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|Index||16 reviews in total|
Of course I am aware that huge numbers of people will see this movie as
mildly diverting, an interesting off shoot of a TV character, or a
attempt to translate a mythic television talent to a medium he wasn't
to. I know some will find the plat slight. Some may enjoy it but simply
it isn't all that impressive. Well, this is fine. But I believe that The
Rebel is quite simply the finest movie ever made, and I've seen a lot of
What is so great about it ? The colours. The lush score moving from the comic to the romantic with ease. The array of great comic performances. The script which ranges from the profoundly comic to the comically profound.
The struggle of the individual to express his individuality in a world that prefers conformity has been the subject of countless numbers of films. The Rebel is the only film I can think of to mock this tradition while also celebrating it. The character of Hancock drifts between lies and truth while carving out a reputation for himself among the Parisian avant garde. His never reflects on his complete lack of noticeable talent and inability to dedicate himself to the craft but instead creates something of a stir with his infantilism. His bluster is only ever a whisker away from the despair he shows on his opening train journey.
Comedies are often treated as somehow inferior to dramas. It's much more important to treat human suffering with a straight face than take life for the comedy it undoubtably is. Hancock's suffering may not on the face of it seem important or noble, but it is the despair of the insignificant man who wants to be outside of the machine, wants to be important and creative. But despite dealing with this theme the comedy never drifts into pathos. Hancock covers the sadnesses with a jaunty self involvement in which he can place himself securely among the great artists whose every brush stroke is torn from their body.
The satire on modern art may seem a bit obvious but it is never played on for serious effect.
The sideline characters are all magnificent from John Le Mesurier as Hancock's completely unimaginative boss, through Irene Handl on top form as Mrs Cravat who regards all Hancock's efforts as a load of miscellaneous rubbish, to Dennis Price's Jim Smith, eccentric French millionaire.
"Jim Smith ?"
"Oh. You're surprised. I always feel an English name sounds so much more mysterious."
"Oh yes. I knew a Bert Higgins and a Harry Trubshaw once. They were dead mysterious they were."
But it's not just the plotting, the comedy, the acting, and the dialogue that strike me as perfection. The design of the movie. The contrasting of Parisian styles with the bowler hat and umbrellas of Waterloo Bridge. The interior of Paul Ashby's room. The paintings themselves. All these elements compound the sense of joy that watching this film brings.
And for those who watch this film and think that I am talking nonsense. All I can do is to re-iterate Hancock's cry to the elite of the art scene "You're all raving mad. None of you know what you're looking at. You wait til I'm dead. You'll see I was right."
Tony Hancock was the biggest British comedian of the late 50s and early
60s. Viewing his two (not entirely representative) films and watching
(and listening) to his "Half-Hour" comedy shows (running separately, if
concurrently, on BBC television and radio), young people (those under
35 or so) will probably find this fact baffling unless they are
extraordinarily well-informed about social conditions in immediately
postwar Britain. There also seems to be a kind of gender barrier. Women
of my acquaintance, even those that satisfy the fairly stringent
criteria I detail in my previous sentence, seem to have found Hancock
Hancock's humour, it must be said, was unconventional. It is entirely driven by the dialectic, if you will, between character and situation. Hancock loathed gags, and forbade his scriptwriters (usually the brilliant duo of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson) to indulge in them. It is also exceptionally restricted in time (late 50s), social class ("shabby-genteel" lower-middle) and place (the south-east of England). Yet Hancock, who bestrode Britain like a colossus in his heyday, nurtured the powerful delusion that he could succeed in America.
It would take an amazing act of empathy on the part of an American to penetrate Hancock's humour as displayed in his radio and TV shows. As a technician he was flawless, possessing a sense of comic timing unequalled by anybody in Britain except the probably equally unexportable Kenneth Williams (perhaps best known outside the UK because of his strong involvement in the "Carry-On" series of films). Needless to say, Hancock and Williams, the two greatest British comedians of all time, loathed and vilified each other.
"The Rebel" (pointedly re-christened "Call Me Genius" in the America Hancock was desperate to impress) was released to great disappointment in 1961. In hindsight it has gained in favour, its initial cool reception a matter of some puzzlement.
Hancock, in the film, is an office drudge who harbours artistic ambitions way beyond his hopelessly limited technical skills. However, he jettisons his boring day-job to share an artistic garret in Paris (only 200 or so miles from London) with a frustrated, but genuinely talented, young artist (Paul Massie). Hancock's infantile daubs are hailed as works of genius in the pretentious circles he inhabits. Galton and Simpson's screenplay wastes no opportunity to satirise the credulity of the modern-art world, and its unfailing capacity to court lucrative charlatans.
Can those outside the British Isles understand this film? I hope so. The office environment and lodgings Hancock occupies are stultifying, but the artistic world of Paris is shown to be as corrupt and foolish in its own way (NB. the identically uniformed "Existentialists", indistinguishable, in a sense, from their bowler-hatted counterparts with whom Hancock works in central London). Art does get a slightly better press in this film than commerce, since the possibility of genuine artistic talent (i.e. Paul's (Hancock's young flatmate and protégé)) is acknowledged. Nevertheless, the presence of trend-hungry buffoons within the artistic world (e.g. George Sanders' art dealer) indicates the interpenetration of the commercial and artistic worlds. Is art-dealing George Sanders any less a despicable entrepreneur than Hancock's erstwhile manager in his City of London counting-house, John le Mesurier?
Although we speak essentially the same language (I think the differences are often over-stated), cultural barriers remain between the UK and the US. However, Americans would do well to look closely at Tony Hancock, partly for his intrinsic value, and partly for the huge influence, conscious and unconscious, he has wielded over the British psyche (here I controversially include Ireland, which remains culturally close to the UK). His second feature-film ("The Punch And Judy Man"), while telling in its own way, is less valuable overall, both inside the UK (and its satellites) and beyond.
I am 57 now and was weaned when I was a lad on the various BBC tv series of
"Hancock's Half Hour in the 1950's.I became an addict there and then.In
later life I carefully recorded the repeats on my vcr (not invented when I
was a lad), and purchased cassettes of Tony's earlier radio shows whenever a
new volume was available for sale.I have read his biography (1924 - his
suicide in Australia in 1968), so he was only 44 when he died.Forget he had
a drink problem and could be violent.
Yes, he considered he had outgrown his tv series with Sid James (and Kenneth Williams earlier) and even his later solo "Hancock" tv series from 1959 onwards.As a previous literate reviewer has rightly remarked, he hankered after a wider international audience for his comic abilities and appeared in later films like "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" even trying his hand in Hollywood with Walt Disney but I consider "The Rebel" from 1961 as his funniest film.It incorporates many characters like the existentialist lady on the big screen who have been heard before, e.g. Fenella Fielding in the radio show "The East Cheam Poetry Festival" from 1954.John le Mesurier often played "establishment" figures in his half hour shows and was a personal friend and here he plays Hancock's authoritarian boss in the dreary office where we first see him in an almost synchronised early scene where the clerks all do a similar computation function simultaneously.How we office workers with aspirations of individual creativity empathise with him in his rebellious behaviour!!
A new "Mrs Cravatte" in the shape of Irene Handle (not Patricia Hayes who was merely a char lady in the tv series), provides a female comic foil as Tony's landlady.It is interesting he retains his real name in this feature film, presumably he considered he could effectivly develop his bohemian character from the tv onto the broader canvas.I revisited this film after 20 years or so and laughed out loud in several places.The point already made that American/overseas viewers may be perplexed with his humour is easy to understand and our current UK generation may be left cold by it.My generation however which was reared on a diet of post war food rationing, spivs, watching wealthy Americans in the media, the McMillan type establishment figures in politics and industry, trends in fashion, pop music etc; can so empathise with his humour.I gave it 7/10.
This one is a long-time favourite for its great one-liners, its wit, its bright colours and the sheer joy of its performances. George Sanders plays the creepy critic with the same finesse he'd done many times before, Hancock as the leader of the Infantile school of painting is so preposterous its hysterical, even a very young Oliver Reed appears briefly in the cafe scene. The writing of Galton and Simpson is as sharp as ever but gets to take more detours and turns than it ever could in the Half-Hours ... a brilliant film. I particularly love the pathetic painting of the foot which crops up at the art exhibition and that hideous sculpture. Excellent.
This superb film features Tony Hancock quitting his boring office job for the artist's life in Paris. Despite the fact that he can't paint or sculpt (his 'Aphrodite At The Waterhole' is excrutiatingly awful) he thinks he is a genius and soon gets a reputation as such. He wins fame and fortune with the paintings of Paul Massie who had given up art and moved back to England for a boring office job. The early part of the film features a cameo by Oliver Reed as one of a group of artists arguing drunkenly about what is art in a Parisien cafe. The script was written by Galton & Simpson and draws heavily on some of the excellent Hancock's Half Hour radio series (particularly the Poetry Society) which they wrote. Irene Handl is superb as Mrs Crevatte, Hancock's London landlady (also Paul's when he leaves Paris) and the film is full of some of the best British actors of the day (George Sanders, Peter Bull, John Le Mesurier, Dennis Price etc.). This is one film I was itching to see come out on DVD and it has, paired with The Punch & Judy Man. Wonderful stuff indeed.
Tony is trapped in the drudgery of a 9-5:30 office job. But at night he is
an artist who has great talent and vision (he believes). When he decides to
quit his job and move to France he falls in with a group of artists who
admire the `childlike' quality to his work. However when he passes another
artists work off as his own and gets signed by a major agent he begins to
get over his head in trouble.
For fans of Hancock's Half Hour on the BBC this film will represent strange new ground an extension of the short concise stories with depression being the overriding source of Hancock's comedy. Here the story sees him less put down and more of a winner this removes a lot of what made him funny.
However the story still has wit as Hancock makes fun of the pretentious art crowd and makes fun of his own inability to paint. However the running time is perhaps too long to sustain and much of the comedy is such that it could easily have been done by anyone rarely is Hancock's unique style allowed material to work with.
Hancock is still good though, and him misfiring is still funny. George Sanders has an interesting role and it's always good to see John Le Mesurier in anything. However at times you can't help feeling that Sid James could have been added somewhere. In fact the whole film would have been better modelled around the format of the TV and radio shows.
Overall this is the film failing it is stretched and, for most of the second half, it's comedy is not the usual Hancock fare that so many loved. It's funny but it'll make you seek out tapes and videos of his classic shows.
An often overlooked and underrated Hancock vehicle as the Lad from East
Cheam inadvertently becomes the toast of the art world when his flatmate's
paintings are accidentally attributed to him instead of his own primitive
Great ensemble cast with John Le Mesurier as his boss, the sublime Irene Handl as his landlady Mrs Cravat and George Sanders as his pompous artistic agent.
At the films' centre is a sharp and nicely played critique of the hypocrisy and snobbishness of the art world with the usual taut Galton and Simpson script full of smart one liners.
"What's that?" asks Mrs Cravat looking at a bright pink picture of a man in a beret. "It's a self portrait" replies Hancock. "Who of?" counters Mrs Cravat.
Look out for a very young Nanette Newman as an Existentialist acolyte in the party scene and also Oliver Reed as a cafe artist.
Despite the fact that it's written by Tony himself with Galaton and
Simpson's assitance, and that it's beginning and ending are set at the
where Hancock resided in the last season, this film feels quite different
from "Hancock's Half hour".
However it overcomes it's shortcomings, has a good number of laughs with snappy one-liners and makes me look foward to seeing "The Punch and Judy man" ( another Hancock film ).
( Rated G/U due to the absence of offensive content )
For anybody with a love for Handcock this film is a must see. For those who really know Handcock it is also a farewell as in many ways it could be seen as his last true work? Coming at a time when Handcock was desperately trying to re-invent himself and re mould his style whilst fighting off the blackness of depression the film is a mixture of hope and sadness. If you look behind the laughter and mirth you can see Hancock as he really is - a one of genius never to be repeated. Hancock plays a struggling artist who leaves his London office job to seek his fame and fortune in Paris. Look for the great line between himself and his Landlady Mrs Cravat when Hancock exclaims "Its a self portrait" Mrs Cravat looks and him and asks "Of who?" Handcock is at the end of his line "Who do you think Laurel and Hardy" Lol The film has the usuall Galton and Simpson tight story line and the action is very funny. In my opinion a film which in ever way is on a par with the carry on style genre. Enjoy you wont see the likes of Tony again!
I remember seeing The Rebel, on general release, in Croydon - three or
miles from where the railway scenes were shot: a bygone branch line and
demolished station off Coombe Road. (We used to walk past it a couple of
times each week in the 1950s in the Elmhurst 'crocodile' to play sports at
Lloyd Park. Happy days, indeed.)
Unfortunately, I have never been very comfortable with the film - and I
persevered with it over the years. The Hancock attitude quickly wears thin
and the script is simply below par for these writers.
Best scenes, apart from the nostalgia element, are those with Irene Handl;
Margit Saad (best known to me from Magnificent Two)is easy on the eye, as
ever, but must have been embarrassed with her banal Margot character.
Nevertheless, I am pleased that the picture has its adherents. Where is Margit Saad today? A directorial credit around 1990 and seemingly nothing since.
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