Saturday, 28 March 2015

Favourite Films of the Month - March 2015 (Part 1)

This is a fairly new, regular post, (see February post here) as the most important thing in my life is film I thought it would be nice to document it. As I plan to watch the equivalent of one film a day this, and every year, I'll have plenty to choose from, sure, there will be repeat viewings of old favourites plus a lot of mediocre films in-between but I'm sure a few gems will pop up so I'll be revisiting my letterboxd diary at the end of each month picking out the crème de la crème for a retrospective

In a shake up to the (new) old format, I'll be starting with the honourable mentions section. In general this will look at any exciting documentaries or those made-for-TV films or one off dramas. I wanted to start with them as this month I've watched quite a few one off dramas so I've just chosen a few that have really blown me away.  For this month there will be two posts so that in this, the first, I can focus on what would usually be an honourable mention as I'd like to bring your attention to something else.

First I'll start with what I've watched that has invoked such passion. All are directed by Alan Clarke (Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Scum), I'll start with two very dark tales, written with David Agnew (AKA Anthony Read) Diane (1975) focuses on a quiet, somewhat shy girl who has been looking after her father since her mother left, without going into what is discovered this is a realistic, stark portrayal of their situation. Written with Arthur Ellis, Christine (1987) is a look at average, suburban teens that just happen to take heroin. Again, this is stark but natural. What I like about them both is that it isn't about judgement, there is no strong, moral guidance simply a portrayal of the situation at hand. The final film directed by Alan Clarke, written by David Rudkin is Penda's Fen (1974) slightly different from the rest of his work, depending on how you look at this, is it a supernatural tale or coming-of-age, crisis of faith tale? Whichever way you look at it it's very John Wyndham-esque and very entertaining.

Diane was part of BBC2 Playhouse, Christine Screenplay and Penda's Fen Play for Today, all of these were BBC play series - now excuse me for such a loose description but these series offered quality, one off dramas, from bleakly harrowing to darkly comic, sometimes in the same play. Put it simply they were plays for the telly, high quality, featuring not only some amazing actors but also well-loved directors. Most offered social realism, which, if you have a love of recent history is a perfect way of tapping into previous decades. Those mentioned previously were just a few of the BBC play series, The Wednesday Play, another influential series as well as Screen One and Screen Two. It's hard to keep track of them all!

There are hundreds of episodes from the various BBC play series', some have been lost but many are still in the BBC archive. Some are available on DVD, others sit tucked away, possibly never to see the light of day. I've seen such a small fraction but they've all made a huge impact, just as a "regular" film would, I would love to see more. There are some very well known "episodes" from these series. most are easily available, Abigail's Party, Cathy Come Home, Nuts in May, Up the Junction (feature film version would follow a few years later), to name just a few, are well known titles that possibly aren't associated with being part of the play series (especially to those of us that weren't around for the original broadcast), these are all on DVD, those I viewed this month (and featured above), aren't, these were all viewed on YouTube, original source material - taped off the telly, so the quality wasn't at all good but it was worth it just for the chance to see them.

Abigail's Party, probably one of the better known from the Play for Today series. 

Now I'm not saying TV is bad these days, although we're possibly saturated with the mediocre due to the large number of channels available, the BBC do still make quality standalone dramas. I'm nostalgic though, not in a naive way, I don't believe things were better in the good old days although I would argue that TV programming was. I don't know whether it was the lack of channels but it feels like a serious effort was made with these productions, the impact feels greater and a lot of these plays are unforgettable.

A friend of mine, Mark, currently has a petition on asking for the BBC to repeat their one off drama series, now as mentioned there are hundreds of episodes especially when you group together all the different series, I'm sure there might be some duds but I would love to be able to make my own mind up. I feel that the BBC, in the past, has stayed away from repeats for fear of being struck down by the viewer for "wasting" their license fee by just repeating shows but in a world where hundreds of channels exist, and the BBC itself having doubled its number of channels surely repeating these dramas would really be worthwhile? Now folk like me that obsessively buy these type of releases when they come out would still continue to do so (I am drowning in box sets of this nature) but this could introduce the younger generation to some real gems. I've been enjoying the repeats of old comedy series on BBC Two, it would be great to see something similar with these plays. Abigail's Party was repeated on BBC Four late last year, I recorded and watched even though I already owned a copy, it would be just great to see some of those that aren't available elsewhere, even repeated in the early hours would mean being able to record to watch at a convenient time.

If, like me, you would love to see these episodes repeated, or even if you're just curious, please lend your support and sign the petition.


  1. Ta for the plug and a nice round up of some classic plays/films!

    1. You're very welcome, you know how keen I am!