Sunday, May 27, 2007

May The Farce Be With You

I’m going to make you a star!

A very British view.

I have to say sorry to all my pasteurised yeomen for having to split my Cannes film blog over two different days. The truth is that there was just so many different synapses sparking, I just couldn’t fit everything in!

Still, if you all maintaining that comfortable and serene air associated with being watertight, I shall attempt to continue with the synaptic chunder. (Note 1)

Ever since I can remember, people have talked about ‘The British Film Industry’ with a kind of hushed reverence usually reserved for a much loved national icon admitted to a hospice.

The British Film industry seems to be in a perpetual state of decline that will result in its demise. Then, just as people start to dust off the memorabilia for eBay, along comes a Four Weddings, a Train Spotting, Full Monty or Love Actually that somehow allows the industry to stagger from its deathbed and wheeze its way through a few more years. (Note 2)

We tend to overlook the fact that us Brits are quite good at making movies. In fact, we have a track record of producing some of the biggest movies of all time.

Hmmm, there are a few sceptical glances coming my way – especially from my Merkin readers.

The West Country’s answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Prowse. This ex-bodybuilder who became famous as the Green Cross Code Man.

You may have noticed that this week saw the amazing anniversary of the first Star Wars film. You may not have realised it, but that film was made in Britain – but is not considered a British film. David Prowse, an Englishman, played one of the most famous characters in that film, Darth Vader. (Note 3)

If that doesn’t convince you, then remember that the James Bond films are made at Pinewood Studios.

The thing is that making films is an expensive business. The only people who can afford to make huge blockbusters are the big entertainment corporations. They have the money and will make their films wherever offers them the best deal. The cost of the films can influence their content. Film making is a business and the aim of the business is to make money. So the plots of films has more to do with encouraging people to watch than to try and break new ground or educate.

Which is why the big film companies back their films with big publicity budgets and why the big blockbusters get all the column inches in the entertainment papers.

Obi Wan Kenobi in an early role in the Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers.

The bigger the business, the more money they have to spend and the bigger risks they can afford to take. Sadly, this means that in Britain we cannot match the risks and the budgets of the big multinationals like Sony. Without risk, there is no reward and we can only watch in disgust as our good ideas such as the Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers is remade by the big studios.

Ironically, the Ealing studios which made the famous Ealing comedies was sold to the BBC in 19955, the year that saw the original and acclaimed ‘Ladykillers’ film hit cinemas. Perhaps it is due to unique way that the BBC is funded by use of a licence fee rather than the need to obtain funding from commercials that allows the BBC to produce and air challenging programs.

If you have the time and you actually have the access rights, I suggest that you have a look at The idea that they will re-make the St Trinian’s franchise fills me with both Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain. If you cannot actually see the program, then you can have a look at the BBC Website associated with the series.

The first episode used the satire of the Ealing comedies to illustrate some of the different events in Britain after World War Two. It is an amazing story that starts only a dozen or so years before I was born – and yet I learned so much. If you can, I thoroughly recommend you watch it.

From 14th June 2006, the industry standard Crozzy Standard has been applied to footnotes.

NOTE 1: I’m beginning to think I may have stumbled over a new classic. I think that is so much better than the rather old and boring cliché of “If you are sitting comfortably, I’ll begin…” Perhaps I should start a campaign to make it compulsory at all public library reading hours. Click to return

NOTE 2: Although such is the state of mind of us Brits that as soon as a film becomes a commercial success, we feel the need to ridicule it and generally belittle any achievement. I have no explanation why this is my effervescent yeomen. It is just the way of the Brits. We will cheer the underdog until we are puce in the face and our throats are red raw – but as soon as the underdog becomes a winner we cannot wait to bring them crashing down. Click to return

NOTE 3: David Prowse hails from the English West Country. His natual accent is a lovely West Country lilt, which is often stereotyped as being that of a country farmer. Poor David Prowse became nicknamed as Darth Farmer as a result. If you follow this link, you will see what I mean as it allows you to link to an interview with him. Just close your eyes and imagine Darth Vader – it soesn’t really work. Click to return

Oh dear, I appear to have missed out a cryptic clue. I am truly sorry. Never mind, I am sure that my firm-thighed yeomen will still be able to continue our little synaptic romp.

I think most people have the answer now, so I shall slip a nice easy clue in.

Please remember Alan Johnston who is still held hostage in Gaza after ten weeks. Freedom of the press to report what is happening is a cornerstone to all our freedoms.

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