Friday, October 10, 2008

Introduction to Ken Loach

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

My return flight was all right, I suppose. Lovely views from my window seat of the plane of the Mediterranean glowing turquoise below me before it nosed northwards across the Iberian Peninsula past jagged-edged mountains, a snaking ribbon of a river (the Guadalquivir?) before completely losing itself in the clouds which did not part until we arrived at Stanstead airport.

Made the late discovery that I can alight from the easybus at Baker Street and hop straight on to the Tube instead of gritting my teeth through London traffic all the way to Victoria. Fact to file for the Next Time. Back at my flat, I unpacked, checked email and voice mail and realized I could just catch the 6 pm screening of Sweet Sixteen, Ken Loach's masterpiece, at Phillip Drummond's class. So there I was, seated in the British Film Institute Screening Room on Tottenham Court Road, still unable to believe that only a few hours previously I was still in sunny Spain!

Then, Loach had me reeling. Ah, those Scots accents! Characters who referred to a "dishwasher" as a "dashwasher" so reminded me of our border crossing a month ago when the woman at the till in a gas station near Carlisle told an Eastern European woman "we don't take euros. Only Bratish money please. Only Bratish money here". Thank goodness for those subtitles which Phil had the good counsel to keep on. Moira Ferguson, another one of my British colleagues, was also present at the screening. Phil invited her because she was raised in Glasgow--"in the tenements such as the ones they showed", she informed me later.

At the end of the movie, the two of us sat staring transfixed at the credits, needing a few minutes to get over the grimness of what we had just seen. In a nutshell, the impact of broken homes, drug peddling and ruthless step parents on two young Glaswegians, a sixteen-year old brother and (younger?) sister already a mother, struggling to find their place in the world and make peace with their own abused mother. Shockingly raw performances made it impossible to believe that we were watching a movie. How on earth do these directors extract performances like these from their cast? Almost as stunning as This is England (Shane Warne), Sweet Sixteen had me reeling. Later, Moira and I discussed the movie at length in the midst of the din on Tottenham Court Road, then decided we'd best "go and get a curry somewhere" sometime to talk some more. At the end of the evening, she promised to take me back to Glasgow (which I barely saw, what with the rain and the Council strike when we were there a month ago) when next she goes there.

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