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In 1960, in a small Black Country town, I went to see this movie, with
a male friend, at our local fleapit - it was a revelation. I found
myself in a cinema that was a real setting for what appeared on the
screen, for there Albert Finney was, not represented, was the working
class bloke that sat in the picture house near to me.
Equally I knew that, on leaving, I would see his aunt (Hilda Baker) in the local chippy, and that Norman Rossington would be cycling to some nearby canal to fish. Indeed when Ben (my friend) and I left we went to our local for a quick pint and, I swear,we both had the uncanny feeling of being part of the film.
Time has passed and the working class East and West Midlands have change completely so it may not have such resonance for a new generation but if you want to know what a good slice of England looked and sounded like in the 1950s you should see it: it's better than any documentary. Indeed it is a great film.
English history has been full of rebel heroes but the screen tradition
really came to fruition during the late Fifties and early Sixties when
England's postwar generation was in revolt
In the theater, this revolt took the form of the "kitchen sink drama" and the era of the Angry Young Men In the movie industry, it was the era of "Free Cinema," an attempt by young filmmakers to break away from established subjects and standard treatments
This raw melodrama deals with Arthur Seaton (Finney), a working class young man who rejects the misery and grind of his home and factory, but whose only possible rebellion takes the form of a cynicism towards authority and a cheerful indulgence in sexual encounters with various ladies of the town His rebellion, though limited, is nevertheless genuine and the film's situation in a working class milieu is, for the habitually middle and upper class conscious British cinema, a much needed step forward...
The movie that made Albert Finney a star cannot, now, be viewed as
anything more than an a (UK) cinematic gem in it own glass case. At the
time of release it hit the audience like a bomb-shell due to its frank
portrayal of life, sex and double standards in the late 50's.
Today some will be puzzled by the dilemmas and themes to the point of "so what?"
Writer Alan Silitoe (from his own novel) quickly draws us in the to real world of a Nottingham factory worker. This is not the factory work of normal movies with the made-up hero having a blob of black stage paint across his forehead; more the dishevelled, sweaty, badly lit world that he knows from first hand experience.
In it we find Finney, smoking and gruff at his lathe. No actor, before him or after has ever made so much of an impression in a mundane situation as the ex-Shakespearen actor does here. Reality comes out of every pore. His matter-of-fact speaking voice, as a voice-over narrator, should not be underrated either - like someone giving testimony partly against their will.
His world of is one of petite rebellion and cheap thrills. The "fighting pit prop that wants a pint of beer." He is immoral and the wife of a friend is seen as fair game: Although the consequences are beyond his immature mind.
There is good supporting performances from British character actors such as Norman Rossington and Hylda Baker, but this movie belongs to one man and one man alone: Sir Albert Finney.
Twenty five years after he is dead the cinematic world is going to wake up and realize how brilliant an actor this man was: Like they did with Humphrey Bogart
I first saw this film during its original u.s. run in 1961, loved it, and
jumped at the chance to see it again at a local revival movie house. The
movie is justly famous for Finney's brilliant performance (I think it was
his first.), but has other virtues as well. Karel Reisz and Freddie
succeed in making the film visually interesting, and it is well paced,
essentially no dead time.
The thing that deserves the most praise, however, is Sillitoe's script, which puts virtually all modern dramatic screenplays to shame. In a general way, the working class british films of the late 50s and 60s launched the tradition that leads to Loach, Leigh, Tim Roth, etc. This film's subtlety and ambivalence towards its leading character reminds me specifically of Mike Leigh at his very best.
Albert Finney is a rebel without a cause in this Kitchen Sink entry
from 1960 that depicts the mind numbing existence of the British
factory worker. Seaton is a hard worker but also a smart ass that rubs
his work supervisor ( who calls him a Red ) and neighbors the wrong
way. He is also sleeping with a co-workers wife.
Albert Finney as the surly Seaton is uncomfortably excellent. His bitter tone and attitude cuts like a power saw. Sooner or later his arrogance will be rewarded and you can't wait. He does display a tender side occasionally with Brenda the married woman but the softness is soon washed away as he rails against the system and his predicament. He is also a world class beer drinker which makes him even more unpleasant as he insults pub patrons and takes a nasty fall down a flight of stairs, only to lie there smiling. Pain is a major source of his existence and rowdy nights out like this serve in a perverse way to blunt it.
Director Karel Reisz moves the storyline along at a rapid pace capturing the grim existence of row house living and deafening factory work. It is a world of gray skies and defeated characters trying to make the best of what they have. They are not the "Happy Breed" of generations past.
Made in the first year of the tumultuous decade that changed the world forever Night is pretty tame by today's standards. But in it's day it was condemned by the Catholic Church for its blatant immorality. One might venture that it had an influence on John Lennon who wrote "Working Class Hero" and on many occasions was witnessed to act like the unctuous Seaton in his life. It might also be argued that Seaton was a prototype for the futuristic angry young man Alex the Droog in Clockwork Orange.
Betty Ann Field, Hylda Baker and Norman Rossington make up a convincing supporting cast in ably assisting Reisz in the world he depicts. Rachel Roberts is outstanding as the tragic Brenda. Smitten with Arthur and doomed by her predicament she perfectly conveys her situation with a tawdry lack of glamor.
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning may be an unpleasant film but it is a powerful and important one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As James Dean imitated Brando, so it would appear Malcolm McDowell
imitated Albert Finney. At least, McDowell's performance in A Clockwork
Oragne owes a lot to Finney in this. Both characters are undeniably
cocky and brimming with confidence and contempt, and both are highly
While not much of a story to write home about - I believe this is considered one of those 1960's British 'kitchen sink' drama's - this is however captivating.
Finney plays a working class lout, tired of his factory job and always hoping for more, he goes about his business without care for any consequences. He swaggers around as if untouchable but soon gets his comeuppance when he is beaten by two army cadets, one of which is the brother of the husband of the woman he is sleeping with, who he has now got pregnant! But he is eventually tamed by the gorgeous Shirley Anne Field.
While I'm no expert at this genre, I can see it's similarity to Ken Loach films and somewhat akin to (through it's simplicity) David Lean's 'Brief Encounter', though not as extravagant.
A nice afternoon film with philosophies that still ring true today ("Whatever they say I am , that's what I'm not." Arctic Monkeys anyone?). Even if you don't like the story you'll be in awe of Finney's cock-sure performance.
Its amazing to look at this film which transformed British Cinema and
introduced the angry young man that would later been seen in films like
'The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner' and 'This Sporting Life'.
The fact that it shocked audiences and local authorities because of its themes covering sex and abortion show that this was a time when a great deal of change was taking place in British society. Although I wasn't around then, things must have been changing very rapidly as six years later 'Alfie' was able to confront these issues full on whereas Karel Reisz's film merely hints at them.
This film also established Albert Finney as a national star and he was soon to become an international star with the wonderfully bawdy 'Tom Jones'. Its always interesting to see the films that established the actors we admire and I'm certainly a fan of Albert Finney so I was shocked when I saw this film and felt that he wasn't really very good in it.
The opening scene where his character, Arthur Seaton, is counting the parts he is making in his factory seemed to introduce a highly overwrought man that shouted all the time. Thankfully the unnecessary 'anger' at the start was toned down later but I still felt at the end that Finney could have done greater justice to his role.
Walking around with a straight back and his chest out, talking twice as loud as he needs to seemed to resemble an angry old man rather than an angry young man and I almost expected him to talk about how kids nowadays didn't know they were born.
Its unusual that an actor from a working class background didn't convince me when playing a character that was not that dissimilar from himself whilst actors like Tom Courtenay in 'Loneliness...' and particularly Richard Harris in 'This Sporting Life' did it much better.
However, I gradually found myself being more and more absorbed in this film as it started to develop a storyline and move away from a young man being angry simply for the sake of it.
Rachel Roberts excels in her role as the married woman who becomes pregnant by Seaton and its a shame that this actress has been forgotten when you consider her performance here and the marvellous one she gave opposite Harris in 'This Sporting Life'.
Shirley Anne Field also does well as Doreen the girl looking to settle down and it is in her relationship with Seaton where I disagree with many people's assessment of the film.
Its generally said that Seaton hates the idea of conformity but in the end accepts it. However I feel that the film is much more hopeful than that as he realises that love and marriage is not necessarily a trap that only fools rush into and that there is much more to conventional life than he had originally anticipated.
This is one of those types of films that actually lets you forget who the
big stars in it really are (a young Albert Finney) - and just lets you
the film for what it is - a classic and gritty British film. I've watched
over and over and seen it again today - and forgot how good - and funny
places it really is.
Director Karel Reisz used his skills perfectly in this - he took places lit and furnished as he found them, let people naturally perform and simply laced together a piece of cinematographic brilliance.
People forget that he also directed such films as The French Lieutenants Woman and produced This Sporting Life, but I personally feel this masterpiece, amongst his early and sadly rare work was the best by far.
If you've not seen this film and claim to be a fan of 1960s British Cinema, you'd better get it into your collection and view it very soon - be prepared for some smiles, some laughs, some hard scenes but, overall, a treat.
This is the film which made Albert Finney a star. Filmed on location at Nottingham, Albert Finney plays Arthur Seaton a bored factory worker who is having an affair with his workmate's wife (Rachel Roberts). Controversial at the time because of its references to abortion, this film gives an idea of what life was like amongst the working classes during the 1950s. Shirley Anne Field also made her name in this film, but she never really fulfilled her potential as an actress. A well acted and produced gritty drama which is still watchable today.
Albert Finney's first film is set in the North of England in the late
Times are changing as living standards rise quickly and social attitudes
become more flexible - or are they? Whereby, of course, hangs the film.
Arthur Seaton is out for a good time within the confines of his life and
film foreshadows attitudes that became prevalent in later
Shot in black and white, probably to give a realstic feel, and the scenes at the fairground are particularly good even today.
I spotted a street and pub near to my home in London used as one of the night exteriors, so although some must have been shot in the grim North, parts of London stood in for Nottingham.
The film is short, pithy and refreshing and even if the central character isn't that nice a guy, your sympathy is with him. British cinema at its best. 8 out of 10 from me.
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