Thursday, August 25, 2011

The World About Us

Recently we have seen the return of cult 1970 British movie Deep End to independent cinema screens alongside a DVD release. It follows the tragic course of a teenage boy's infatuation with a fellow swimming pool attendant, stars the extraordinarily beautiful Jane Asher and has a magnificent soundtrack from Can and Cat Stevens. The landscape of a seedy down-at-heel London was actually filmed in the port of Hamburg while Asher's boyfriend at one point takes her to a typical sleazy Mary Millingtonesque porn movie thinly disguised as a sex education primer. Diana Dors in turn makes her own unique contribution to The World of Georgie Best by bringing herself to a state of intense sexual arousal in the bathhouse by holding the male lead's hand while fantasising about Manchester United's greatest son in full sporting flow.

Although written histories of Britain can adequately articulate acute social observations such as the fact that the breakup of working class kinship structures in the late Sixties was balanced out by the benefits of individual freedom and privacy - and indeed right through to the nation-destroying repercussions of European Union membership of the present day - the fact remains that it is the moving image that captures the most thought provoking encapsulations of a society in bewilderingly fast transition.

Both the 1971 thriller Villain starring Richard Burton and Alfred Hitchcock's 1972 Frenzy alike display a London with a sound industrial base, a city where the working class could easily facilitate a sustained existence and where society was as demographically monocultural as the people in George Formby's 1935 trip to the Manx TT races for his No Limit feature film.

In 1979's The Long Good Friday the character of Harold Shand - portrayed by Bob Hoskins - waxes passionately about the future regeneration of the London Docklands and the rebirth of Britain itself. Little knowing of course that such resurrection would be actually be forged upon self-centred and destructive dynamics worthy of fictional agents provocateurs lieing in the English shires in the early Forties guiding Luftwaffe bomber streams towards the capital by flashlight signal. And with as many indigenous Eastenders around to witness such Phoenix-like revival as the chance of bumping into a French Huguenot down Spitalfields Market this Bank Holiday Monday.

Euston Films' priceless Minder series of the late Seventies and Eighties in turn was set in magnificently characterful parts of West and South West London such as Hammersmith, Fulham and Putney that now are as bereft of charm as the local estate agents' souls. The hill station par excellence of West London itself - as captured for all posterity in its grotty pubic-lice ridden nadir in Nicolas Roeg's Performance - has left its history of rack renting and race rioting well behind as a magnet for the cream of trust fund bohemians and fast-track interns.

With our jolly Old Etonian Lord Mayor at the helm and with crazed civil disorder afoot redolent of Hammer's Plague of the Zombies, the making of modern London proceeds apace.

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