Sunday, 1 March 2009

Ode To Richard Lester...

This is something that I wrote for a screening that we did of DAISIES & THE KNACK.

Since I hadn't seen Daisies at the time, I left that part to David and wrote about The Knack myself. As much as anything though I got a little carried away enthusing about Richard Lester...


THE KNACK
DIR: Richard Lester
GB 1965 84mins

Oh, Richard Lester. How underrated are thee! You didn’t only make the Beatles’ films. You made the best Robin Hood movie I have ever seen: ROBIN & MARIAN (all due respect to Errol Flynn, but I just can’t take green tights seriously). You made HOW I WON THE WAR (a film that doesn’t quite seem to work when you’re watching it – but then won’t go away when it’s finished). You made PETULIA. You made JUGGERNAUT. You made the Musketeers movies (Pirates of The Carribean still hasn’t said a word of thanks for everything it stole from you, and it stole a LOT in terms of how to swash its buckle). And you made THE KNACK, these days something of a forgotten movie it seems. Everybody seems to talk about PERFORMANCE or BLOW UP when they talk about the Sixties… but back when this film came out, it was absolutely on the edge of exactly what was happening. All those other films were fantasy. This was something real. Something sharp and cutting. Its eyes aren’t filled with paisley swirls, it sees things for what they are. It sees things clear. It skewers all the bullshit. Oh, and it’s got two things that those others haven’t got. Two mighty weapons in its arsenal that are worth a thousand David Hemmings’ and a million of Mick Jagger. It’s got Michael Crawford, and it’s got Rita Tushingham. And both of them are gems.

‘Don’t you better come near me, Mr. Tight Trousers!’

They should print T-Shirts up with that.

Halliwell’s Film Guide (always good for a laugh) gives THE KNACK four stars, but somehow still manages to sound as if it’s looking down its nose at the film. It’s a weird one. I quote: ‘A sex starved young teacher lets one room of his house to a successful womaniser, another to an innocent young woman from the north. An excuse for an anarchic series of visual gags, a kaleidoscope of swinging London in which anything goes. Brilliantly done in the style of A Hard Days Night.’

Which doesn’t really convey just how on the money are the observations that it makes, nor how funny and awkward are the performances and humour (way ahead of it’s time I’d say), nor that what it carries over form Hard Days Night is the freewheeling sense of invention in the filmmaking. The immediacy of the way it’s shot and performed. The way it feels alive and unpretentious and – unlike so many of its contemporaries – not so achingly hip that it hurts. It doesn’t mind that it sometimes looks a little silly. It’s not trying to be ‘cool’. And it stands back far enough from the events of the day, with enough clarity and wisdom to see the characters portrayed for what they are. It’s a lovely film. A joyous film. I… WE… think you’re really going to love it.

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