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This film had a big impact on me. Saw first saw it on BBC2 in the 70's as
part of a Anderson Retro. Originally based on Delaney's book Red, White &
Zero it was a three director/stories feature film. Although the other two
parts were never finished. That's why the film doesn't have
The reason why I loved this film was because I grew up in a slum clearance area of Liverpool. The film's landscape was exactly the same. Everything demolished - except for the pubs. I'd never seen anything like it on TV before.
I recently got another chance to see it and loved it. The story follows a girl who is fed up with working in London. The shot opens with her at a desk while the legs of a hanged fellow worker dangle from the celling. She leaves London - tired and fed up - and goes home to Manchester (although parts of the film were filmed in Birmigham). She stands at a desolate bus stop in the middle of demolished terraces. When along comes the white bus - it's a tour guided ride which shows the best of the city. What makes it even more special is that the bus is on it's maiden voyage. The Lord Mayor (Arthur Lowe) and other dignitaries ride the bus on a tour of factories, libraries and even a civil defence demo. At the end of the tour the girl winds up in a small cafe watching, inside what look like married couple. Thier love and passion for the small things in life mesmerises and charms the girl - reminding her what life's all about.
For Delaney it's like Charlie Bubbles - dealing with leaving your home town and looking at the effect it has on you. For Anderson it's yet another example of his cinematic poetry - like If... and Sporting Life. This film is a very special film by very special people. Oh thank you for making it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An early film, originally meant to be part of a three part set of
adaptations of stories by Shelagh Delaney, which was never finished,
which has many of the techniques that Anderson later used in If and O
lucky Man. A girl finishes work in an open-plan office of the type
there used to be, walks past the hanging body of another girl (or
perhaps her own body- the film could be an after-death fantasy) takes a
train to a Northern town, latches onto a civic tour led by the mayor
and has a bag of chips in a café. That's the story. What goes with it
is Anderson's strange way of looking at what may be reality- when the
girl is going to catch the train a young upper-class man makes a long
speech at her, both declaring his love and arguing for class
distinctions. All the girl says is "Goodbye". Again, there is no way of
telling if the man is a fantasy of the girl's or- if he is "real" in
the film's context- whether he is connected with the girl in any way.
In the Northern town the girl gets on/is roped into a tour led by the
mayor. The mayor- played by Arthur Lowe, one of Anderson's regular
actors- is both absurd and dignified, presented dead-pan the mace
bearer is a sinister character, making gnomic remarks, a messenger of
death, perhaps; the passengers include Africans and Indians and they
look round the town- an industrialist's estate left to the town where
he made his wealth, a girls' school, a museum, a library... In the end
the girl wanders off and sits in a chippie with a bag of chips as the
owners clean up around her- a perfect cinematic koan, no longer than it
Afterword, two years later:
I forgot some important aspects in my last review, or I saw a different version today: the girl says "I'll write", not "Goodbye" to the upper-class young man and i'd forgotten how deliberately the film slides in and out of different kinds of reality and how much it uses parody and cliché- the mayor's obsession with "mucky books" in the library, the painting of Jesus with a flock of wolves in the art gallery, the tableau of Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe in the park, the industrial estate depicted as a meaningless mechanical hell with the visitors walking immune through its perils, the realistic scene of Civil Defence practise which ends with the whole party turned into literal dummies except the girl. Above all, though, I forgot the film's opening: a different girl on a tour boat going downriver through London, past Parliament, photographed with ritualistic care, past the Shell Building, through the City where the girl in the film works, which makes the whole main action even more distanced and derealised.
Interesting 47 minute short from a Shelagh Delaney short story. A girl quits her dull job, and goes on a surrealistic bus tour of a dilapidated Manchester. Along for the ride are a strange mix, including a lascivious vicar, lord mayor (Arthur Lowe, always great), etc. Many of the techniques that became part of 'If' and 'O Lucky Man' first show up here.(e.g. mixing color and B+W). It also follows 'O Lucky Man' in being a surreal journey of a somewhat passive, young lead character traveling through a world where they have little power. Enigmatic, sure, but it's interesting and entertaining in a Brechtian/Anderson sort of dark humored politically satirical way. Cleary it's making fun of the pathetic nature of modern society and our desperate need to justify all the glories of 'progress that really sap our humanity. Some terrific and haunting images. Anthony Hopkins appears very briefly singing in German (?!?).
A strange, moody, yet captivating film that captures the atmosphere at
a certain time in Britain. I love the images of the terrace houses, the
back alleyways and bombed out areas. I grew up just off Holderness Road
in Hull and the images gave me a flashback to that time. The air is
heavy with coal smoke, the roads have few cars and kids are playing in
the streets, whilst the people all look gray like in a Lowry painting.
The silent parts are the best as the images speak for themselves.
The humour is nicely understated. My particular favorite is the scene with the lift and the security guard.
I not sure what messages the film is seeking to convey, but as an observation piece it is superb.
When I think about The White Bus, I think about how thoughts and
ambiance spontaneously go on, because they do here just as they do in a
person's mind. When I caught myself, during and after watching it,
trying to pigeonhole whether it was supposed to be a hallucination,
pure free association or a stream of consciousness, I hearkened back to
my first experience seeing a movie directed by Lindsay Anderson, If
which was a more realistic story, yes, but had a dreamlike lack of
reason or cohesion for its stylistic and visual changeovers. Likewise,
The White Bus is just a chain of imagery. But what makes it a
consistent piece? Somehow, it is. Because I followed it and enjoyed it.
Maybe that goes to show that "invisible style," the avoidance of indulgent cinematography because a movie exposing itself diverts from the story, is not limited to the traditional studio era. The furthest extremities of avant-garde filmmaking can still be engrossing on that very level despite being so exuberantly stylized and even seemingly fragmentary. Regardless, The White Bus, like If ., is a blurring of various lines.
Lindsay Anderson and Shelagh Delaney's The White Bus is a dreamlike film about a secretary who takes a bizarre trip, part of which is set on the eponymous means of transportation. The anonymous woman has an apparently monotonous life, which is disrupted by episodic departures of imagination featuring suicide, recreations of paintings, and slices of meat that abruptly run blood-red. Flanked by these visions are the minutiae of her real life, particularly as she starts a passage home to pop in on her family. She comes across an eclectic assortment of people, an adolescent extremely annoyed that his rugby team lost, a young man who proposes marriage, a lord mayor who takes pleasure in feeling her leg, and more as she traverses to sites reaching from a community center and a public library to a natural history museum and a civil defense display. Throughout, the girl upholds a pretense of apathy or disregard, even when proceedings grow fairly unreal, as when all of her itinerant companions become human dummies in the course of the civil defense exercise. Ultimately, she enters a restaurant and eats dinner while the owners stack chairs around her, shrouding her from view and grumbling about the boundless movement of work.
So we leave having experienced the incessant tide of observation, feelings, mindset and recollections in an uninterrupted, even rambling manner of visual soliloquy. But so many transitions and scenes lack outside motivation, and yet somehow have the characteristics of real experiences in that they're lucid, significant and seen in the objective outside world. Is that not hallucination? Could they be real perceptions that are delusional, accurately seen things and people given extra implications? People are frequently at odds with their necessity to be secure with themselves and their suspicions of and resistance to change and self-exposure, intentional or not. There is no linear premeditation, just spontaneous bounds and connections that potentially bring about new individual revelations and values: the sense of overtone and suggestion are a sort of thinking id. That's what I admire about The White Bus.
This review is for Red, White and Zero. It's possible to reconstruct
the facts around this film, but the IMDb listing is confusing. Lindsay
Anderson's The White Bus was briefly and unsuccessfully released with
two other shorts: a very short film by Peter Brook featuring Zero
Mostel in a hurry (The Ride of the Valkyries - lots of frantic
mugging), and Red and Blue by Tony Richardson. Only Lindsay Anderson's
film seems to be readily available. (The others would make good
I saw Red, White and Zero on late night Australian television in 1984. The White Bus wasn't seen to best effect on the small screen - rather self-consciously poetic, but as an Anderson film it will obviously bear reseeing. Red and Blue was fascinating and not very good. Tony Richardson was in love with the Nouvelle Vague, and raided its box of tricks and its composers (Bassiak from Jules and Jim; Duhamel from Godard's Pierrot le Fou) in an imitation Demy/Moreau vehicle for Vanessa Redgrave! She fluted a song in English, and Kevin Brownlow provided the jumpcuts. (You can hear her singing Bassiak's Bonjour Papa on YouTube).
Most weirdly, the sex interests for the romantically-besieged Vanessa were provided by Douglas Fairbanks Jr, William Sylvester (the scientist from Kubrick's 2001), and Michael York. The sparks didn't exactly fly. Anyway, after 30 years, it's time to make this available again.
Cute, whacky and beautifully shot surrealistic short from Lindsay
Anderson which clearly foreshadows if.... which followed a year later
(plus O Lucky Man and Brittania Hospital too). The same cinematographer
as on if.... plus the mix of black and white and colour shots.
Some key music sound cues from if... feature here for the first time plus the reading of the proverbs quote "wisdom is the principal thing..." which opens if....
There's also a bit of M Hulot's theme from Mon Oncle mixed in there plus some classic Tati-esque visual humor. I guess Mr Anderson had a whole lot of stuff already brewing that would come flowing out in force a little later.
Criterion definitely missed a trick not including this on the if.... DVD/Bluray - a little more relevant than the Oscar winning short about the deaf kids I'd say. All in all a charming, strange and chuckly way to spend forty minutes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
first time i saw it, it was so unusual that it stayed with me for days. it was a bit creepy that "the girl" pictured herself hanging (same outfit). the football enthusiast killing his transistor was comical! the posh dork was weird; the girl said, "i'll write" to him, although she didn't know him. it seemed she was supposed to be going home, but ended up on a bus full of Manchester United fans. loved the song, "the pig". the fans were fun; a young guy kissed an older, balding guy on the top of his head for giving him some booze. it was also cute that the older dude gave the girl a snort, too. strange how, upon leaving that bus, she went outside, saw the tour bus, & flagged it down (the first thing i do after work is change clothes, then eat dinner). goofy mayor was walking a few inches from the tour guide, but listened to her talking through the walkie-talkie, as a child might do. i loved the light-hearted music playing through most of the movie; it kept it from being depressing or boring. also loved that hub of tall, raised apartment buildings! how amazing they looked @ the intersection. kind of wanted to give that museum "elevator operator" a bit of a boot in the pants. after the depressing war scenes, the little town was very nice. the girl walked along those identically-shaped, cozy brick buildings. then she passed a long row of gorgeous bay windows that were so inviting i wanted to live there! so romantic. the woman in the chip shop sounded a little like "ivy" from the Cafe (on "last of the summer wine"). just thought i'd share why this funky movie was so entertaining to me, & might be to you, as well:D
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw this film for the first time about a week ago. Honestly, I didn't
understand most of it. If given the chance to watch it again, I would,
mostly to try to figure it out. It gave my husband the creeps.
The film is done with high quality and is masterful in setting moods. It runs like a nightmare, though. Situations in it are surreal, otherworldly, loud and then suddenly quiet. It seems to me that "The White Bus" is contrasting male and female roles in the workplace and why should it be wrong for women to take on some of the jobs that men are performing. When the Girl first joins the eerie tour, she sits on the bottom of the bus but soon after moves to the top of it, perhaps as an allegory for rising up in the world, freeing herself from the restraints of roles that placed squarely on each gender. At one point, when the Lord Mayor places his hand on the Girl's knee, it is a sexist gesture and the Girl frees herself by demanding that he remove his hand and then moving to the front of the bus.
I give it five out of ten, simply because I don't understand it, although the filming of it was high quality work. If put into the context of all three of the films for which it was intended to be seen, then perhaps I would understand it better.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The White Bus (a.k.a. Red, White and Zero) is a movie geared for adults. It deals with depressed thoughts. I found the film basically pointless and aimless and a waste of time to watch. The film is basically a black and white film with flashes of colorization for a few seconds and then black and white again. This happened several times throughout the movie. I found no purpose in this. Also, in the beginning, it seems that editing did not do its work well. There is a scene with the star hanging in her office for a few moments and was very disjointed. Don't waste your time with this film. There are many other better films to watch -- try attack of the killer tomatoes -- at least it's so stupid it's almost funny.
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