Free Cinema: Part Two

The second part of the Free Cinema Series will confusingly be exploring the third film programme that was part of the series.

As well as showing more experimental British films, the Free Cinema movement also explored the work of international filmmakers, including Truffaut and Polanksi.

The third programme was the second selection of the British shorts shown as part of the movement. These four films however, didn’t seem to quite fit in with the initial remit. From showing experimental films with no restrictions, the third programme seemed to show films that were far more conventional in their style- which was not really the point in the first place. With restrictions placed on Anderson by the commissioners of his two films that were part of this programme, it’s hard to understand why they were included- they are not totally ‘free’ after all.

Despite this, the films are essential viewing. They all display characters from marginalised areas of society, and are in keeping with what the movement was trying to achieve.

Programme 3: Free Cinema 3

The Wakefield Express– The second of Lindsay Anderson’s film to appear as part of the Free Cinema programme, it differs quite obviously from the other work in the movement. Anderson was commissioned by the Wakefield Express newspaper to make the film to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the newspaper going to print, and so naturally, he would’ve been far more restricted in terms of the type of film he could deliver. The film is very similar in style to a lot of the earlier documentaries that the movement itself professed to reject, and it is hard to understand why it was actually part of the movement at all. Anderson, whose other work is usually critical of the traditions and nostalgic portraits of British life in cinema, explores the stories of the people of Wakefield with a fondness and romantic glow. It also has the informative nature of many of the early Grierson documentaries and public information films. It’s certainly an enjoyable watch, but perhaps an odd choice for the programme.

Nice Time- Directors Alain Tanner and Claude Goretta was almost certainly influenced by Anderson. His film O’ Dreamland that was part of the first Free Cinema programme cast a critical eye on the postcard imagery of the British seaside, and Nice Time follows suit, but has moved to the Capital, more specifically, Piccadilly Circus. In keeping with Free Cinema tradition, has no dialogue or linear narrative, but simply observes groups of people on a night out on the town. As with O’ Dreamland, there is a sinister undertone to the frivolity and laughter that is presented on the scene. Flashes of nude images of women on billboards, coupled with a soundtrack that mixes club music with dialogue from some of the films showing at Leicester Square is at times overwhelming. London is at once exciting and terrifying.

The Singing Street-The Singing Street is the most amateur of the films in all of the Free Cinema programmes. Shot in and around Edinburgh, the film was directed and shot by a group of school teachers, who simply wanted to document the songs sang and the games played by school children. Historically, the film was shot at a time before television took over in the UK, and the filmmakers were eager to capture the carefree attitude of the young children, who could still run around in the streets. The film is one of the more positive of the programme, and is a celebration of childhood and community.

Every Day Except Christmas– Another film from Anderson, this time with Karel Reisz as the producer, the film was the first of the ‘Look at Britain’ series commissioned by Ford Motors. The film starts at midnight, and follows the delivery drivers who bring produce to the market. As the day dawns, the market is bustling with people and Anderson observes the various characters who mingle around, looking for a bargain. Anderson’s focus seems to be on the ordinary, working class people who go about their daily business, and it’s similar to Wakefield Express in its style.

Stay tuned for the final instalment.

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