Posts tagged ‘BFI’

March 24, 2012

The Long Good Friday (1980 – Blu-Ray)

“You’d have noticed wouldn’t you? I mean, a geezer nailed to the floor.  A man of your education would definitely have spotted that wouldn’t he?”

I was perusing the BFI official list of the top 100 British films and realised I’d only seen about half.  So I’ve decided to make an effort to view them all and 1980’s ‘The Long Good Friday’ is one that I’m new to.  What you expect to get is a gritty “Laaarndan” set Gangster flick but I wasn’t expecting the prescient political dimensions of the story.  The film follows the turbulent day of Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins) an old-school Gang land boss whose empire is under attack just as he is trying to setup a lucrative property deal with a the US mob. Harry’s idea is to redevelop the London Docklands for a future Olympic games (Sound familiar people of 2012?!?), an idea that has the coming decades’ ‘Thatcherism’ written all over it.  Hoskins gives a bravura performance radiating pent-up anger that only fully spills out in a shocking scene towards the end.  Harry’s two closest confidants are Helen Mirren’s intelligent Gangster’s-Moll and his number two played by Derek Thompson of ‘Charlie from Casualty’ fame (Back when his acting consisted of much more than staring off into the distance!).  Someone has betrayed Harry, could it being either of them?

Francis Monkman’s pulsating Synthesiser score is magnificent bringing to mind Giorgio Moroder’s score for ‘Scarface’.  Considering that celebrated film’s similar subject matter the fact that it came 3 years after ‘The Long Good Friday’ shows the influence this film had.  The Blu-Ray transfer is wonderful combining a pinstripe-suit like sharpness while preserving the earthy realism of the cinematography.  The disc is also stuffed with superb extras about the making of the film.

Harry’s final angry speech to his timid American cousins seals the film’s classic British status by being both fiercely patriotic and a little bit laughable (See below):

March 11, 2012

Little Malcolm & His Struggle Against The Eunuchs (1974 – Blu-Ray)

“Surrounded by these eunuchs I realise that we the oppressed must take things into our own hands”

‘Little Malcolm & His Struggle Against The Eunuchs’ is my first foray into the BFI’s ‘Flipside’ series of little known (And often previously unreleased on video) British films (Factoid alert! Malcolm X’s real name was Malcolm Little). I was drawn by the striking cover image of personal lifelong fave John Hurt. It was telling of the quality of what I was about to see that the movie opens with the words George Harrison presents (‘Life Of Brian’, ‘Withnail & I’ etc anyone?). This satirical comedy follows art school misfit Malcolm Scrawdyke and his three followers Wick, Irwin and Nipple (Played by another of my acting heroes, David Warner) as they decide to smash the system by setting up a political party called ‘Dynamic Erection’. It soon becomes clear that all they are going to do is talk because they are all far too inhibited and ineffectual to actually do anything.

Director Stuart Cooper made the inspired choice to shoot the film as if they were really carrying out the plans. So we get a heist scene, a car chase and a ‘Triumph Of The Will’ style speech, all using the filmic conventions that those entail, while the guys are only play acting. For example, the “Chase” scene where they are just sitting in a scrapped car on a demolition site making “Vroom, vroom, screech” sounds is hilarious. The boys revolutionary posturing soon descend into Fascistic bullying rhetoric and mock trials culminating in a shocking final scene (Shocking for the protagonists and for we the audience). Of course Hitler himself was an Art-College reject and it was unfortunate that the population of Germany didn’t see him as being as ridiculous as little Malcolm Scrawdyke.  ‘Little Malcolm’ has all the crazed charm of ‘Withnail & I’ if it had been fueled on drinking turpentine and oil paint instead of “Booze!”. If all ‘Flipside’ releases are of this quality I’ll definitely be trying another one.

Checkout this scene featuring an argument about corduroy and just see if your sides don’t split by the end!:

March 8, 2012

Brief Encounter (1945 – Blu-Ray)

Do you know, I believe we should all behave quite differently if we lived in a warm, sunny climate all the time. We shouldn’t be so withdrawn and shy and difficult”

I’ve got a nice DVD box set of Rank films which is generally great. But when I started to watch the ‘Brief Encounter’ disc I found the transfer was so disappointing that I decided I’d wait for the Blu-Ray to watch this celebrated classic. I’m glad I did, as the BFI have done a great job, not only by cleaning up the picture but by bringing crystal clarity to the 70 year-old soundtrack. No wonder as the BFI rank ‘Brief Encounter’ as the official second greatest British film ever (Behind ‘The Third Man’).

From the outset I found Celia Johnson’s cut-glass, terribly, terribly, English accent annoying, as it sounds like some parody of Englishness. This however was the only niggle in an otherwise perfect movie. Noël Coward’s story and David Lean’s script portray a 1940s world of stifling repression that would be otherwise hard to imagine. The brief chaste romance between Johnson’s yearning housewife and Trevor Howard’s stoic Doctor is very touching.  When later films and actors would be ripping each other clothes off, Howard and Johnson only need the slightest glance to convey the volcanoes of desire they have beneath the surface.

David Lean’s direction is breathtaking from the smoky shadows of the railway station to the way he capturing his actors every nuance in closeup.  ‘Brief Encounter’ is rightly praised as a classic but I wouldn’t rank it as Britain’s second best.  In fact I’d rank it as David Lean’s fifth best film, which is still a rarified recommendation.