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Pleasingly personal account of Britain's leftist champion
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
After the release of Jimmy's Hall in 2014, 80 year old left leaning director Ken Loach announced his retirement from filmmaking after a lifetime of social crusading. But then, in 2015, the Conservative Party had a surprise win in the General Elections, and he was galvanized into producing yet another slice of social realism, in the shape of the recently released I, Daniel Blake, a scathing indictment of the nations punitive welfare system, which enjoyed more of a greater reception from the public than might have been imagined. On the back of this, director Louise Osmond charts the course of his career, from his ground breaking plays on the BBC in the 60's that shone a light on working class life that hadn't been seen before, and onto a lifetime of gritty social dramas by a man who was never sucked in by the lure of Hollywood.
Ken Loach may not make much of an impression physically. As one of the talking heads in this film notes, even in his younger days, he looked like your average bank clerk than anyone of any great stature, while today in his 80s, he looks like he could get knocked over by a feather. But in spirit, he's an almighty oak. Ever since his heyday, it's hard to imagine a contender who's come along and tried to shine a light on gritty, no holds barred social realism in a way that this guy has, even with the very real, frightening societal problems that we are facing today. Or one who would refuse to sell out his principles in quite the way he has. And so, he's a fascinating subject to make a film about, and this is a timely and relevant project.
This Nuneaton boy had a Conservative father who was quite a big face where he worked, and they even went on holiday to the 'posh end' of Blackpool, if such a thing could be imagined. But what spurred Loach on to his career in films was to champion the plight of the faceless working class, at a time when the BBC was dominated by costume dramas depicting those at the top of the ladder in times long gone by. Doing this earned him some recognition and in the early 70's, lead to him making probably his most well known, commercially successful film Kes (originally titled Kestrel for a Knave!) But this was also the time when he suffered a terrible personal tragedy, losing a son in a car accident. At the time of Thatcher's reign, he made some films depicting the plight of the miners that no one was willing to transmit because of the political slant, and he even found himself directing a McDonald's commercial at one point!
Osmond has crafted a pleasingly personal account of this most quietly forceful of men which includes most of his notable (and not so notable!) works and explores them in some depth. ****
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