Back in their training days, long before the New Swiss Cinema movement was born in the '60s, the great directors Alain Tanner and Claude Goretta cut their teeth on this minor British documentary short. I came away unimpressed, even though I hold them on high pedestals after attending and being knocked out by all their '70s releases.
Even without the hindsight of watching the film so many decades later, there's a smugness that comes through and rubbed me the wrong way. It's similar (perhaps on purpose) to Lindsay Anderson's earlier "O Dreamland" that showed folks at the title funfair in Margate.
In both films, we are seeing the low end of popular culture and entertainment, shot with the cineaste not explicitly but one can infer from the result looking down his nose at the common folk. Claude and Alain show us the prurient advertising of nude stills of women and other sidewalk ballyhoo for attracting attention to entertainment, and even Bingo (with endless soundtrack voice-over of the call-outs) is treated like some lowly activity for idiots. I'm not projecting my own feelings, just reacting to the clear overemphasis on same.
There's an effective melancholy mood as the night wears down, and the streets seem to be about to be rolled up for another day. What iniitally seemed cryptic as a woman in a tight sweater jiggles her tits for no reason became evident as a segment showing apparent prostitutes angling for customers (sailors, in particular) on the street, again subtle -not like the cliché of street hookers accosting drivers on the outskirts of town that is a staple of Italian movies of the era. It's not that these foreign devils from Switzerland are exposing the underbelly of British society, but rather that they are attracted, not unlike a Michael Moore or worse yet TMZ of a later era, to the sensational.
Ultimately we learn little about society from a surface, nearly abstract film like this. I much rather would have preferred to have actual pornographers of the era, or Paul Raymond-type entrepreneurs, documented in a serious fashion that would have helped explain the sex-obsessed entertainment world that followed on.
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