of Borstal.

Most of the film is set in Torquay and nearby Torbay, where Steve travel s in order to avoid the trouble silkily in hi London pad. However, he also has a new goal: a coach at he Borstal having suggested that he has potential as a swimmer. Much of the film follows his training in the seas for a long-distance swimming championship [running to 5 or 6 hours] held at he resort.

There are three other key characters: Angie (Julie Shipley) and Carol (Emily Moore), Leeds factory girls working as chambermaids at the posh Imperial Hotel. And there is Jimmy (Tony London), wanting a break from college study and helping out in his father’s butcher’s shop. He has his own car. He gets a job on beach boats whilst Steve works at a local Public House, The Pickwick.

The dramatic opposition is provided by three Scots in the resort, Tom, Georgie and Stu. There are several confrontations in the Pub and in the street and finally in the swimming race itself.

Steve is a driven character. He devotes himself to his training with serious commitment. He also develops a relationship with Angie, but she finds his preoccupation with swimming off-putting. Jimmy strikes up a relationship with Carol. Whilst Angie is clearly sexually experienced [as are the lads] and candid about her desires, carol is the innocent. Angie advises her on two occasions that it is ‘awful the first time’. But she seems to think it is still worth pursuing.

The AA Certificate is now a thing of the past, but it fell between the A and the X rating and excluded under 14s. The presentation tended towards adult material, though clearly aimed at a youth audience. There is plentiful swearing and explicit sexual adventuring, though not actual sex. The violence is limited, but candidly presented.

The soundtrack is also a youth project. There is frequent contemporary popular music, both sung and instrumental: both diegetic and non-diegetic. Oddly the end credits only list one song, The Zones’ ‘New Life’. In fact the NME Guide to Rock Cinema gives a complete listing. This includes The Boomtown Rats, Elvis Costello ‘Watching the Detectives’, The Ramones, Patti Smith ‘Because the Night’, and Ian Drury and the Blockheads ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll.’ So it is a great revisiting the classics late 70s though the film overplays its use of pop music.

The plotting of the narrative is conventional, even at times stereotypical. So the ‘villains’ in the film are the Scots. Presumably the filmmakers felt that this made for a clear binary opposition. But there is little shading in their characters or in their motivation. This also applies to the film’s resolution, which feels rather rushed.

One aspect that stands out is the freshness of the dialogue and the interaction between the characters. Their exchanges, advances and hesitations ring true and the feel of the teenage culture of the period is strong. There are also frequent cutaways to the crowds of holidaymakers in the resort, offering a strong sense of time and place.

Visually the film is extremely well done. The cinematography is by David Watkin, who by this stage had already filmed The Devils for Ken Russell (1971), and Robin and Marion for Richard Lester (1976). Much of the film was shot on location. I recognised some old haunts from the resort. The swimming sequences are extremely well done, [with a double at time for Winstone?] and include an underwater melee. What really impressed me were the night-time shots, in the streets, wooded walks and along the promenades.

The editing also works well, another regular from Ken Russell’s productions, Michael Bradsell. Often there is a black screen as we move to a new time or location. But on a several occasions the images lap over into he next scene, carrying the viewer and plot forward.

So this was a welcome discovery. Already Winstone’s strong screen presence is apparent. The rest of the cast includes familiar faces but no one whose career was as successful as the star’s. This looks like Harley Cokeliss’s best film: though his more famous role was as second unit director on The Empire Strikes Back.

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