7.0/10
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2 user 3 critic

We Are the Lambeth Boys (1959)

Part of the British 'Free Cinema' movement, which included Lindsay Anderson's 'Every Day Except Christmas' (daily life at Covent Garden fruit/vegetable market) and 'O Dreamland' (a ... See full summary »

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Jon Rollason ...
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Part of the British 'Free Cinema' movement, which included Lindsay Anderson's 'Every Day Except Christmas' (daily life at Covent Garden fruit/vegetable market) and 'O Dreamland' (a working-class trip to Margate amusements), and Reisz and Tony Richardson's 'Momma Don't Allow' (about a London jazz club) all made in the mid to late 1950s, before the three went on to direct features in the British 'new wave' social realist genre that drew from their experiences in Free Cinema. Written by Charlie

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free cinema | See All (1) »

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March 1959 (UK)  »

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Look at Britain-2: We Are the Lambeth Boys  »

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Opening credits: Much of this film was made at Alford House Youth Club in Kennington,mainly with the club's younger members. We want to thank the governors, the staff, the voluntary helpers and the members of the club for all their help; and most of all Bill Belsham, the warden, to whom the club so greatly owes its spirit.

Alford House is not a typical London youth club. It is a very good one-friendly and alive and enjoyed by 350 members. More like it are needed. See more »

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Featured in Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

I wanted more commentary from it but it was still a historically interesting fly-on-the-wall documentary
30 April 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Alford House is not a typical London youth club. It is a very good one – friendly and alive with 350 active members. This film looks at the drop-in youth club that provides something to do for the young people of the area before then following a selection of them through their working hours and evenings.

It is perhaps easy to not be engaged by the approach of this film, which was part of the BFI funded "Free Cinema" movement of the late 1950's.Turning on the multitude of UK cable TV stations now and you'll find loads of fly-on-the-wall documentaries whether looking at the staff of airports, driving instructors, police on a Saturday night or the lives of office staff in various businesses. They are inexpensive to make and seem to get the viewers constantly. However this was not the case forty or fifty years ago and this should be bore in mind when watching because this is the approach this film takes.

The film is hardly as sharp as modern documentaries (I mean "documentaries" by the way – not the cheap "drunks falling over on the street" reality trash that ITV would have us believe are documentaries) but it is still quite interesting in the painting of life for this small group of young people. I assume these rowdy and aimless youths must have been an issue for worry back in the day (shows that fashions change but very little else does) and this film was a way of looking at the issue. Reisz shoots the film with a natural unobtrusive camera and the result is quite interesting. Personally I wanted it to be a bit less neutral and have more commentary to it in order to direct it to a point or a challenging suggestion etc. The subjects themselves don't say enough to do this but the narration doesn't offer much more than filling in round the edges of what we are seeing.

The look at life forty years ago was what held my interest most of all though, because it is amusing to see what "rebellious youth" once was! That said though, evenings of mucking about followed by food down the chip shop then home would suggest things aren't that different – particularly when youthful noise is frowned upon by passengers by on the bus journey. An interesting documentary then that is worth seeing as part of the formative approach to documentary making that is so much a given now. Flatter and not as sharp as I would have liked but still interesting.


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