December 11, 2006

British Cinema: Films of 2006

Introduction

I have to confess I haven’t seen too many British films brought out in 2006. This is due to two main reasons. Firstly I like to get the DVDs and I like to wait until the premium price has come off it. This is usually a reasonably swift but I don’t have that urge to see the latest as soon as it hits the screens (that is if the distributors and exhibitors allow it to).

However I’m teaching some British cinema post 1990 and clearly the OCR board is so fed up with getting essays on The Full Monty and Four Weddings and a Funeral they’ve had to send a reminder out to teacher’s that we are 6 years into the 21st century. Of there is a danger of losing a sense of history but that’s a strong tendency media studies which is best resisted.

Anyway 2006 turns out to have been quite a good year for British films many of which court controversy (thankfully). As I haven’t seen many yet this is a round up of reports and recommendations and hopefully pleasures to come.

British Films of 2006

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Ken Loach on the Set of wind that Shakes the Barley

Well one film that made the headlines is Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley now out on DVD. As a winner of the Cannes Prix d’Or this comes as something of a surprise. Loach has forged his own vision of a socialistic social realist aesthetic often combining history and politics. I’m looking forward to this one as it deals with the very thorny issue of Britain’s relationship with Ireland and focuses upon the the period when the Black and Tans gained historical notoriety for their brutality. This period has lived in the Nationalist consciousnes ever since. Whatever its strengths and weaknesses getting a prize at Cannes isn’t going to earn Loach a Caribbean island (he wouldn’t want it anyway.) Sight & Sound December 2006 shows that it isn’t now on release and it made £3.88 million in the box office.

Shoot the Messenger Dir: Ngozi Onwurah

Shoot the Messenger 2006

I missed this one which was screened on BBC2 and is a BBC comissioned film. There is a report on it here.

As you can see from the negative response of some viewers they want representations of ethnic or other minorities to be sqeaky clean, ‘Sunday best’ kind of films. I remember this kind of argument emerging when Stephen Frears’ My Beautiful Laundrette came out in the 1980s. Looked at now it stands the test of time very effectively and its real strength is bringing out the contradictions in people’s identities and emotions which is what made that film a piece of art. The argument here is also reminiscent of the issues around Turtles can Fly (see Opinion 1 on this blog). The social reality is that identity by ‘ethnicity’ is leaky. People are more complicated than that! It is certainly a film I shall be trying to get hold of.

Click here for the Edinburgh film Festival report and a hyperlink to a video about the film.

London to Brighton. Dir: Paul Andrew Williams

London to Brighton 2006

This is a film that has made an impact well beyond its budget. Generically it turned into an unintentional gangster thriller (Sight and Sound Dec 2006, p 16). As such it is one to watch as it fits in well with the long-term genre for gangster movies in Britain which is analysed elswhere on this blog:

... where Williams could have opted for Guy Ritchie style crass humour he finds a more restrained and chillingly effective alternative. Its a film worthy of Mike Hodge at his best…

One of the key important points to make about this film is that the director Paul Andrew Williams found his own financier. (Look at the BBC video interview here to find out more). – You will need to click on the link and have Realplayer installed. He didn’t go straight to the UK film Council, although he did apply at a later a stage and was accepted by the UKFC. The Time Out review is here.

The Road to Guantanamo. Dir: Michael Winterbottom

The Road to Guantanamo

A full review of this film is under construction. The first part of this piece is already posted currently giving about one dozen linked reviews and links to trailers and extracts. suffice it to say here that the film did exceptionally well at the Berlin Film Festival. It is also notable that the film is so far unique by arranging to have near simultaneaous release on TV, DVD in the cinema and very imprtantly on the internet as a download. The advantage of this is that the attempts to control the distribution and multiplex by companies purely trying to profit from large US marketing budgets and the ‘Yoof Market’ are being circumvented. For more on the multiplex phenomenon see separate article on this blog.

The Queen (2006) dir Stephen Frears

Helen Mirren in The Queen 2006 by Stephen Frears

Link to Britfilms synopsis

Red Road (2006) dir Andrea Arnold

Red Road 2006 by Andrea Arnold

Link to Brtfilms synopsis

This is England (2006) dir Shane Meadows

This is England 2006 Shane Meadows

Link to Cineuropea review


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