Today: July 23, 2024

The Best Of British Part 2

The Wicker Man, Passport To Pilmico, 28 Days Later. The battered but beloved British film industry has produced some classics in its time – and we all have our favourites. So fire up the Olympic torch, hoist up those Union Jack tracky bottoms and join Greg Evans, as he sprints towards the finish line for the second part of his two part feature celebrating 20 of the very Best of British films.

The
Wicker Man, Passport To Pilmico, 28 Days Later. The battered but beloved British film industry has produced
some classics in its time – and we all have our favourites. So fire up the
Olympic torch, hoist up those Union Jack tracky bottoms and join Greg Evans, as
he sprints towards the finish line for the second part of his two part feature
celebrating 20 of the very Best of British films.

24 Hour Party People
Music is as much
a part of British life as food and drink. And one of the cities that has
contributed some of the greatest bands and artists is Manchester. During the 80’s, the person at the forefront of the
city’s thriving music scene was Tony
Wilson
and his Factory Records
label. 24 Hour Party People documents the label’s rise and fall and takes in
all the great bands that it adopted including Joy Divison, New Order and Happy
Mondays. Michael Winterbottom’s
2002 film is often hilarious; sometimes
poignant. It also features Steve Coogan in
his best film role as the charismatic Wilson.

Four Weddings And A Funeral
If you can bare
them, rom-coms can sometimes be good and Four Weddings And A Funeral is
possibly the best example of the genre.
The premise of the film is so simple to be almost preposterous –
basically following several individuals as they attend four weddings and then an
untimely funeral. Everything that happens in the film centres around these
events and nowhere else. Hugh Grant is
his usual hopeless self as Charles, a bachelor with a potty mouth, who has the
ability to find himself in an endless stream of awkward situations. Genuinely
funny and moving, it’s a shining example of a much-maligned genre (even if Andie MacDowell did her very best to
ruin it).

The Wicker Man
CHRIST!!! NO!!!
is the iconic phrase that Edward
Woodward’s
Sergeant Neil Howie screams
when confronted with the horror that is the Wicker Man. To this day, it remains
a famous and much referenced scene in the history of film but The Wicker Man
has so much more than just that scene. At the centre of it is a real
who-done-it film that is utterly bonkers and wild with pagan rituals and
imagery. The legendary Christopher Lee plays
the evil Lord Summerisle, a role he considers to be his best and for a man who
played Dracula to a tee, this is
quite a statement. Unfortunately for many, The Wicker Man has become associated
with Nicolas Cage’s unforgivable
2006 remake, but if you can overlook this gross misjudgment you will find a
British horror classic.

Monty Python and The Holy Grail
And now for
something completely different. During the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s Monty Python were the funniest,
cleverest and most controversial comedians in the world. Over three decades,
they produced several TV shows and plays but their most endearing contribution
were their films. The Life of Brian is
probably the most famous but The Holy Grail is so ridiculous that it’s hard to overlook.
From the Black Knight to the Trojan Rabbit the stupidity of everything will
leave you gasping for air. Whatever you think of Monty Python and the Holy
Grail one thing you wont forget is the air-speed velocity of an unladen
swallow.

Don’t Look Now (Main Picture)
After the losing
their daughter to an awful accident, the couple of John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter (Julie Christie) attempt to rekindle their love lives during a
working trip to Venice. While there,
Laura befriends a bizarre pair of sisters, one of who is a blind psychic who
claims to be able to see their dead daughter. At the same time, John is haunted
by strange visions of his daughter that he can’t quite comprehend. Featuring
one of the most explicit sex scenes ever, and one of the scariest conclusions,
Don’t Look Now is an intense labyrinth of a film. Full of metaphors, symbolism
and prophecies, Nicolas Roeg’s classic
is still one of the most influential British movies ever made.

Brief Encounter
For a director
like David Lean, who made epics such
as Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, it’s easy to forget
just how intimate and subtle Brief Encounter really is. Its simple premise of a
first person account of an affair between an ordinary housewife Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson) and confident doctor
Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) is
beautifully constructed. Without going overboard or being pretentious, it
manages to create a sort of noir romance akin to Casablanca. What is even more revealing about Brief Encounter is
just how ordinary its protagonists are. There is nothing sexy or wicked about
their affair, it just happens that two married people fall in love. It contains
balanced focus on romance but that sense of guilt never leaves at any point.

Withnail and I
Going out and
getting lashed at the weekend has become something of a British national
pastime. What Withnail and I did was take this concept to the whole next level.
Withnail (Richard E Grant) and I (Paul McGann) are pretty much plastered
throughout the entire film and it’s hilarious to behold. As the pair of failing
young actors get into a number of escapades and situations the film gets darker
as their plight worsens. Director and writer Bruce Robinson is a recovering alcoholic who views the film as an
autobiographical account of his early life. With some snappy one liners and
great characterization, Withnail and I is one of the biggest British cult films
with armies of fans.

Performance
The truly great
rock stars all come from Britain.
Unfortunately for John Lennon,
John Lydon, Morrissey
and Liam
Gallagher
no brilliant films have been made that star them. Mick Jagger however has Performance. A
frantic and twisted sort of bohemian gangster tale that showcases the potential
Jagger had as an actor. He plays the young, androgynous Turner, who unknowingly
takes in wanted mobster Chas (James Fox).
What transpires is a trippy existential journey for both individuals who
challenge each other’s lifestyles. Super cool and hip, Performance may be one
of the best films about identity ever made.

The Third Man
The Third Man is
a true cinematic accomplishment. Carol
Reed
manages to transfer the dark qualities of Hollywood noir, to the
streets of 1940’s Vienna in this
magnificently made thriller. American writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) arrives in Vienna with
the intention of visiting his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Upon his arrival he learns that Harry has been
killed in a motoring accident and thus the mystery begins. Everything about The
Third Man is brilliant. The story, the music, the cinematography, the lighting,
the acting, the dialogue. Nothing at any moment disappoints. Its is best
remembered for Orson Welles improvised speech about Switzerland but let’s not forget the climactic chase scene in the
city’s sewer system. A truly astonishing film that has never been bettered.

Brazil
Arguably, a film
made by an American with a title taken from a South American nation, is the
best film that Britain has ever produced. Why? Because it single handedly sums
up everything that Britain is about. It has that wonderfully dreamy quality
that many of our greatest visionaries and artists have depicted. The unique
surrealist dreamworld of Terry Pratchett
combined with the sadness and horror of Damien Hirst is here. The dystopic nightmare of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is transported from Los
Angeles to our pavements, yet the humour of Monty Python remains. It has the
romance of David Lean but also the death of the middle ages. Brazil’s outlook
on work and everyday life could have been taken directly from Peep Show or even the lyrics of Billy Bragg. Terry Gilliam’s ambitious
direction is fully realised in Brazil and helped him to go on and create of
great movies like 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. And
let’s not forget the cast. Jonathan
Pryce
has never been as good as he is as the daydreaming Sam Lowry, plus
his love interest Jill Layton (Kim
Greist)
is tough but mysterious. The
real show stealer is Robert DeNiro who
plays Harry Tuttle, a rogue air conditioning specialist with a vendetta against
the government. We still haven’t mentioned the pipes, the cooling tower, the
interrogations, the forms, the terrorists, the very British mistakes.
Everything that happens in Brazil is done in a way that couldn’t come from any
other country. A very British romantic/sci-fi/fantasy/black comedy, if that’s
possible?

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