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Look Back at England: The British New Wave

September 2, 2007 - October 26, 2007

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, September 27

In 1956 in Britain, John Osborne's electrifying play Look Back in Anger startled the drama world, and the 1958 film by Osborne and Tony Richardson's fledgling company Woodfall Productions sent a similar shock of vitality through the cinema. In literature, theater, and film, it was the era of the Angry Young Man, the working-class hero railing against the bitter disappointments of everyday life in modern England's industrial backyard, marking the end of the postwar promise. In Britain's New Cinema of the 1960s, inflected by the experimental temperament of the Free Cinema documentary movement before it, authors and antiheroes were on the attack against the stifling deceits of cinema and of society, making concessions neither to commercial pressures nor to traditional inhibitions.

The British film historian and frequent PFA guest the late William K. Everson once told us, "We didn't always comprehend just why Britain's 'Angry Young Men' were so angry. Problems and conditions in present-day Britain show that their anger was prophetic, and their frustration well-founded." That was 1981. Since then, however, audiences have been Mike Leighed and BBC'd, Ab Fabbed and Hanif Kureishi'd, the anger feminized and culturally codified. To view the New Cinema films from the perspective of 2007 is to look back in admiration to a moment when great writing met daring filmmaking, and all the screen was a stage for newcomers like Albert Finney, Alan Bates, Laurence Harvey, and Richard Burton, and the women, among them Rita Tushingham, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, and Julie Christie. You will be neither judged nor disappointed if you luxuriate in their performances and the crisp black-and-white cinematography in these 35mm prints. Just lie back and think of England.

Judy Bloch
Publications Director

Sunday, September 2, 2007
5:00 p.m. Look Back in Anger
Richard Burton is truly, madly angry—also eloquent, and unforgettable—as the jazz-playing misfit Jimmy Porter in the 1958 film based on John Osborne's bombshell play, directed by Tony Richardson.

Thursday, September 6, 2007
5:30 p.m. Three Short Films by Lindsay Anderson (Free Screening!)
Anderson's brief, poetic documentaries were a precursor to the British New Wave.

Sunday, September 9, 2007
5:00 p.m. A Taste of Honey
Interracial sex, homosexuality, and unwed pregnancy had the shock of the new in 1961, when Rita Tushingham worked her way into viewers' hearts.

Sunday, September 9, 2007
7:00 p.m. The Entertainer
Laurence Olivier as a has-been music-hall performer—and Alan Bates and Albert Finney in their screen debuts—in John Osborne's play-turned-film, Olivier's "greatest contemporary role."—Pauline Kael

Wednesday, September 12, 2007
7:30 p.m. This Sporting Life
Richard Harris as the essential working-class antihero, a bruised and bruising rugby player in England's North Country, in Lindsay Anderson's forceful, psychologically complex first feature, noted for introducing a truly modern sensibility to British cinema.

Friday, September 14, 2007
7:00 p.m. Billy Liar
John Schlesinger's Billy Liar broke with kitchen-sink realism to provide star-making roles for Tom Courtenay as a daydreaming undertaker's assistant and Julie Christie as a wistful beatnik.

Friday, September 14, 2007
9:00 p.m. Darling
Schlesinger's time capsule of Swinging London, with Julie Christie as a model on the make, Dirk Bogarde, and Laurence Harvey. "Diamond-hard, diamond-bright."—New Yorker

Saturday, September 15, 2007
8:40 p.m. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Albert Finney's star-making turn as a young Nottingham factory worker to the manner born, a consummate boozer, lover, gambler, and philosopher.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
7:30 p.m. The Servant
Let's play master and servant! Dirk Bogarde and James Fox do it in this striking parable on class conflict, Joseph Losey's first collaboration with Harold Pinter.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
7:30 p.m. Room at the Top
With the marvelous Simone Signoret, this classic about a Machiavellian social climber (Laurence Harvey) endures as a love story, set against the fraught class relations in the North Country in the 1950s. Jack Clayton directs.

Thursday, September 27, 2007
7:30 p.m. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Tom Courtenay in Tony Richardson's famously experimental narrative recounting the events in the life of a Borstal lad as he runs track—running for his life.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007
7:30 p.m. Séance on a Wet Afternoon
Decades later this tale of a London kidnapping remains suspenseful; creepy, too, since ransom is not the reason. Kim Stanley as a medium and Richard Attenborough as her milquetoast mate are "utterly superb."—Time Out

Wednesday, October 10, 2007
7:30 p.m. Georgy Girl
Hey there, Lynn Redgrave—you were irrepressible in this antic tragedy of Swinging London and its discontents. With Alan Bates as a catch, and James Mason as a lech.

Friday, October 19, 2007
7:00 p.m. The Knack . . . and How to Get It
England swings like a pendulum in Richard Lester's take on hooking up and how to do it, '60s-style. Rita Tushingham shines through the script's inherent misogyny.

Friday, October 19, 2007
8:45 p.m. Alfie
Before Alfie, Michael Caine was just some great British actor. In its offhand candor on all things sexual, Alfie was what it was all about.

Friday, October 26, 2007
7:00 p.m. Bedazzled
The Peter Cook and Dudley Moore cult classic comedy, a Faustian bargain at any price.

Friday, October 26, 2007
9:05 p.m. If . . .
In 1968, the boarding school as metaphor for social control was a shot heard 'round the world. "A modern classic."—Time Out

Curated by Susan Oxtoby.

PFA wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions who have helped make this series possible: Fleur Buckley, BFI NFTVA; Todd Wiener, UCLA Film and Television Archive; Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum; George Kaltsounakis, Cinematheque Ontario; Chris Chouinard, MGM; Emily Horn, Paramount; Eric Di Bernardo, Rialto Pictures; Shirley Couch, Sony; Marilee Womack, Warner Bros.; Cary Haber, 20th Century Fox; and Stuart Lisell, Canal+.