The 1940s represent a high point in the history of British film, characterised by the works of such recognised greats as David Lean and Michael Powell. But alongside this ‘quality cinema’ there exists a body of popular productions by film-makers who have not yet been the objects of detailed scholarly attention. Four from the forties addresses this oversight, drawing attention to four directors whose career trajectories had a good deal in common and can tell us much about what British film-goers expected from the cinema in this crucial decade. Leslie Arliss, Arthur Crabtree, Bernard Knowles and Lawrence Huntington were all born at the turn of the century. All had been active in a range of film-making functions in the 1930s, and all would do their most proficient and popular work in the 1940s, thereafter prolonging their careers into the 1960s through ‘B’ movies, co-features and television. Taken together, they offer a commentary on the changing fortunes of mid-century British cinema.
This book is about the British film director Terence Fisher. It begins by setting the context by detailing Fisher's directorial debut to Hammer's horror production and the importance of the Hammer horror to Fisher's career. Hammer's horror production represents one of the striking developments in post-war British cinema. The book explains some professional and industrial contexts in which Fisher operated and shows how these relate both to the films he made and the way in which these films have been judged and valued. It presents a detailed account of The Astonished Heart, Fisher's sixth film as director, highlighting the benefits and some of the problems involved in thinking about Fisher's career generally in its pre-horror phase. The successful Hammer film, The Curse of Frankenstein, both inaugurated the British horror boom and established Fisher as a film-maker whose name was known to critics as someone who specialised in the despised horror genre. After The Curse of Frankenstein, Fisher became primarily a horror director. The book presents an account of the highs and lows Fisher faced in his directorial career, highlighting his significant achievements and his box-office failures. It also shows Fisher as a director dependent on and at ease with the industrial and collaborative nature of film-making. In a fundamental sense, what value there is in Terence Fisher's work exists because of the British film industry and the opportunities it afforded Fisher, not despite the industry.
This book argues the centrality of hybridity to Terry Gilliam's films. Gilliam had a collaborative approach to filmmaking and a desire to provoke audiences to their own interpretations as other forms of intertextual practice. Placing Gilliam in the category of cinematic fantasist does some preliminary critical work, but crudely homogenises the diversity of his output. One way of marking this range comes from understanding that Gilliam employs an extraordinary variety of genres. These include medieval comedy; children's historical adventure; dystopian satire; the fantastic voyage; science fiction; Gonzo Journalism; fairy tale; and gothic horror. Gilliam's work with Monty Python assured him a revered place in the history of that medium in Britain. As a result, the Python films, And Now for Something Completely Different, The Holy Grail, Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life, along with his own, Jabberwocky, Time Bandits, and Brazil, show him moving successfully into the British film industry. Most of his films have been adaptations of literary texts, and Jabberwocky forges an extended tale of monsters and market forces. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen builds on some tales from the original texts, constructing a complex examination of fantasy, representation and mortality. Taking crucial ingredients from medieval and older mythologies, the screenplay of The Fisher King resituates them and reworks them for modern America. Gilliam's complex interaction with Britain and America explains his ambiguous place in accounts of American and British films.
Michael Derek Elworthy Jarman as a true 'Renaissance Man' in the colloquial sense of the word, as well as having a strong and permanent interest in the art, thought, and literature of the Renaissance. Although the tone of Jarman's films is frequently melancholic, the threat which death poses for desire is sometimes modulated by an apparent desire for death. He was never comfortable with the label 'gay', regarding it as both too stable and too self-satisfied, too concerned to present a 'positive' image. He preferred the more fluid and mobile term 'queer'. Jarman's first feature-length film was remarkable in many ways and in at least three respects was virtually unique at the time for a commercially distributed picture. In 1977, the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, punk had spread beyond a handful of clubs and bands in London and New York and was starting to look like a complete new youth culture in the making. From 1978 to 1985, whatever else he was engaged in, Jarman's life was dominated by his desire to make a film about the life of the Italian painter Caravaggio. Wittgenstein had been a completely unexpected commission which Jarman, despite his failing health, had rapidly and brilliantly converted into 'A Derek Jarman Film' through his usual intense personal identification with his subject. Blue was one of a cluster of films addressing the issue of AIDS which were released in the early 1990s.
Mike Leigh may well be Britain's greatest living film director; his worldview has permeated our national consciousness. This book gives detailed readings of the nine feature films he has made for the cinema, as well as an overview of his work for television. Written with the co-operation of Leigh himself, it challenges the critical privileging of realism in histories of British cinema, placing the emphasis instead on the importance of comedy and humour: of jokes and their functions; of laughter as a survival mechanism; and of characterisations and situations that disrupt our preconceptions of ‘realism’. Striving for the all-important quality of truth in everything he does, Leigh has consistently shown how ordinary lives are too complex to fit snugly into the conventions of narrative art. From the bittersweet observation of Life is Sweet or Secrets and Lies, to the blistering satire of Naked and the manifest compassion of Vera Drake, he has demonstrated a matchless ability to perceive life's funny side as well as its tragedies.
Humphrey Jennings has been described as the only real poet of British cinema. His documentary films employ a range of representational approaches – including collagist narrative structures and dramatic re-enactment – in ways that transcend accepted notions of wartime propaganda and revise the strict codes of British documentary film of the 1930s and 1940s. The resultant body of work is a remarkable record of Britain at peace and war. This study examines a productive ambiguity of meanings associated with the subtle interaction of images and sounds within Jennings' films, and considers the ideological and institutional contexts and forces that impacted on the formal structure of his films. Central and lesser-known films are analysed, including Spare Time, Words for Battle, Listen to Britain, Fires Were Started, The Silent Village, A Diary for Timothy and Family Portrait. Poet, propagandist, surrealist and documentary filmmaker – Jennings' work embodies a mix of apprehension, personal expression and representational innovation. This book examines and explains the central components of Jennings' most significant films, and considers the relevance of his filmmaking to British cinema and contemporary experience.
This is a comprehensive critical study of Anthony Asquith. The author sets the director's work in the context of British cinema from the silent period to the 1960s, and examines the artistic and cultural influences within which his films can be understood. Asquith's silent films were compared favourably to those of his eminent contemporary Alfred Hitchcock, but his career faltered during the 1930s. However, the success of Pygmalion (1938) and French Without Tears (1939), based on plays by George Bernard Shaw and Terence Rattigan respectively, together with his significant contributions to wartime British cinema, re-established him as one of Britain's leading film makers. Asquith's post-war career includes several pictures in collaboration with Rattigan, and the definitive adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (1951), but his versatility is demonstrated effectively in a number of modest genre films including The Woman in Question (1950), The Young Lovers (1954) and Orders to Kill (1958).
More English than the Brits' proclaims one of the chapter headings in Michel Ciment's seminal series of interviews with Joseph Losey. Losey's life embraces a major crisis in political commitment and public tolerance (the blacklist); his career, his oeuvre, spans the most fundamental cultural confrontation of the century, between Marxism and Modernism, between progressive "realism" and the avant-garde subversion of optimism. Losey began his directorial career in the leftist political theatre of the 1930s. For Losey, as for many leftists of the period, Communism meant allegiance to the Soviet ideological model, and by extension, to Stalin's policies. The 1950s proved to be a difficult decade for Joseph Losey, a period marked by prolonged exile, the ever-lengthening reach of the blacklist and the constant fear of betrayal. The Sleeping Tiger, The Intimate Stranger and A Man on the Beach were made during his period of exile in the 1950s. There was an experimental, writer-oriented focus in Joseph Losey's later work, opening the way for collaborations on a more equal footing. Losey collaborated three films with Harold Pinter: The Servant, Accident and The Go-Between. His involvement in Secret Ceremony, Boom! and Figures in a Landscape was a case of blatant economic necessity. Most of his work directly explores and addresses the ideological interpellation of women by analysing the cultural assumptions that both construct and perpetuate it. Losey officially became a tax exile after relocating himself from Chelsea to Paris because of tax problems.
John Izod, Karl Magee, Kathryn Hannan and Isabelle Gourdin-Sangouard
In a long and varied career, Lindsay Anderson made training films, documentaries, searing family dramas and blistering satires, including This Sporting Life, O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital. This book is about a director whose work came to public attention with Free Cinema but who, unlike many of his peers in that movement did not take the Hollywood route to success. What emerges is a strong feeling for the character of the man as well as for a remarkable career in British cinema. Making use of hitherto unseen original materials from Anderson's extensive personal and professional records, this book is valuable as a study of how the films came about: the production problems involved, the collaborative input of others, as well as the completed films' promotion and reception. It also offers a finely argued take on the whole issue of film authorship. It prompts renewed respect for the man and the artist and a desire to watch the films all over again.
Brian McFarlane and Deane Williams
Michael Winterbottom is the most prolific and the most audacious of British filmmakers in the last twenty years. His television career began in the cutting-rooms at Thames Television, and his first directing experience was on the Thames TV documentaries,