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Look Back at England: The British New Wave

Friday, September 14, 2007
9:00 p.m. Darling
John Schlesinger (U.K., 1965)

"What are you ashamed of in Britain today?" asks tweedy TV commentator Dirk Bogarde, interviewing the average man-on-the-street. Well, for starters . . . John Schlesinger's bitter, stylish answer is framed as the autobiography of Diana (Julie Christie), a media darling telling/selling "My Story" to Ideal Woman magazine. Her blandly self-justifying narration is undercut by the images as she leaves an unglamorous marriage for liaisons with Bogarde, representative of a BBC-bookish world; oily adman Laurence Harvey; and finally an Italian principe, with stops along the way for hypocritical upper-crust fundraisers, exploitation films, Parisian art parties, an abortion, and a spot of shoplifting at Fortnum & Mason's. Tracing Diana's progress from lowly bra model to "Happiness Girl" to the ultimate emptiness as Princess Diana, Schlesinger offers a critique of a striving consumer society in the form of a critique of a woman. Bogarde, in summary: "You're a whore, baby."

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Frederic Raphael. Photographed by Ken Higgins. With Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey, Roland Curram. (127 mins, B&W, 35mm, From BFI NFTVA, permission Optimum Releasing)