Desert Victory (1943) - News Poster

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British cinema's holy fools

In the 1940s and 50s, the Boulting brothers won over filmgoers and critics with a series of classics – from Brighton Rock to Private's Progress. As the BFI begins a retrospective, Michael Newton explores their version of Britain

The history of the Boulting brothers is the history of British cinema in miniature. The brilliance, the comforts and the disappointments are all there. In the 1940s, they take off from documentary realism to reach the heights of noir extravagance, before falling back into a gently unexciting worthiness. At the start of the 1950s they produce two fascinating oddities, characteristic of the oddity of the times. Later that decade, they turn to cosily satirical farce, the products of an exasperated, grump. The 1960s see them trying to get with it and making a middle-aged effort to "swing", but also creating one work that finds a vulnerable, extraordinary beauty in ordinary lives. And after that comes a petering out,
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