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

Nihilistic thief

Nihilistic thief

Tony Richardson has been more consistently lauded than the others in this group, a fact which I find somewhat surprising. His method is to obtain promising material (A Taste Of Honey. The Entertainer) and then wreck it by heavy-handed direction and the spelling out of the obvious. The results have been picturesquely described by Pauline Kael as "a high-school girl's idea of cinema art." In The Loneliness Of The Longdistance Runner the nihilistic thief of Sillitoe's book has been turned into a darling of the liberals, a young hero 'whom I thoroughly disliked) who looks as if at any moment he is about to drop his tools and join the Junior Socialists. Richardson's commitment strangled the film at birth. In The Loved One, his most recent film to be shown here, Richardson's touch is more assured, but the treatment of the subject Is so sick that the film gives up all pretence and simply lapses into the blatant voyeurism of Anderson's O Dreamland and Joseph Strick's The Savage Eye.

The point is that while critical attention has been focussed on the offerings of this group, other directors have suffered. Thus, while Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life was being hailed as an extraordinary achievement, films like The Man With The Green Carnation (Ken Hughes). Nothing But The Best (Clive Donner), and The L-Shaped Room (Bryan Forbes) were quietly doing the rounds. Yet all these films are better in one way or another than This Sporting Life, surely the most abysmal film to come from the free cinema circle. Anderson takes all the familiar ingredients the bruised, loutish (but sensitive hero, a few displays of tormented anguish, bits and pieces of passion and protest, and the customary specious pleading for the proletariat. He fragments the whole (flashbacks, etc) into a formless structure to give the impression that something significant is going on, adds a dash of spotty symbolism and serves up—a mess.