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Free Cinema (Prog. 1)

This is the original programme which launched the Free Cinema movement. Another quintessential Free Cinema title, Nice Time, is also included.
O Dreamland is Lindsay Anderson’s vibrant and energetic portrait of the Margate funfair on a typically wet summer’s day as English holidaymakers go about the serious business of enjoying themselves. Punctuated by the manic laugh of a dummy policeman, the perfectly selected montage of images exposes the shoddiness of the attractions (bingo halls, slot machines, a miniature zoo), and the film is every bit as much about exploitation as it is about pleasure. (1953. Black and white. 16mm. 11 mins.)
Momma Don’t Allow is Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson’s look at the emergence of working-class youth culture in the mid 1950s and focuses on young people jiving the night away in a north London pub. The Teddy Boys may now look rather tame, but the arrival of a group of well-dressed groovers exposes some shocking class divisions. (1956. Black and white. 16mm. 22 mins.)
Together by Lorenza Mazetti and Denis Horne is set in London’s East End and provides a compelling exploration of the isolated lives of two deaf men. Despite its emotive fictional structure, the film is not a typical romanticisation of East End working-class life, but offers a complex, open-ended presentation that refuses to condemn or celebrate. It is also notable for its extraordinary cast, which combines local people with the likes of artist Michael Andrews and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. (1956. Black and white. 16mm. 52 mins.)
Nice Time was made by Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner, who went on to forge significant careers in features back in their native Switzerland. This famous short study provides ‘impressions of Piccadilly Circus in 1957’: hot dogs and nude magazines; posters advertising the glories of war and the horrors of science fiction; lonely faces; searching glances; the parade of amateur and professional ‘talent’; and presiding over all, ironically, the statue of Eros. The observation is untouched by nostalgia and presents a devastating picture for anyone who thinks of Piccadilly Circus in romantic terms. (1957. Black and white. 16 mm. 17 mins.)
Saturday Night and Sunday MorningJuly 26, 27 (2.30)
The big box-office success of the British New Wave in the early ’60s, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning saw an authentic working-class hero swagger into the spotlight of English cinema for the first time. ‘Don’t let the bastards grind you down’ says Arthur Seaton (Albert Finney), a young Nottingham factory worker who just wants to get through the week and raise hell at the weekend (‘All I want is a good time. The rest is propaganda’). Determined to make the most of his life and avoid the grim working-class existence of parents who are ‘dead from the neck up’, Arthur spends his days at a factory lathe, his Saturday evenings in the local pubs and his Saturday nights with Brenda (Rachel Roberts), wife of another factory worker. But responsibility catches up with the wayward Arthur when Brenda becomes pregnant and his simultaneous affair with the young Doreen (Shirley Anne Field) threatens to become serious.
Based on Alan Sillitoe’s adaptation of his own novel, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’s frank approach to sex and class trampled old taboos and introduced audiences to a socially conscious, aggressively working-class ethos. Much of the freshness of the piece still survives in Finney’s abrasive performance, and Karel Reisz’s direction is unusually sharp for a feature d?but. A former critic for the magazines Sequence and Sight and Sound, Reisz was also a member of the original ‘Free Cinema’ movement, making the short film We Are the Lambert Boys and co-directing the night-club documentary Momma Don’t Allow with Tony Richardson. He and Richardson were two of the leading lights of the British New Wave. (1960. Black and white. 89 mins.)

A Taste of Honey August 16, 17 (3.00)
Shelagh Delaney’s play A Taste of Honey (written when she was only 19) had already played in the West End and on Broadway before Tony Richardson made his excellent film adaptation.
It was the kind of taboo-breaking, socially conscious work that was bound to appeal to Richardson. Set and shot in Salford and Blackpool, it provides a sympathetic but never sentimental portrait of a young working-class woman who is forced to make her own way in the world. Bored at school (especially when
her teacher drones on about Keates’ ode ‘To a Nightingale’) and in conflict with her boozy, sexually promiscuous mother (a very funny Dora Bryan), Jo (Rita Tushingham) leaves home when she becomes pregnant by a black sailor and teams up with a kind gay man, Geoffrey (Murray Melvin). The outsiders set up house together and enjoy an innocent approximation of married life until Jo’s mother cruelly separates the pair.
Much less stylised than Richardson’s subsequent films, A Taste of Honey’s chief assets are its richly-etched characters, marvellous performances and its strong sense of the stigma associated with miscegenation and homosexuality in a cruel and bigoted society. Despite the naturalistic style, the film is also richly romantic. Images of the industrial landscape, the waterways and tenements are beautifully composed by ace British New Wave cinematographer Walter Lassally and form a valuable counterpoint to the social drama. One of the simplest but most striking moments has Jo in silhouette beneath the railway arches, arms outstretched as she yells to Geoffrey, ‘We’re bloody marvellous!’ (1961. Black and white. 100 mins.)

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner August 9, 10 (2.00)
The thud of running footsteps opens Tony Richardson’s New Wave classic, which stars Tom Courtenay in his debut film role. He plays Colin Smith, a rebellious working-class lad who is sent to Borstal for committing a petty theft. Sullen and antisocial, Colin finds freedom in the solitude of cross-country running. His sporting prowess catches the eye of the smug governor (Michael Redgrave), a great believer in the rehabilitative powers of sports, who has Colin coached to compete in a race against a local public school. But as the governor wishes for sporting glory, Colin dreams of revenge on the system that oppresses him.
Like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, this is another adaptation of an Alan Sillitoe story, and once again the young protagonist announces in an introductory voiceover that he is in rebellion against conformism and the middle-class status quo. Both films contain revelatory performances, and both are set in England’s bleak industrial north. But partly due to the style of their directors, these are very different films.
In contrast to the classic style of Reisz, Richardson shows the influence of the French New Wave directors by adapting a deliberately fragmented visual style. Also, as the critic Gavin Lambert has noted, ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, like all of Richardson’s best movies, is edgy and vivid. It is full of poetic moments especially the location scenes showing Colin’s practice runs through a wintry forest and of powerfully ironic ones, such as the cutting between the Borstal boys obliged to sing Jerusalem at a school concert and an escaped boy being caught and brutalised by police. (1962. Black and white. Anamorphic. 104 mins.)

This Sporting Life August 23, 24 (2.00)
Like Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson, Lindsay Anderson was another key figure in the ‘Free Cinema’ movement who combined work as a critic and theatre director with filmmaking. Based on David Storey’s semi-autobiographical novel, Anderson’s first feature This Sporting Life is a powerful tragedy about a violent, inarticulate rugby player and his relationship with an older woman. In a career-defining performance, Richard Harris plays Frank Mackin, a Yorkshire coal miner whose aggressive play on the rugby field leads to a brief professional career. Although pursued by a number of women, Frank starves for the love of his landlady, Mrs. Hammond (Rachel Roberts), a bitter, passionless widow who eventually has a physical relationship with Frank but refuses to give herself to him emotionally.
In one sense, Mackin is a rough version of the ‘angry young man’ and belongs to a group of subversive heroes of the time that also include Joe Lampton in A Room at the Top and Arthur Seaton in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Here the class conflict is worked out through the game of professional rugby, which is controlled and corrupted by ruthless commercial interests. But This Sporting Life is no simplistic political tract. Anderson turns the film into a much more personal and intriguing affair by concentrating on the physical and psychological tensions that envelop his hero and the strange, unresolved relationship between Frank and Mrs. Hammond. The visceral power of the sports scenes rival those in Raging Bull and go way beyond the story’s basic requirements to hint at much deeper levels of anxiety. Similarly, there is clearly more to the failure of the central relationship than the characters’ inarticulateness and incompatibility. (1963. Black and white. 134 mins.)

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