Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike"

posted by k

There's a grudging tone to most reports of Ken Loach's victory at Cannes. Some, of course, are entirely hostile. That's predictable, given the subject of his latest film, which I haven't seen.

The criticism of Ken Loach takes a variety of approaches.

Ken Loach is cranky, it's implied, because he could make Hollywood-style movies - even work in Hollywood - but doesn't. Instead he insists on dealing with subjects that interest him instead of producing the kinds of movies that big studios approve and that are shown in multiplexes. He cares about strange things like "authenticity" and "truth".

We're told that his films are "worthy" and "well-intentioned" but "too political". The personal bits are fine, it's implied, but he will include political debates.

And finally we're told that Ken Loach is impossibly left-wing. He criticises the British Empire, the war in Iraq. He talks about class. He describes himself as a socialist. This apparently makes him eccentric; he has views that the majority of the people in this country don't share.

To deal with the last point first: even the government has views that the majority of people in this country don;t share. There are lots of views out there and the more thoughtful debate on politics, the better. We need a range of critical accounts of history and contemporary political actions. What happened in the British Empire still affects us so let's understand what happened and how different people saw it. There isn't just one point of view. We need to talk about class too. Quite apart from Marxist analyses, ideas about class still affect the way people deal with one another. There's as much prejudice about class as about race, gender and sexuality - but class-prejudice is rarely questioned. So let's get talking. We need consider a range of political positions - it's unlikely any one person or group holds the key to truth. Let's listen to a range of views and try to work things out together.

It may come as a surprise to some film critics, but politics does interest quite a number of people. As I recall, quite a few turned out in 2003 to march against the Iraq war. 1 million? 2 million? - I've never seen London so packed. Most marchers didn't finish the route because of the numbers ahead. They cared about how they were governed. They wanted a say - a voice in the debate.

Ken Loach films aren't like Hollywood. They're not glossy or starry. They tell stories in a way that Hollywood doesn't. Ken Loach films sell out at independent cinemas. People are turned away. Meanwhile multiplexes show Hollywood films that don't come off to audiences in double - sometimes single - figures.
A half-hour appearance by Ken Loach at a nearby arts centre packed the building.

Ken Loach films aren't cold or dry. I've seen people moved to tears at the end. His films reach places Hollywood doesn't - and make us think too.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Ken Loach's.new film, was to be screened in only 30 cinemas in Britain. It's won the Palme d'Or. England ought to be celebrating (after all, we probably won't win the World Cup).

I may not agree with everything implied in The Wind that Shakes the Barley. I may question its views of both past andpresent. It's not a problem. I've got a brain; why should I park it at the cinema door? I can disagree.

So where and when will I get to see this film?


Anonymous Tim Almond said...

If there was a demand for it, the multiplexes would show it.

The audience for one-dimensional preachy political dramas is small.

11:39 am  

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