The Channel 4 Film Appreciation
The Channel 4 Film appreciation (C4) came about as recognition of all the help that Channel 4 Films has been to Keswick Film festival over the years. It also puts back on the big screen films that have not been seen for some time on that format as well as illustrate just how diverse Channel 4 Films are.
Six very different working-class characters have tangled and entangled lives in the new, post-apartheid South Africa. Blair is a contemporary of Mike Leigh and shares with him an early background in TV (he directed G F Newman's seminal Law and Order in 1978) and a taste for part-improvisation as a method of creation. But his work is more overtly political, and Jump the Gun is a penetrating social-realist take on the consequences of major political change. 'Episodic, unfocused and lacking a good ending, Jump the Gun ought to have been a mess. Instead it's an absorbing and insightful piece that grips the attention and refuses to let go.' (Totalfilm.com)
This is the only full-length feature film the great Bill Douglas made: the story of the Tolpuddle martyrs, exiled to Australia in 1834 when they dared to fight for a trade union. Keith Allen, Imelda Staunton and Philip Davis are better-known now than they were then and other stars like Vanessa Redgrave have upper-class cameos on the margins of the story. Douglas' committed but imaginative vision doesn't just tell us the moving and powerful story of the comrades; his fascination with the predecessors of the medium of film is expressed through the figure of the lanternist, who wanders through the action with a host of optical devices from camera obscura to diorama.
John Hodge's screenplay takes Irvine Welsh's episodic novel and focuses it on junkie Renton (Ewan McGregor)'s experiences on and off heroin in Edinburgh and London. But this isn't British grit and grim realism. It's exuberant, sometimes surreal (like the dive into the worst toilet in Scotland) and never judgemental. Boyle's directorial wizardry brings out the best in many of his actors, most especially Robert Carlyle as the psychopathic Begbie. Iconic.
Long before David Suchet was the loveable Poirot he featured here as the somewhat less sympathetic Beria, sidekick to Colin Blakely's Stalin. This is a dark comedy, for long thought lost, directed by one of the great TV-film directors. Based on a Russian short story, it features many British character actors illuminating the bleakly murderous buffoonery of Stalin's later years, with a script by Charles Wood. The black jokes are more hit than miss, and watch out for Brian Glover as Khruschev and an uncredited Michael Palin as a projectionist.
Q&A with director Jack Gold
The Dane Bille August directs an Ingmar Bergman script based on the youth of Bergman's parents. The film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and Pernilla August won Best Actress. It's eloquent, moving, intense. 'I spent a long time wandering...through the streets and settings of my childhood... And in these settings I encountered my parents. Not the mystical figures I've already struggled with for so many years of my adult life, but two young people...He, very poor, comes from extremely difficult circumstances. She is a much-loved, spoilt princess in a well-established middle class milieu surrounded by a large family.' (Ingmar Bergman)
This enchanting coming-of-age drama was broadcast on Channel 4's second night. Young Alan is required to kiss the girl of his dreams in the school play: do dreams really come true? John Arlott commentates on the cricket-loving boy's obsession, and Alison Steadman is excellent as a strict, frustrated schoolteacher. 'Expertly directed by Apted from one of Jack Rosenthal’s breeziest scripts, P’Tang Yang Kipperbang...would doubtless be regarded as a minor classic if it had been theatrically released.' (Julian Upton, MovieMail)