Shadows of Progress

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by the BFI and the films on them.

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MichaelB
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#26 Post by MichaelB » Mon Oct 18, 2010 11:37 am

Between now and the launch of the Shadows of Progress DVDs, the BFI's YouTube channel will be featuring extracts from some of the films.

First up is Lindsay Anderson's Foot and Mouth (1955), a briskly efficient cautionary tale about the ease with which the farmer's worst nightmare can spread to vast sections of the countryside. It was aimed primarily at farmers themselves, which is why Anderson opts for restraint when depicting mass slaughter of cattle, sheep and pigs - it was felt that a Le Sang des bêtes approach would be completely counterproductive.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#27 Post by MichaelB » Mon Oct 25, 2010 12:17 pm

...and here's an excerpt from Today in Britain (1964), Peter Hopkinson's state-of-the-nation snapshot conducted in the year that Harold Wilson swept to a victory allegedly driven by "the white heat of technology".

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#28 Post by MichaelB » Tue Nov 02, 2010 5:32 am

...and here's an excerpt from David (1951), Paul Dickson's moving semi-dramatised biopic of the poet D.R.Griffiths, still regarded as one of the best films ever to come out of Wales.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#29 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:51 am

...and here's John Krish talking about the shooting of his classic British Transport Film The Elephant Will Never Forget (1953), without permission, on purloined film stock... and getting fired for it. The interview is taken from the specially commissioned documentary Perspectives on Documentary Filmmaking, which is the DVD box set's main extra besides the booklet.

I've also uploaded a clip from another Krish film, Our School (1962) - this isn't included in the Shadows of Progress box, but is one of a quartet of films touring British cinemas under the collective title A Day in the Life: Four Portraits of Post-War Britain by John Krish. It opens on November 12, with a preview at BFI Southbank on November 8 - which will include a Q&A with Krish himself. More details here.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#30 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 05, 2010 5:47 am

A review of the DVD box, courtesy of Socialist Review - and it's a stinker. But I think you can probably guess why I'm linking to it anyway - because it's a hugely revealing illustration of the kind of purely ideological criticism that caused these films to be neglected in the first place.

Meanwhile, John Wyver follows up his piece on the DVD box in the current Sight & Sound (not available online) with an equally thorough review of the accompanying book - and a very fair one, I think.

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Duncan Hopper
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#31 Post by Duncan Hopper » Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:21 am

Amusing review, It's like nothing is good enough unless it is faithfully socialist.

Did they get this DVD as a free screener?

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#32 Post by Jonathan S » Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:30 am

MichaelB wrote:A review of the DVD box, courtesy of Socialist Review - and it's a stinker. But I think you can probably guess why I'm linking to it anyway - because it's a hugely revealing illustration of the kind of purely ideological criticism that caused these films to be neglected in the first place.
Does the final paragraph refer to the re-release of Land of Promise? He seems unaware that set has been available for some time. I find it odd he should revere the pre-war and/or Grierson-produced films which (despite their many great virtues) often suffer from the very faults he identifies in these later ones, e.g. "middle class commentaries", "wooden drama-documentary amateur acting". But the (perceived) political affiliations of the film-makers seem to count for more than the works themselves.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#33 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:46 am

Jonathan S wrote:
MichaelB wrote:A review of the DVD box, courtesy of Socialist Review - and it's a stinker. But I think you can probably guess why I'm linking to it anyway - because it's a hugely revealing illustration of the kind of purely ideological criticism that caused these films to be neglected in the first place.
Does the final paragraph refer to the re-release of Land of Promise?
That's what we're assuming, because there's nothing else on the horizon that fits that description.

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RossyG
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#34 Post by RossyG » Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:23 am

Hilarious. It's like reviewing the box set was a distraction from his true aim of slagging off Made In Dagenham.

Is it too late to include this quote as a sticker on the cover: As a whole these films have the status of cultural toxic waste and the BFI should be ashamed of itself for giving a spurious significance to this detritus. I resented having to watch this shit in cinemas in the 1960s - 50 years later I resent even more being told that they are "inspired, ground-breaking and indispensable". :D

Anyway, I look forward with excitement to receiving my copy of this exercise in capitalist propoganda, made by notorious right-wing reactionaries such as, er, Lindsay Anderson.

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ellipsis7
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#35 Post by ellipsis7 » Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:28 am

In cultural context LAND OF PROMISE 1930-1950 covers the social contracts arising out of the 1930s, WWII, and the immediate aftermath, with the aims of universal healthcare, housing and education, while SHADOWS OF PROGRESS 1951-1977 proceeds concurrent with the Cold War and industrial expansion and emergence out of recession, perhaps can be usefully compared (when we get to see the set) with the relatively recent V&A exhibition COLD WAR MODERN 1945-1970, covering design and architecture in the same period...
Last edited by ellipsis7 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 8:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#36 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:33 am

RossyG wrote:Anyway, I look forward with excitement to receiving my copy of this exercise in capitalist propoganda, made by notorious right-wing reactionaries such as, er, Lindsay Anderson.
Not to mention Anthony Simmons, who made some of his early films under a pseudonym because they were out-and-out Communist propaganda at a time when he was still hoping to establish himself as a barrister.

In fact, the review's failure to mention Sunday by the Sea is hugely revealing, since this film is entirely about East Enders enjoying themselves on holiday in Southend, with traditional music-hall songs on the soundtrack. In other words, from first frame to last it's a joyous celebration of purely working-class culture - there's no context-setting narration. It was also self-financed, so untouched by evil capitalist corporations - unless you count the bank loan that Simmons had to take out in order to do it.

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RossyG
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#37 Post by RossyG » Fri Nov 05, 2010 12:33 pm

MichaelB wrote:In fact, the review's failure to mention Sunday by the Sea is hugely revealing...
He'd probably call it Tory propaganda made by a private school educated lackey of the establishment and funded by the evil banking industry showing a group of class traitors enjoying themselves rather than showing the true picture of the oppressed masses being downtrodden by bowler-hatted capitalist reactionaries. :)

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#38 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 05, 2010 1:12 pm

Yes, it's a little known fact that West Ham Secondary School was right up there with Harrow and Eton in the 1930s.

But on the subject of people enjoying themselves, I flag up in the book that that's the main difference between Sunday by the Sea and Lindsay Anderson's otherwise remarkably similar O Dreamland - both films are a similar length, about virtually the same subjects (people on holiday in Southend/Margate) and were shot by the same cameraman. But whereas O Dreamland is very much of the oppressed-masses school when it comes to depicting the working classes, Simmons (who, unlike Anderson, was a working-class East Ender by birth) shows them having a whale of a time. When I interviewed him for the book, Simmons made this clear:
We had totally different points of view about humanity. Lindsay's was desperate and hostile, and mine was... I won't say caring, but I like people. I came from the East End, I liked the East End, and that's what we went and filmed. Lindsay didn't like the East End, or any end, and that's what he went out and filmed.

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Wu.Qinghua
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Re: Shadows of Progress

#39 Post by Wu.Qinghua » Fri Nov 05, 2010 8:00 pm

Well, that surely is a funny review. Having seen all those GPO/LoP movies I'd refrain from sweepingly calling them "product[s] of a committed socialist film culture". oO ...

Btw, I got the book this evening and, yeah, it looks far more interesting than I thought it'd be.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#40 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Nov 05, 2010 8:32 pm

Yes, very bizarre review. I think it is important to note that these were films made for a specific purpose, and for a specific producer's specifications (as of course most films are!), and that can modify the way in which we see such films, but it should have been obvious to the reviewer that the BFI are not hiding the origin of these films - and were especially not doing so in the GPO, BTF, COI and NCB named sets! In fact it seems bizarre to call out the BFI as some sort of 'class traitors' when there seemed attention paid last year to putting out The Miner's Campaign Tapes set at around the same time as the Coal Board one to provide a fuller picture!

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#41 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sat Nov 06, 2010 12:38 am

I'm all in favour of the BFI being capitalist lackeys / paper tigers / purveyors of commodity fetishism but only as long as it means getting some more Ozu down the pipe to stultify us false conciousness enshrouded masses.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#42 Post by MichaelB » Mon Nov 08, 2010 8:09 am

The New Statesman interviews Patrick Russell, Senior Curator of Non-Fiction at the BFI National Archive.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#43 Post by MichaelB » Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:41 am

...and here's an extract from Anthony Simmons' Sunday by the Sea (1953), as mentioned above.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#44 Post by MichaelB » Wed Nov 10, 2010 8:32 am

John Wyver at Illuminations has started exploring the set in depth - here are his notes on the first disc. He's also added a framegrab for each title.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#45 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 11, 2010 9:12 am

A few days before the official release date of Shadows of Progress, BFI Screenonline examines the history of the post-war British documentary and discusses several titles in detail, including:

David (Paul Dickson, 1951)
Three Installations (Lindsay Anderson, 1952)
The Elephant Will Never Forget (John Krish, 1953)
Sunday by the Sea (Anthony Simmons, 1953)
Foot and Mouth (Lindsay Anderson, 1955)
Return to Life (John Krish, 1960)
Four People (Guy Brenton, 1962)
A Time to Heal (Derrick Knight, 1963)
Today in Britain (Peter Hopkinson, 1964)
I Think They Call Him John (John Krish, 1964)
Shellarama (Richard Cawston, 1965)
Education for the Future (Derrick Knight, 1967)
Picture to Post (Sarah Erulkar, 1969)
The Shadow of Progress (Derek Williams, 1970)
Tomorrow's Merseysiders (Eric Marquis, 1974)

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#46 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 12, 2010 6:26 am

Rave reviews for A Day in the Life, the theatrical touring programme of four John Krish documentaries, three of which are in the Shadows of Progress box.

The Independent (Anthony Quinn - not just a five-star rave but a lengthy one at that);

The Telegraph (Tim Robey - another five-star rave)

The Guardian (Peter Bradshaw, who intriguingly claims that these films may have influenced the Free Cinema movement, despite three of them post-dating it by several years)

...and the trailer has just gone live.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#47 Post by MichaelB » Sun Nov 14, 2010 4:24 am

Neatly balancing out the Socialist Review piece, here's Simon Heffer in the Telegraph.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#48 Post by MichaelB » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:01 am

Courtesy of our own Antnield, starter of this very thread - a nearly 7,000-word epic on The Digital Fix.

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#49 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:41 am

Arrived this morning, starting to work through it, a simply wonderfully curated and presented collection...

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Re: Shadows of Progress

#50 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 18, 2010 6:04 am

John Wyver's project to blog through the entire set reaches disc two - and includes framegrabs of every title.

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