United Kingdom Cinema



Blue Blood by R. Hamer appeared in 1949 as the progenitor and the jewel of the genre, which continued in the 1950s until it was supplanted by Free Cinema, a movement that had much stronger ideal tensions. Its major exponents – L. Anderson, K. Reisz, T. Richardson – dominated the sixties with the prestige of individual personalities; we can add to the directors mentioned J. Clayton, J. Schlesinger, R. Lester, later P. Watkins, K. Russell and K. Loach. Many foreigners were guests in that decade (from M. Antonioni to S. Kubrick, from R. Polanski to J. Skolimowski to G. Dunning); and the fact that probably the most “English” filmmaker was the American JW Losey (The servant, 1963; The accident, 1967) sounded like an exemplary paradox. 1971 looked promising with Cannes-winning Losey’s Messenger of LoveThe Other Face of Love and Russell’s Devils, Loach’s Family Life, A Clockwork Orange by Kubrick; even the animated film continued its good season. In 1973, according to Estatelearning, British cinema again won at Cannes with A Man to Rent by A. Bridges; yet the crisis in the sector was very profound. After filming A Romantic English Woman (1975), Losey moved on to work in France; Murder on the Orient Express (1974) of S. Lumet, Tommy and Lisztomania of Russell, Barry Lindon of Kubrick, released in 1975, failed to mask the general slump in receipts. Reisz, Clayton, Schlesinger, Russell himself, R. Scott, Cannes director’s award for The Duelists (1977), emigrated to the United States; national talents, such as Loach, were forced into independent and marginal television activities or productions (Winstanley, 1975, by Brownlow and Mollo; The Naked Officer, 1976, by J. Gold; etc.). English cinema, however, returned to flourish decisively with the Eighties. Alongside the brilliant achievements of the elderly: Reisz (The French lieutenant’s woman), Loach (A look, a smile), Anderson (Britannia Hospital), there was the extraordinary success of The Mysteries of the Garden of Compton House (1982), by the highly refined P Greenaway, and two consecutive Academy Award triumphs with Moments of Glory Hugh Hudson in 1981 and the Gandhi of R. Attenborough in 1982, the two Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival won by Ascendancy of Edward Bennett in 1983 and Mystery of Wetherby to D. Hare in 1984. Add to that many ferments in “regional” cinema: Scottish, Welsh or Irish. Set in Scotland are Bill Forsyth ‘s plays Gregory’s Girl (1981), Local Hero (1983), Comfort and Joy (1984) and Another Time, Another Place (1983), Michael Radford’s first film., then director of Orwell 1984. Similarly, the Irish question came to the fore in the aforementioned Ascendancy, set in Belfast in 1920. Elder D. Lean’s return – and success – with Passage to India (1984) should also be noted; Losey himself was “repatriated” to London before he died (1985), leaving Steaming as a posthumous work.


In the second 1980s, the personalities of two highly committed filmmakers emerged, the aforementioned P. Greenaway (Games in the water, 1988; The cook, the thief, his wife and lover, 1989; The baby of Mâcon, 1993) and S. Frears, already active at the time of Free Cinema but established himself with My Beautiful Laundrette (Laundromat) (1985) and Prick-Up (The importance of being Joe) (1987), before moving in the United States (where he directed Hero by chance, 1992) as well as many of his fellow countrymen (Bill Forsyth, Pat O’Connor). Also of absolute importance is the rigor of K. Loach who with Riff Raff (Better to lose them than find them) (1991), Piovono stones (1993) and My name is Joe (1998) re-propose themes such as workers’ anger, in times decidedly insensitive to class polemics, the anti-Francoist struggle in Land and Freedom (1995) and the war in Latin America in Carla’s Song (1996). English cinema was among the few in Europe that did not give up the links between social problems and spectacular tension, so much so that it continued to favor stories of a proletarian or marginal setting with directors: M. Leigh (Naked, 1993; Secrets and lies, Cannes winner, 1996; Girls, 1997; Vera Drake’s Secret, 2004), Michael Winterbottom (Butterfly Kiss, 1994; Go Now, 1996; With or without you, 1999), D. Boyle (Trainspotting, 1996; An exaggerated life, 1997), G. Oldman (Nothing by mouth, 1997) and T. Roth (War zone, 1998). But it is thanks to comedy, which in any case does not renounce the proletarian environment and social criticism, that English cinema returns to assume prominent positions in Europe and the United States: the prototype is Full Monty (Squattrinati organized) (1997) by P. Cattaneo, but in the genre there are also Svegliati Ned (1998) by K. Jones, Martha da legare (1999) by N. Hamm and, on the more disengaged side, Sliding Doors (1997) by P. Howitt. The tradition of costumed cinema remains solid – with the updated Shakespearean versions of K. Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing, 1993; Hamlet, 1996), who subsequently also landed in the musical with Love’s Pain Lost (2000), or by R. Loncraine (Riccardo III, 1995) – and the typical attention to detail applied by A. Minghella, winner of 9 Oscars in 1997 with his The English Patient, followed by The Talent of Mr. Ripley (1999) and Cold Return Mountain (2004).

United Kingdom Cinema