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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 5. 1967.


Karel Reisz, the director of the new British film, Morgan, is a member of a group of (comparatively) young film-makers who, over the last 10 years, have been making feature films with a committed political and sociological viewpoint. The names of Reisz, Tony Richardson, John Schlesinger and Lindsay Anderson are associated with this group, and Jack Clayton the ball rolling to some extent with Room At The Top. These directors have drawn much of their material from contemporary British theatre and literature, from the work of Osborne, Sillitoe, Braine, Mankowitz and others.

Anderson and Reisz had earlier launched the British documentary movement known as "free cinema," and were later joined in this venture by Richardson and the director of photography. Walter Lassally (Electra, Zorba The Greek, Tom Jones, etc.). The aims of the group, as set out in its manifesto of 1956, were to make films "which share an attitude: a belief in freedom, in the importance of the individual, and in the significance of the everyday." Very commendable. I'm sure. The "everyday" is undoubtedly often significant, but is it always interesting? The group apparently thought so, and the result of its activities was a series of short documentaries (short, although some of them seem to drag on for an eternity), which might be covered by the general title "life among the proles." If there's one thing the proletariat needs protection from, it's do-gooders like Anderson and company, who think they are doing the workers a favour by depicting them in their natural habitat These films, which look rather like biological studies of ant colonies, merely reveal the condescending "liberalism" of their makers.

Some may have seen the two free cinema shorts screened here last year by the Vic film society: Momma Don't Allow and We Are The Lambeth Boys. I found these films excrutiatingly boring, and I suspect that the ennui may have been general. Not even Richardson's arty shots of London statuary could disguise the shoddy way in which the films were put together. Compared with other documentaries I have seen (e.g., Pare Lorentz's The Riven), these seemed to have nothing whatsoever to recommend them. I must admit prejudice, in that the general neo-realistic attitude towards the cinema gives me a pain. It is obvious that most people go to the movies to escape from the kind of existence that is so avidly depicted by these films. This may be deprecated as "escapism," but I find an artist's imagination run riot on the screen more exciting than candid camera views of reality, especially when the reality belongs to someone else, and a not very interesting someone at that.