29 January 2021.
I thought I would remind you of a few favourite British films and be done with it. But I had forgotten about Shakespeare and company, RADA and the rest, and how that country takes its writing, drama and acting heritage very seriously.
I would need too many weeks to list the myriad greats of British cinema, but let me try to pick a few for now.
First of all, take any of these directors – the visionaries of any creation – and many of their films will be outstanding. I shall name just two from each.
David Lean – LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, DR. ZHIVAGO
Merchant/Ivory – MAURICE, THE REMAINS OF THE DAY
Stephen Frears – DANGEROUS LIAISONS, FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
Ken Loach – LAND AND FREEDOM, I, DANIEL BLAKE
Mike Leigh – SECRETS AND LIES, MR. TURNER
Sam Mendes – AMERICAN BEAUTY, SKYFALL, 1917
Christopher Nolan – MEMENTO, DUNKIRK
Sally Potter – TANGO LESSON, THE PARTY
Peter Greenaway – THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT, THE PILLOW BOOK
Kenneth Branagh – HENRY V, CINDERELLA
Guy Ritchie – LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, THE GENTLEMEN
Here is the first list in a selection of other excellent films:
39 STEPS (1935) I am not a fan of the later, highly-hyped Hollywood Hitchcock, but in this black & white 1930s spy thriller, he is at his best.
SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING (1960) This bleak, ultra realistic film was the breakthrough for Albert Finney, one of England’s most charismatic actors, and one of the first vehicles for the “angry young men” of that era.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1967) Here is the ultimate English romantic drama based on Thomas Hardy’s novel, with a beautiful, independent landowner (the glorious Julie Christie) and her three ardent suitors in rural England of the mid-19th century.
A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) Stanley Kubrick dared to make this symphony in violence, which was shocking for its time, along with a dystopian psychological message. Malcolm McDowell was terrifyingly exciting, along with an overpowering soundtrack partially appropriated from Beethoven’s 9th.
LOCAL HERO (1983) This gentle, amusing tale of financial greed (ecology before its time), an unlikely friendship, and moments of love set in the coastal wilds of Scotland is an unforgettable film. With the great Burt Lancaster.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998) The title says it all, and we’ve never been so close to the Bard – in his writing and as a man in love. A wonderful, rousing concoction of what may have been, with a superb, Oscar-winning performance by Gwyneth Paltrow.
IN BRUGES (2008) Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are waiting in Bruges for instructions on their next hit job. Such a slight idea becomes a sublime, complex film with different, crazy characters that somehow make their way into your heart (despite their foul language). By master director Martin McDonagh of such films as “The Guard” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”.
AN EDUCATION (2009) A coming-of-age story about an innocent girl who is swept off her feet by an older, too-charming scoundrel. Set in the early uptight 1960s London with a budding Carey Mulligan, it is utterly English despite its Danish director, Lone Scherfig.
THE KING’S SPEECH (2010) Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are brilliant as royal student and teacher in this story of King George VI’s stammering problem. This tender, amusing and true historical portrait of Queen Elizabeth’s shy father swept the Oscars that year.
DARKEST HOUR (2017) A tour de force, Oscar-winning performance by Gary Oldman carries this pivotal moment in English history when Churchill grappled with his government on deciding between peace with Hitler or fighting on for the survival of that island which ruled much of the world for so long. Multiple awards.
With too many superlative films, including comedies, the list will have to continue through next week…and maybe further. The Brits take my award for BEST in film!
Download any of these – you will be elated, whatever their genre.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.