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Kenneth Tynan: In Praise of Hardcore (2005)

In 1963, flamboyant, eccentric English theatre critic Kenneth Tynan is made 'literary manager' of London's National Theatre. His views on censorship (can't stand it) and sexuality (as much ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Lord Lyttleton
Michael White
Polly Hudson ...
Kathleen Tynan


In 1963, flamboyant, eccentric English theatre critic Kenneth Tynan is made 'literary manager' of London's National Theatre. His views on censorship (can't stand it) and sexuality (as much of it onstage as possible) set him on a collision course with the NT's Chairman, Sir Oliver Lyttelton. Tynan has a friend and ally in the Governor, Laurence Olivier, but cannot always count on the older, more conventional man's support. Demoted after becoming the first person to drop the F-bomb on British TV, Tynan struggles to stage his 'erotic entertainment' "Oh Calcutta" in the face of opposition from friends, family and colleagues, and in spite of his own deteriorating health. Written by Peter Brynmor Roberts

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2 March 2005 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?


Kenneth Tynan: Larry calls all journalists fuckpigs.
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Featured in Forty Years of Fuck (2005) See more »

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By focusing on the end of his career the film is unconvincing, unengaging and rather pointless
2 April 2006 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In 1963, flamboyant theatre critic Kenneth Tynan is made 'literary manager' of the National Theatre. His controversial views set him on a collision course with the NT's Chairman and although Tynan has a supporter in Laurence Olivier he can't always count on the older, more conventional man to take his side. After deliberately and gleefully saying the word "f*ck" on a BBC1 arts shows, Tynan's position is further weakened but continues his quest to bring erotic material to the London stage despite widespread opposition and his own deteriorating health.

I had no prior knowledge of Tynan before watching this film so I must admit that, unlike the other reviewers on this site, I didn't have a reality against which to judge this film. By the sounds of it this is probably for the best since those that do have this knowledge didn't seem to be that taken by it at all. This is not to suggest that I thought it was great but just that I maybe found the story a bit more interesting than those that already know it. Having said that I must admit that jumping right to the more notorious part of Tynan's career, it left me wondering why he had become well known and why he seemed to have the respect he had (although others have suggested that he and Olivier were not actually that close). Certainly swearing on television and trying to push the boundaries of censorship as far as he could aren't enough to mark him down as something worth taking time out to learn about – at the time he probably just came off as being shocking for the sake of it, nowadays he would have little to do and would just be one of many, many films, TV shows etc trying to win ratings by just pushing the boundaries of taste.

So by focusing so totally on this part of his life I just found myself being bored by him as a person and grew increasingly bemused by his muddled morals and seeming inability to be considerate to those around him, whether professional or personal. The delivery of the story is professional enough and looks good but with the material being so limited throughout, delivery alone cannot do it. The cast are mixed (remembering of course that I'm not familiar with the real personalities). Brydon tries hard but he does seem miscast – too obvious and smutty, both of which further took away from the impression of someone famous and respected. He is quite comic and works well with that aspect of the character but not anything other. Sands is good as Olivier, Cochrane is an über-Tory and fits the character portrayed. McCormack provides the only genuine emotion in the whole film and is impressive – just a shame that she stands almost totally alone. Regardless of the rest of the cast, the film belongs to Brydon and unfortunately he is not quite up to the task.

Overall this is nothing more than a so-so film. It is professionally put together but, despite starting off interesting, it quickly gets consumed by the smutty part of Tynan's life without giving us any idea of why he reached the position he held or why he was tolerated. Gradually I lost interest and found the film unwilling to (or uninterested in) questioning the rather unpleasant person presented to us. It just about has enough forward motion to it to keep it moving but generally it is a fairly bland drama that will be of limited interest and limited value to the vast majority of viewers.

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