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Look Back at England: The British New Wave

Saturday, September 15, 2007
8:40 p.m. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Karel Reisz (U.K., 1960)

"I'm a six-foot prop that wants a pint of beer, that's what. But if any knowing bastard tells them that's me, I'll tell 'em I'm a dynamite dealer waiting to blow the factory to kingdom come. . . . Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not." Thus spake Arthur Seaton, the angry young man of Nottingham, by day a factory worker, by night a boozer, careless lover, gambler, and, after a fashion, philosopher. Arthur is nourished by mischief—playing practical jokes at the local pub, or mocking his parents, whom he views unrepentantly as "dead from the neck up." But Arthur's anarchy is neither glorified nor horrified under Karel Reisz's direction, which consistently strives for authenticity and intelligence. And in the unhappy end, Arthur does not blow up the factory. He's still throwing stones. The film catapulted Albert Finney, in his first major film role, to fame, and vice versa.

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Alan Sillitoe, from his novel. Photographed by Freddie Francis. With Albert Finney, Shirley Anne Field, Rachel Roberts, Norman Rossington. (90 mins, B&W, 35mm, From MGM)