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Lindsay Anderson: Rarely seen documentary on Free Cinema

There were 3 of them. Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson. Young film-makers, who together formed the Free Cinema movement in Britain during the 1950s. They had a manifesto, which had been written by Anderson and another young film-maker Lorenza Manzetti, and it declared:

As filmmakers we believe that
No film can be too personal.
The image speaks. Sound amplifies and comments.
Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim.
An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude.

It was published in the magazine Sequence, and Anderson followed it up with a longer declaration, Get Out and Push, published in Encounter magazine, which examined the state of British cinema.

As film-makers, Anderson, Reisz and Richardson wanted “to get ordinary, uncelebrated life on the screen.” Their films were portraits of everyday life - an amusement park or porters at Covent Garden (Anderson’s O, Dreamland, and Every Day Except Christmas), youngsters at a Jazz club (Reisz and Richardson’s Momma Don’t Preach), or the story of 2 deaf-mutes, (Mazzetti’s Together).

As Anderson’s explains in this excellent documentary on Free Cinema, they ‘weren’t interested in technique, except as a means of expression’, their aim was to create:

‘An unobtrusive, precise, camera style. A respect for people as individuals, as well as members of a class or industry. These were the characteristics of Free Cinema. Our films were Humanist, not sentimental. You could feel the inevitable thrust towards drams, towards the feature film.

Richardson went on to win glory and Oscars with his film versions of Saturday Night and Sunday Mornnng and Tom Jones; Reisz was the producer, and he went onto direct Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment, Isadora and The Gambler; while Anderson directed This Sporting Life, and then, in collaboration with writer David Sherwin, he made 3 of the most important and seminal films of late 20th century British cinema - If…, O, Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital, which was the last Free Cinema film.

Originally broadcast in 1985, this is Lindsay Anderson’s personal essay on Free Cinema and its influence British film making. Almost thirty years later, the documentary form developed by Anderson and co. has been taken over by television - from award-winning fly-on-the wall series like The Family (1974), to the bastard child of Reality TV. While technology, for better or worse, has made film-makers of anyone who owns a smart ‘phone. Anderson is clear, succinct and an excellent guide to the small film group that changed the British film cinema for the better.


Posted by Paul Gallagher
08:56 pm
Hit the North: Lindsay Anderson’s ‘The White Bus’, 1967

The year before he made If…, Lindsay Anderson produced and directed The White Bus, a short film adapted by Shelagh Delaney, from her short story “Sweetly Sings the Donkey”.

The White Bus was originally commissioned as one third of a three-part film RED, WHITE & ZERO, to be directed by Anderson and his “Free Cinema” collaborators, Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz. It proved an ill-fated project, and The White Bus was the only part to be finished and given a cinematic release.

Delaney was best known for her play A Taste of Honey, while Anderson had established himself as critic and as a documentary film maker, winning an Oscar for one of his first films, Thursday’s Children in 1954. Anderson was also Britain’s leading theater director.

In 1963, Anderson directed This Sporting Life, starring Richard Harris and Rachel Roberts, and based on a novel by David Storey.

Writers were important to Anderson, and he formed highly successful collaborations with a handful of playwrights and authors. In theater,his work with David Storey produced the acclaimed dramas In Celebration, Home, The Changing Room and Life Class. While his collaboration with David Sherwin led to the Mick Travis trilogy, If…, O, Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital.

The White Bus has many of the hallmarks of Anderson’s later films (most notably O, Lucky Man! ), and suggests that the teamwork of Anderson-Delaney could have led to greater works. One can only wonder how Delaney’s film, Charlie Bubbles would have turned out if Anderson had directed it.

The White Bus stars Patricia Healey, and features Arthur Lowe, Anthony Hopkins, and is the story of a young woman numbed by London life, who returns to Salford in search of her northern roots.

Through the eyes of her disillusioned protagonist, Delaney creates a beautifully warped city symphony about an industrial town vivid with history yet ever-changing.



Posted by Paul Gallagher
08:01 pm