Late 1950s, Soho. A young philosopher from the provinces arrives in the London district of Soho sometime in the late Fifties. He befriends James Compton-Street a Soho lifer who knows what it takes to survive in one of the most challenging areas of the city. Through James, Harry meets a myriad of strange, unusual local characters whom he studies for a book he is writing. Harry also meets a group of film-makers who are putting together a documentary about Soho. Through the eyes of a budding philosopher and the camera lens of a group of film-makers the audience takes a look at the people and the lifestyles that shaped a social ghetto in the 1950s but that would also give the new generation a springboard to change the world only a few years later. Everyone knows now about the Sixties revolution but it was in Soho in 1959 that the seeds of the Sixties were sown. Where it all began.Written by
Clever, Challenging and Beautiful - A Welcome Return To Cinema Verite
This is a very clever film. Set in 1959 in London's Soho "village" it chronicles the history of the place from its faded grandeur of the past through its literary centre of excellence during the era of the "Angry Young Men", on into its descent from a gentle Bohemian laissez-faire to the sharper, more harsh culture of drugs and sex, a further contrast between the birth of CND and the exploitative commercialism of TV advertising and ultimately the self-destruction of the spirit of the area.
Played out through the eyes of an ingénue writer juxtaposed with a louche, vulnerable and ultimately destructive bohemian actor, it is kept rattling along through the medium of an on-going documentary on people and life, and the film never lets up. With a visual style that emulates the gritty reality of the time, this film informs, challenges and shocks in equal measure. It is fascinating in the traditional art-house style and has moments of exquisite cinematic beauty.
The players execute an engaging screenplay effectively, given that in no case, due to the nature of the film, is there any character development beyond that which is before you. These are not easy characters and for me the actors involved, both leads and supporters did an excellent job. But the film is not really about them. They merely serve to point the viewer along the chronicle of the piece.
It is different, intelligent, engaging, challenging and miles away from the mainstream churned-out film-making that is so prevalent today. This harks back to the true art of cinema verite and I loved it. Yes, a bigger budget could have provided a bit more padding, but to say that is to miss the point of the film.
The title is misleading as it points to the ingénue. But ultimately it is Soho itself that is adrift.
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