The 50's were a strange time for British youth and families. The war was over and er...that's it. Its the fag end of empire and this film is the fag end of childhood and seaside holidays.
The film is a rites of passage film and tells us how awful it was to have raging hormones, no outlet and be in a situation where family and society did not know about teen-age, or frivolity. Everybody, from the Elderly down to Child, exists in a vacuum of dullness. The only exception to the 'rule of grey' is the sexually promiscuous Dutch girl who knows everything is so boring and has to change, or be changed. (No doubt she ended up hanging around in Hamburg with Astrid, Klaus and Stu Sutcliffe.) The film is a skillful piece of work by Michael Palin and is based on his own childhood memories of holidays on the Suffolk coast. It is a pity he has not continued to write more films like this, instead of concentrating on the lucrative travel documentary market, because he brings a mild absurdity to everyday life giving 'East of Ipswich' a dusting of John Betjeman over an Alan Bennett prosaic narrative.
But perhaps I am being too serious. It is a jolly film with some belly laughs and good lines, and well paced.
There is a lot to look and listen out for. The nod towards fellow Ex-Python Eric Idle's 'nudge, nudge' sketch; the cast, all of whom are solid TV and stage characters; the Sea Side Mission (recently the subject of a radio discussion); the skiffle and jazz soundtrack; the cricket commentary and, of course the grotesque boarding house.
Made by the BBC for Screen Two and subsequently shamefully neglected it deserves a new audience and a place on the cultural history curriculum.
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