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Absolute Beginners (1986)

 -  Drama | Fantasy | Musical  -  18 April 1986 (USA)
5.5
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Ratings: 5.5/10 from 1,991 users  
Reviews: 36 user | 12 critic

A musical adaptation of Colin MacInnes' novel about life in late 1950s London. Nineteen-year-old photographer Colin is hopelessly in love with model Crepe Suzette, but her relationships are... See full summary »

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Title: Absolute Beginners (1986)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Eddie O'Connell ...
Colin, Photographer / Narrator
...
...
Henley of Mayfair, Dressmaker to the Queen
...
Arthur, Colin's Dad
Mandy Rice-Davies ...
Flora
Eve Ferret ...
Big Jill
Tony Hippolyte ...
Mr. Cool
Graham Fletcher-Cook ...
Wizard
Joseph McKenna ...
Fabulous Hoplite (as Joe McKenna)
...
The Fanatic
...
Athene Duncannon (as Sade Adu)
...
Ed the Ted (as Tenpole Tudor)
...
Flikker
Alan Freeman ...
Call-Me-Cobber
Edit

Storyline

A musical adaptation of Colin MacInnes' novel about life in late 1950s London. Nineteen-year-old photographer Colin is hopelessly in love with model Crepe Suzette, but her relationships are strictly connected with her progress in the fashion world. So Colin gets involved with a pop promoter and tries to crack the big time. Meanwhile, racial tension is brewing in Colin's Notting Hill housing estate... Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The music, the movement, the romance, the passion . . . all explodes on the BIG SCREEN. See more »


Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

18 April 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Absolute Beginners  »

Box Office

Gross:

$930,211 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

| (Rankcolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The character of "Harry Charms" was based on a real-life British manager and impresario of the period, Larry Parnes, who was famous for hiring unknown singers and giving them extravagant stage names (his most famous client was Billy Fury). In 1960 he hired an unknown Liverpool band called The Beatles to accompany one of his lesser stars, Johnny Gentle, on a tour of Scotland, but he decided not to take the Beatles on as clients because he was only interested in handling solo singers, not groups. See more »

Goofs

During the riot scenes, in one shot a double decker bus is on fire. In the next shot, it isn't burning. In the next shot, it is. (During the T.V. announcers speak to the viewing public about the 'race riots'). See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Colin: [narrating] I remember that hot, wonderful summer. When the teenage miracle reached full bloom and everyone in England stopped what they were doing to stare at what had happened. The Soho nights were cool in the heat, with light and music in the streets. And we couldn't believe that this was really coming to us at last. Nobody knew exactly why. But after so many dreary years of bombs and blitz and slow rebuilding; no sugar, no jam, nothing sweet anywhere; with the whole English ...
See more »

Connections

References The Wind Cannot Read (1958) See more »

Soundtracks

Volare
Written by Domenico Modugno / Franco Migliacci
Performed by David Bowie
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Very British, Pre-"Moulin Rouge" Extravaganza
8 March 2003 | by See all my reviews

Julien Temple's "Absolute Beginners" is probably more well known for it's breathtaking and legendary opening tracking shot through a gloriously campy backlot version of London's SoHo District (so influential it even served as an in-joke in Robert Altman's "The Player") AND for the film's behind-the-scenes B.O. failure both at home (where it was trumped up as to herald the coming of the "new" British cinema) and abroad. But upon a fresh look in the days after the visual assault of "Moulin Rouge" and the puffery of "Chicago", smarter DVD viewers will certainly (hopefully) now find "Absolute Beginners". MGM's timing couldn't be more perfect: the film should find an audience that has caught up with the form, patient enough to sit through the razzle-dazzle with a cast that frequently, joyously, breaks into song when the moment is right.

Director Temple - he of the Sex Pistols' "The Great Rock And Roll Swindle", "Earth Girls Are Easy" and a career of 80's short and long-form rock videos - takes what was a very-dead movie genre and breathes life into a freewheelingly complex - perhaps overreaching - story of "England's First Teenagers". The idea is pure Temple: pop art, pop culture and commercialism all served up in a beautiful, thoughtful package if as inherently artificial as the people and era it documents. The film crosses classic kitchen-sink drama and the dreamy ambition of the "youth" pictures of the day - albeit with a knowingly 80's sensibility.

"Absolute Beginners" follows its two young "teen" stars - amateur photographer Eddie O'Connell and the lovely Patsy Kensit as a neophyte fashion designer - as they discover that their blooming talents put them in the right-place-right-time of late 50's London, and that these same talents are a highly desired and marketable currency in the pop idol-crazed Blighty. All of the "adults" in the film (David Bowie as a oily American marketing guru and James Fox as a foppish and callous fashionista are standouts) are the force out to co-opt and corrupt our two young lovers, and their love does get called into question in the pursuit of success and the almighty British Sterling. A sub-plot of sorts involving nasty Steven Berkoff ("Beverly Hills Cop") wedging a "Keep England White" racial cleansing of the soddy London White City ghettos coldly highlights the cultural plasticness of the navelgazing fad-frenzy time, which leads to the film's firey denouement.

And this is a musical! But what a musical it is: each of the picture's numbers is a virtual showstopper set-piece. There's Ray Davies of "The Kinks" as a Landlord in an awesome "Quiet Life" eye-popper that features the Brit-Rock legend chasing his boarders through an artificial three-level house all the while singing and soft-shoeing up a storm; the formerly mentioned Bowie's "That's Motivation!" a hilarious lesson on the evils of mass-marketing; and a wild Jamaican-Jazz fusion fashion show that Kensit makes all her own. The film's musical director was the late Gil Evans, and his contribution gives this film a classy, thoughtful pedigree that the story tries very hard to match. Watch for Sade Adu, Robbie Coltrane, Anita Morris and Mandy Rice-Davies in bit parts.

Yes, the film's serious reach hardly exceeds its glitzy grasp, but it's difficult to fault a movie that attempts to exhume the movie musical, tries to tell a overly complicated tale in which people still break into song, crams the edges of its widescreen aspect ratio in energetic cinematography, colorful scenery and engaging performances by its leads, PLUS offers a great jazzy soundtrack and kicky musical numbers.

A great double bill with this title would be the Cliff Richard artifact, "The Young Ones".


12 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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