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You don't have to be a fan of brass bands to enjoy "Brassed Off", but it
couldn't hurt. The music is a central focus of the film, but not as a
compromise to the story of a town in turmoil. Coal mines being shut down
the name of progress puts many men out of work which naturally also
jeopardizes the existence of the colliery band. The music combined with
brilliant storytelling (and editing) is merely a platform for some superb
acting, particularly from Pete Postlethwaite.
Having lived all my life in a large metropolitan city, I cannot relate first hand to the plight of a small town community. Despite that, I found the story intriguing even though it may seem the outcome is somewhat predictable.
Having just purchased the DVD, I found the brief write-up on the box to be way off the mark. It touts this film as some kind of romantic and hilarious comedy, never once even grazing past the real subject matter of the film. This is another perfect example of the continued miscalculated promotion of a truly well crafted film that "Muriel's Wedding" also fell victim to. I'm not sure what the promoters were thinking, but if you set someone up for a hilarious romantic comedy and what they receive is a thoughtful serious and sometimes depressing film, are they going to be happy just the same? There are graciously some light moments and humourous turns in this otherwise sombre subject matter, but this film doesn't have a happy ending. But it sure does have a moving one. Postlethwaite's performance hits you in an unexpected way and you'd have to have a heart of stone to not be moved by it.
Any success that the film enjoys now that's it's strictly on video, is likely to come from very strong word of mouth. I had been told how good it was and enjoyed it immensely. Now that I've seen it twice, and thus been twice moved, I wait for a reasonable time to pass so that I may watch and enjoy it again as I am bound to do.
I was lucky enough to catch this movie in the theater and still
to come across it again on video. How anyone can call it a comedy is
me. Yes there are some laughs, but there are far more tears; some of
some of joy. This is a drama with a sense of humor. You have to keep a
sense of humor to survive when life kicks you in the gut.
I've read some reviews condemning the politics of this film. Well, I applaud the political message. I grew up near an industrial town; one centered on the auto industry, heavy machinery, and agri-business. As I got older, I watched it disintegrate, through the 70's and 80's, as the grain embargo, auto industry woes and recession bled the life out of the town. It has never recovered. Many of us felt that Reagan and Thatcher, and their descendants, were monsters who sold their people out for a quick buck; while the parties that were supposed to represent the workers and middle class joined in the takings. To us, this isn't an anti-Thatcher film; it's the truth.
The performances of this film, particularly Pete Postlethwaite and Stephen Tompkinson, as well as Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald are top notch. There is a sweet and painful romance here; but it is the community of the miners, through the life of the band, that is the center here. The music is beautiful and will move you. The piece played as the pit closure is finalized stirs so many emotions. The rendition of "Danny Boy" brings tears to your eyes. The review in our local alternative paper said the surprise near the end would reduce even the hardest heart to tears, and they were right.
There is so much to see and love about this film, regardless of your political beliefs. Music does matter, but the people who create it matter, too. Communities matter, love matters. This is what good filmmaking is all about. See this film. You'll laugh a bit, cry a lot, get angry, become sad; but, you'll never be bored.
This is British Cinema at its very best and has been my favourite film of all time since I first saw it on the big screen. I cannot think of two more powerful performances committed to celluloid than those of Peter Postlethwaite and Stephen Tompkinson. There is so much emotion in "Brassed Off" that anyone who fails to be moved must have a heart of stone...if indeed they have a heart at all. People I know (or reviews I have read) that didn't like the film have criticised the intense political messages within it, but in my opinion these folk are missing the point entirely. It's true that there is a fierce undercurrent of anti right wing leaning running through the movie, but to portray the characters any other way would be factually inaccurate. Some may view Thatcher as a Saint, but characters like those in Brassed Off can only ever view her as an evil tyrant. Anyway I'm going off on a tangent now. My point is this: Brassed Off is a very humane picture that paints a picture of early eighties folk who have been robbed of their livelihood, yet still manages to be funny, charming, heartwarming, heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. A truly wonderful film.
A superb film. A film which did not seek to glamourise the effect of long
term unemployment and the break up of communities. And a film which WAS
based very closely on a true story. The band members you see actually
playing the music? That's the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, winners of the
national Battle of the Bands competition in the year that the colliery
closed down. And they did turn professional too!
Films like Brassed Off, which seek to present a view of a sensitive issue, are often derided for not offering a solution which can be written on the back of a cereal box. Personally, I take that as a recommendation!
The point of the film is this: put people in situations that most of us will happily never face, and they react in extreme fashions. There was little or no 'political' argument, other than the fact that the Conservative Government of the time did destroy an entire industry. That same government them spent millions of pounds a year buying coal from Europe and South America. Angry? I would be.
I saw characters portrayed in their entirety, which meant 'scabs' and 'sellouts' rubbed shoulders with the committed and poor. I saw unflattering portraits of basically decent people, prepared to risk friendships and relationships to keep alive an industry which was killing them but without which they could not live. It was a desperate time, and the fact that families have been split since the 1984 strike shows just how deep feelings can run on this issue.
And I saw no skipping over the holes in the logic either. No mention of the 4-1 vote in favour of closing the mine? Half of the chuffing film was about that! What about the fate of Gloria's report? What about Phil, a striker from 1984, voting for closure? Did no-one notice that he was one of the major characters?
I do think that there were some problems with the structure of the film (although it was dramatically more satisfying than the Full Monty). Gloria was unconvincing; the wives were underused, and the speech at the end, yes, I found it embarrassing too!
But please, before you attack the veracity of such a rounded and honest film as Brassed Off, take the time and trouble to watch it properly first!
I have seen Brassed Off many times, I do in fact own it, and every time
I watch it it never fails to move me. There are certain moments that
stick out to me as either breath taking or harrowing.
1) That famous 'Concierto d'Aranguez' scene. The first time I saw this scene it took my breath away, literally. When used well music can move you in a way words can't. The juxtaposing of this piece of music against the union's meeting is one of them. I haven't been this moved by a piece of music with actions since then apart from the Roxan sequence in Moulin Rouge.
2) The scene where Phil loses it when playing Mr Chuckles I actually can't sit through. I have to fast forward because the emotion the Stephen Tompkinson manages to portray is so strong it's painful to watch.
Through all of this though I think my favorite scene, the aforementioned 1) excluded, is when they compete in all 14 tournaments and get completely rat arsed. The sight of these brilliant musicians trying to continue playing when they can't see straight, stop laughing, or keep their instruments in one piece is one of the most honest, amusing and humble moments in a film in recent years. there is no flashy camera work, no deeper meaning, just something that says exactly who these people are. Ordinary human beings, not super-heros, and just trying to live life whilst having fun in difficult circumstances. And you really can't play wind instruments drunk, I've tried.
The film is not perfect. It is a bit preachy, especially the end. And McGregor's accent, although he plays the part beautifully, does slip at time, especially in his longer speeches. But the humanity of the film and it's charm out way all of it's faults.
Why did I say that? Because most of the negative comments come from
right wing liberal haters who have entirely missed the meaning behind
the film. I even read one which announced "keep politics out of my
Sorry, but the story is based around real events & the politics of the miners & the times are an integral part of that story. One poster (from Scotland who should have known better) stated :
"I think the problem I have is this film really plays up to the clichéd northern stereotypes it's almost offensive , the male characters all work down the pit , play in a brass band etc that it's impossible to believe in them as real human beings."
It was a colliery band - of course all the male band members worked down the pit - that was the crux of the story. And why does working down a pit & playing in a brass band diminish you as a real human being?
According to a poster from Yorkshire, who lived through the pit closures, it was VERY true to the times. Mr Scotland is being a bit elitist I think. I'm an Australian who cringes (&, if comedy, laughs) at the depiction of the stereotypical Aussie (think "Kath & Kim" if you get it over there) but that's only because I'm not one. However, the country's filled with them!!
It was a magnificent & moving film which captured the essence of the Thatcher years of destruction. If your not familiar with the period then do yourself a favour & read a bit about the history behind the pit closures etc before you watch this film - you'll enjoy it a whole lot more.
For you fellow Greenies out there, yes, I agree coal mining must cease but you don't go and pull the safety net away from a community without having something else to take its place. BTW. the closures didn't lower the use of fossil fuels anyway - the UK just started to import coal instead.
'Brassed Off' came at just the right time for British politics, just as the
death knell for the Conservative Party as the main political force sounded;
the story fictionalises the troubles of the real-life Grimethorpe Colliery
Band (who you hear playing the great brass band tunes throughout).
There are pit closures all over Yorkshire, and 'Grimley' Band has one last chance to triumph in the various band contests to end up playing at the Royal Albert Hall. This being drama of course the path to victory isn't a smooth one - there is bankruptcy, illness, broken marriages, and a clash with the new executive power (represented by Tara Fitzgerald, also taking a place in the band for her father). Romantic interest for Tara is present in cute Ewan McGregor - an unusually quiet role for him.
Say what you like about the way this film portrays the North of England, there is no denying the power of the final sequences as the triumph of 'William Tell' turns into Postlethwaite's power rant against the Government and into the trip home's 'Land of Hope and Bloody Glory'. It really couldn't have been done better.
This film has everything: Humour. Poignancy. A message. Human characters. Warmth. A great cast and good story. Interesting locales. Creative techniques. (Watch for the clown scenes and especially the one in the playground.) "Brassed Off" was (and is) a powerful editorial indictment of the Thatcher government of the time. Yet it does not preach other than in the opening and closing credits which are pithy and innovative. Anytime you see something with the Channel Four label on it, you know it will be interesting, provocative and a little different. They outdid themselves on this.
"The best thing about being working class is getting out of it" said a
notable Australian Labor politician (Neville Wran, premier of NSW
1976-1986). The coal miners in "Brassed Off" thought so too, but found
redundancy not what it was cracked up to be. At the start, pits are
closing all over Britain, but the Grimley colliery in South Yorkshire
is still open and making a profit. After a hard day's dirty work down
the mine there's nought like a session with the band to blow out the
dust. Let by total obsessive bandleader Danny (Peter Postlewaithe) the
boys play a surprising range - Rodrigo's "Aranjuez" (we call it "orange
juice" says Danny), Rossini's "William Tell" overture and lots of Elgar
and other English sentimental favourites - "Jerusalem," "Danny Boy,"
"Colonel Bogey" and "All Things Bright and Beautiful."
Though possible closure is on the horizon, things are fairly cozy until pretty young Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald) walks in with a vintage obbligato cornet and asks to join. She's a woman (shock, horror!) but granddaughter of a former member and after a demonstration of her musical prowess is allowed in. Brooding young Andy (Ewan McGregor, unforgettable in "Trainspotting") has kissed the young lady years previously and falls for her again.
The band have their problems, especially Phil (Stephen Tompkinson) son of Danny the leader. Phil has an unfortunate gambling habit that keeps him broke and his family on the financial edge. In the background the future of the mine is becoming bleaker.
In the meantime Danny, who is developing a very bad cough, decides the band can make the national championships at the Albert Hall, and despite bailiffs, mendacious mine management, feral hospital matrons and British weather they get there.
This film in many ways is an update of the fine, well crafted "Ealing" comedy of the 1950s, celebrating the triumph of ordinary people over adverse circumstances, officialdom and middle class pretentiousness, through their own determination and talent. For the 90s the comedy has a harder edge and the political element more overt. At the end we are reminded of the hundreds of pits closed and 250,000 jobs lost in Britain between 1984 (the year of the great miners' strike) and 1994. But surely the filmmakers are not arguing the miners should still be down below. Global warming alone means coal has had its day. The real crime was the failure to invest in alternative employment and to allow the destruction of the communities which had grown up around the mines. The British State, which owned the mines for 40 years after World War Two, proved a harsher master than the old private owners, especially when the Bad Baroness herself, Margaret Thatcher, decided to sell.
On the strength of their performance here, the (mythical) Grimley band could easily turn professional, like the similarly displaced workers in "The Full Monty." Unlike "The Full Monty" the "Brassed Off" crowd don't step outside their mind-set - they are still chained to their working class attitudes and the future looks like happening without them. They escape from the working class to the underclass, clutching a year's salary most of them will soon be parted from. The traditional happy ending of the Ealing comedy is here only symbolic. Still, the miners' spirit shines through and you can't help admiring their grit. And the music's nice.
Director is Mark Herman but the movie themes remind Ken Loach and its stories about people losing jobs but keeping their dignity... Basically everything is inspired by events that really took place over Margaret Thatcher Government (when the film is set). Miners living in a Yorkshire small town (Grimley), when laid off, try to continue the activity of their band, though sadness due to economic repression is a real threat to it. But Ewan McGregor and Pete Postlewait (who on earth might forget him after "In the name of the father"?) are really powerful, two thumbs up. Altogether I really appreciated the way this film tells of fight for self-respect and courage.
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