free cinema

Momma Don’t Allow (Reisz/Richardson, 1956)

UK, 22 min


dance, teddy boy, dance…
don’t worry; that duck’s ass
at the back of your head
looks mighty fine


well, obviously i’ve been on  a free cinema kick for the last few days. i recommend all these films as great context to anyone interested in brit cinema, especially fans of the british new wave and/or the “angry young man” and kitchen sink realism dramas from that period.

this entry is by karel reisz (director of saturday night & sunday morning, producer of anderson’s this sporting life) and tony richardson (look back in anger, a taste of honey, the loneliness of the long distance runner).


the film depicts an evening at a jazz club, but the directors designed it to give a sense of narrative. like the others i’ve seen thus far, it has great music. this time it’s from a live jazz band.  (see full synopsis from screenonline at the end of this entry.)

while it lacks the sense of spontaneity of the last two i watched (several parts are obviously highly staged), it does have the advantage of exploring its subjects – youngish members of the working class and the emerging youth culture – in more depth, and with far more affection than o dreamland or nice time.

it’s of particular interest for its fantastic footage of kids dancin’ up a storm (wish i knew what little trot they’re doing), youth fashion, and for featuring an awkward mixing of proles and middle class brits.


(where and when did these kids used to learn their dance steps? did they need to be taught, or did they learn by example? whose example? argh. also, if anyone knows of a doc that depicts these lads actually putting the brilliantine [or whatever] in their hair… hook me up)



Nice Time (Goretta/Tanner, 1957)

UK, 17 min


Goretta and Tanner’s inimitable souvenir of Piccadilly Circus is what Jean Vigo described as a ‘point de vue documentaire’. The directors thread together the disparate sounds and images of a Saturday night out as the crowds gather around Eros.  bfi


another superb serving from the free cinema movement. fucking nectar. i will continue seeking these docs out with wild fervor.


from screenonline:

In September 1956, two young Swiss film enthusiasts, Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner applied for a grant from the British Film Institute to finance a film about London’s Piccadilly on Saturday night. Both in their mid-twenties, they were working at the BFI, where they had met Lindsay Anderson and the other Free Cinema members, as well film critics like Derek Prouse and John Berger, who offered encouragement and support.

At the BFI they also discovered the work of film-makers like Jean Vigo, a major influence. But it was the success of the…


O Dreamland (Lindsay Anderson, 1953)

UK, 12 min


O Dreamland manifests Anderson’s distaste for the noisy vulgarity of Margate’s Dreamland Fun Fair. A careful montage of images and natural sound recalls the seediness of the attractions as articulated by the mocking mechanical laughter of the dummy sailor. Inescapably, the merciless candid camera reflects the middle-class condescension to the working class, picturing them alternately as being exploited, or being complicit in their exploitation. —— bfi


i loved this. leering reminders of the overwhelming coney island project i had to work on last year. (view full post for more delicious caps and a swell little essay from screenonline.)