Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

"The girl who showed the way to the future" ...

After Sarah and Susannah and Natalie, here's Julie .... 
We like Julie Christie a lot here at the Movie Projector, as per previous posts (reviews of PETULIA etc) at Christie label ...  here's the start of a fascinating feature from today's INDEPENDENT newspaper by John Walsh, on her role as Liz in BILLY LIAR, being re-released in Blu-ray hot on the heels of THE SERVANT, also out now on Blu-ray and also 50 years old, both 1963 classics (as per my posts below on THE SERVANT and seeing Miles, Fox and Craig at a special screening a few weeks ago) ... that new edition of the Losey film has plenty of fascinating extras and interviews, so I will be looking forward to the new BILLY LIAR too ....

"British cinema of the early 1960s was a relentlessly downbeat affair, studiedly realist in a manner pinched from the French New Wave, cautiously unflashy and obsessed with failure. The key directors of the period were British intellectuals – Jack Clayton, Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson, John Schlesinger and Karel Reisz – whose chosen subjects were working-class dramas set in the provinces; not worlds with which they were wholly familiar.

The films explored British lives stuck in ruts of post-war hopelessness and looking for a way out: Clayton's Room at the Top (1958) dramatised social climbing in Yorkshire; Reisz's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) portrayed a Nottingham machinist determined to escape a life of domestic drudgery; Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) saw Tom Courtenay, a young bank robber, refusing to play ball with the Borstal authorities; Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962) watched a Mancunian draftsman (Alan Bates) becoming trapped in marriage and domestic ennui".
BILLY LIAR though is not as glum or downbeat as the other 'kitchen sink' dramas, such as Richardson's A TASTE OF HONEY. Keith Waterhouse's book appealed to me as a teenager, rather like Billy himself, stuck in a small town, and is wildly funny. I love the John Schlesinger film capturing Northern life perfectly, from its start with Godfrey Winn on the radio, as Billy is deep in his fantasies, as Mona Washbourne and Wilfred Pickles play his parents, and vetern Ethel Griffies his querelous grandmother, with Finlay Currie as Billy's boss, and Helen Fraser as his very square and proper girlfriend Barbara. (It was hilarious seeing Tom and Helen re-united recently in the terrific BBC comedy THE ROYLE FAMILY).

Billy & pal (Rodney Bewes, who became a Likely Lad).
BILLY LIAR is actually quite timeless: first the Waterhouse novel, wich was turned into a  long-running stage play (Albert Finney and Terence Stamp played him), then the movie, scripted by Waterhouse and Willis Hall, then a stage musical and finally a spin-off TV series. That fascinating BBC series "Hollywood UK" took Waterhouse & Hall back to the film's locations in 1993, and it also had an interview with Christie discussing her role as Liz - see review at TV label.

In a single day, Billy must leave his job at the local undertakers, clear up a misunderstanding about missing calendars and purloined postage money, find a way to escape from both of his girlfriends, sort out his parents, then catch the train to London and a new life as a scriptwriter. But it's not that simple… The scenes with his parents and gran are marvellous too ... Wilfred Pickles and Mona Washbourne being note perfect in their exasperation.
Billy indeed became a cinematic hero, and cemented Tom Courtenany's reputation, but it was Julie Christie in the smaller role of Liz, the freewheeling girl he is drawn to, who showed how the 60s would develop .... at the end Billy is left at the railway station, unable to make that move away, while the train departs carrying Liz off to her new life in London .... soon she would be a darling .... We see her initially in one of the great movie introductions as she walks around the city streets, totally unselfconscious in Schlesinger's tracking shots as she swings her handbag, smokes and grimaces at her reflection.   His camera too catches this northern town in transition as old buildings are being pulled down, and new supermarkets are being opened by cheesy tv celebs. 
The old England is being demolished as the new anonymous high-rises go up - just as we also see in the new London as captured by Antonioni in BLOW-UP as his hero drives around in his car, communicating via his two-way radio, in this pre-cellphone, pre-internet world.
BILLY LIAR will always be a timeless treat for me, and like THE SERVANT captures that new England perfectly, and it follows on nicely from Schlesinger's previous A KIND OF LOVING, with Julie as DARLING to come in 1965, as the swinging decade hits its stride.  
Right: the free dvd of BILLY LIAR given away in a UK newspaper a few years ago ... they were giving away lots of free dvds then !  

Tom and Julie are still  busy now, (they were both of course in DR ZHIVAGO, left, as well) - his biography comprising of letters to his mother when he was a young drama student is one of the better theatre biographies; he is in the recent QUARTET with Dame Maggie & Co; 
I saw Julie on stage in an '85 production of Pinter's OLD TIMES and I really wanted her to win the Best Actress Oscar for her 2006 role in AWAY FROM HER, it would have been an amazing win 40+ years after her first win in a leading role ... She may be back with Terence as well if he gets her to co-star in his his proposed WATERLOO SUNSET (as mentioned below...).
We need a Blu-ray of DARLING now, as well as those other essential Julie hits ...

1 comment:

  1. Love Julie but she apparently hates making movies which is ashamed because she's not often on screen