Genre in British Social Realism

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Genre in British Social Realism

  1. 1. By Hannah Burgess GENRE IN BRITISH SOCIAL REALISM
  2. 2. HISTORY OF BRITISH SOCIAL REALISM <ul><li>Over the years British Social Realism has pushed the boundaries in order to show experiences of real Britons in films. Realism has been a very important role in Britain’s and the rest of the world’s cinema. </li></ul><ul><li>In France, where the 'actualités' of cinema inventors the Lumière Brothers seemed to descend from the provincial realism of Gustave Flaubert, early British cinema picked up on the revelation of everyday social interaction to be found in Dickens and Thomas Hardy. In Rescued by Rover (1905), Cecil Hepworth caught Edwardian England at a particular moment. </li></ul><ul><li>James Williamson's A Reservist before the War, and </li></ul><ul><li>After the War (1902) offered a representation of the Boer </li></ul><ul><li>War serviceman returning to unemployment, and was one of </li></ul><ul><li>the first films to emphasise realism's value as social protest . </li></ul><ul><li>In the years following World War I, it was widely felt that the </li></ul><ul><li>key to a national cinema lay in 'realism and restraint'. Such a view </li></ul><ul><li>reflected the tastes of a mainly south-eastern middle-class audience. </li></ul><ul><li>Meanwhile, working-class audiences, it was said, favoured Hollywood </li></ul><ul><li>genre movies. So realism carried patrician connotations of education </li></ul><ul><li>and high seriousness. These social distinctions have become </li></ul><ul><li>running themes in a cinema for which social realism is now </li></ul><ul><li>associated with the art-house auteur, while 'entertainment' </li></ul><ul><li>plays at the multiplex. </li></ul>The Lumiere Brothers
  3. 3. BRITISH CINEMA IN THE 1930s-40s <ul><li>Britain's contribution to cinema in the 1930s lay in a state-sponsored documentary tradition that would feed into the 1940s mainstream . </li></ul><ul><li>Producer Michael Balcon revived the social/aesthetic distinction when he referred to the British industry's longstanding rivalry with Hollywood in terms of 'realism and tinsel'. Balcon, in his position as </li></ul><ul><li>head of Ealing Studios, would become a key figure </li></ul><ul><li>in the emergence of a national cinema </li></ul><ul><li>characterised by stoicism and verisimilitude. </li></ul><ul><li>Combining the objective temper and aesthetics of the </li></ul><ul><li>documentary movement with the stars and resources </li></ul><ul><li>of studio filmmaking, 1940s British cinema made a </li></ul><ul><li>stirring appeal to a mass audience. </li></ul>Producer Michael Balcon
  4. 4. FILMS AND WARTIME <ul><li>The 'quality film' mirrored a transforming wartime society . Women now worked in munitions factories and the services, mixing with men and challenging pre-assigned gender roles. Rationing, air raids and unprecedented state intervention in the life of the individual encouraged a 'one nation, one goal' philosophy. </li></ul><ul><li>Target for Tonight (1941) </li></ul><ul><li>In Which We Serve (1942) </li></ul><ul><li>Millions Like Us (1943) </li></ul><ul><li>This Happy Breed (1944) </li></ul><ul><li>These films above helped smooth away the tensions of a class-bound society in the depiction of factory life, the suburban street, the forces' mess. </li></ul><ul><li>Historian Roger Manvell wrote: &quot;As the cinemas [closed initially because of the fear of air raids] reopened, the public flooded in, searching for relief from hard work, companionship, release from tension, emotional indulgence and, where they could find them, some reaffirmation of the values of humanity .&quot; </li></ul>
  5. 5. FREE CINEMA 1950s AND BRITISH NEW WAVE 1960s <ul><li>Humphrey Jennings , a documentarist, had been responsible for consensus-building works like Listen to Britain (1942) and Spare Time (1939), which, look at the British at play, forged a ' new iconography' , influencing the 1950s Free Cinema documentary movement and the 1960s British New Wave . </li></ul><ul><li>One of the strongest images of post-war British cinema is that of factory worker Arthur Seaton downing a pint in one at the end of another week in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). Related to, though independent of, the commercial mainstream, the New Wave was fed by the 'Angry Young Men' of 1950s theatre , the verisimilitude of Italian Neo-realism and the youth appeal of the French New Wave. Among the smokestacks and terraces of regional life; </li></ul><ul><li>Room at the Top (1958) </li></ul><ul><li>T he Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) </li></ul><ul><li>A Kind of Loving (1962) </li></ul><ul><li>brought wide shots and plain speaking to stories </li></ul><ul><li>of ordinary Britons negotiating the social structures of </li></ul><ul><li>post-war Britain. </li></ul>
  6. 6. ISSUES SHOWN IN FILM (SEX, MONEY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS) <ul><li>Thanks to the relaxation of censorship, characters had sex lives, money worries, social problems. British 'auteurs' like Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and John Schlesinger dealt with prostitution, abortion, homosexuality, alienation and relationship problems. Here were factory workers, office underlings, dissatisfied wives, pregnant girlfriends, runaways, the marginalised, poor and depressed. </li></ul>Karel Reisz Tony Richardson
  7. 7. THE NEW WAVE CINEMA <ul><li>The New Wave was symptomatic of a worldwide emergence of art cinemas challenging mainstream aesthetics and attitudes . Identified with their directors rather than with the industry, the New Wave films tended to address issues around masculinity that would become common in British social realism . </li></ul><ul><li>The New Wave protagonist was usually a working-class male without bearings in a society in which traditional industries and the cultures that went with them were in decline. </li></ul>Directors from Ken Loach to Patrick Keiller , and films from Mike Leigh's High Hopes (1988) to The Full Monty (1997) have addressed the erosion of regional and class identities amid a landscape rendered increasingly uniform by consumerism.
  8. 8. KEN LOACH AND MIKE LEIGH <ul><li>The breakdown of the collective consensus in post-war Britain seems to be captured in the tragicomic exchanges of Mike Leigh's Life is Sweet (1990), Naked (1993) and Secrets and Lies (1996) . In these films, Leigh examined the fractures in domestic and social life wrought by divisive Thatcherite policies in an increasingly fragmented and multicultural Britain . </li></ul><ul><li>If the New Wave short-sightedly blamed women for the blighting of British manhood, women in Loach and Leigh are often complex and powerful individuals. </li></ul>Descendants of the realist flowering at the BBC in the 1960s, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh assessed the impact of the consumer society on family life, charting the erosion of the welfare state and the consensus that built it . Looking back, Loach's work seems to reflect the shift from the collectivist mood of the war years to the individualism of the post-war decades in its very form. Loach's films went from the improvised long-take naturalism of Poor Cow and Kes (both 1969) to the 'social melodrama' of Raining Stones (1993) and Ladybird Ladybird (1994), wider social issues now explored via emotional and dramatic individual stories.
  9. 9. CHANNEL 4 <ul><li>In the 1980s, publisher-broadcaster Channel 4 attempted to cultivate a cinema audience for realism. Responding to the moralistic entrepreneurialism of the Thatcher years, 'Films on Four' My Beautiful Laundrette and Letter to Brezhnev (both 1985) followed characters from the margins as they attempted to stake a claim in the new order. </li></ul>As the funding environment grew more precarious, by the 1990s a formulaic 'triumph-over-adversity' narrative combining the streets and cityscapes of traditional British realism with the feel-good vibe of Hollywood individualism answered the challenge of reiterating a national cinema amid spreading multiplexes.
  10. 10. MEN AND WOMEN IN FILM <ul><li>Supported by the incoming post-welfare New Labour, The Full Monty (1997) came to characterize a new and entertaining conception of British social realism . Meanwhile, more lethal and complex representations of men and women appeared in Gary Oldman's autobiographical Nil by Mouth, Antonia Bird's Face (both 1997), Shane Meadows' A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) and Carine Adler's Under the Skin (1997) , adding shade to our best hope for a truly national cinema. </li></ul><ul><li>Advertised in the British press as yet another banner year for British filmmaking, 2002 saw important new films from Loach - Sweet Sixteen - Leigh - All or Nothing - and Lynne Ramsay - Morvern Callar, suggesting a national cinema with a genuine and vital commitment to the way we live. </li></ul>

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