Saturday, 30 March 2013

Top Five Movies Filmed in North West England

2012 was Preston Guild Year. This is a celebration of Preston’s right to hold a Guild Merchant and has taken place once every 20 years since 1179. Celebrations traditionally begin on the first Monday following the Feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist.  It is the origin of the local expression “Once every Preston Guild” meaning “infrequently”. Cinema Revisited celebrated the Guild by covering movies which have been filmed in the North West of England.

My niece, Lydia, did the music for us on this show, choosing a fine selection of artists from the North West and covering everything from The Smiths to The Nolans.

Here is our list of the Top Five Movies Filmed in the North West.

1.  A Kind of Loving. (1962)
Schlesinger’s film of the novel of the same name by Stan Barstow practically defined the “Kitchen Sink Drama”.  As well as superb performances by Alan Bates and (Lancashire actress) Thora Hird it features locations in Blackburn, St Annes on Sea, Bolton, Salford and Manchester.  Scenes filmed in Preston feature some of Preston’s most iconic buildings, including the Harris Museum and flag market and the Miller Arcade, complete with cigarette kiosk. The cinema Vic and Ingrid visit on their date is now the Lava/Ignite night club on Church Street.

2. Whistle Down the Wind. (1961)
Alan Bates appears again, along with a young Hayley Mills, in this timeless tale of Lancashire schoolchildren who believe Jesus is hiding in their barn. It is filmed around Burnley, Bacup and Downham and children from Chatburn Primary School were cast in minor roles.  Rumour has it that the local schoolgirl cast as the youngest Bostock sibling was, for a time, landlady at Blackpool’s favorite Indie hangout The Blue Room.

3. East is East. (1999)
This film about a Pakistani Muslim, his Irish Catholic wife and their mixed ethnicity children is a firm favourite with British audiences. Set in the 1970s it follows the children’s attempts to grow up as ‘British’ despite their father’s desperate attempts to ensure they respect his religion and Pakistani customs. Set in Salford it was filmed in Ealing Studios and Openshaw in Manchester with (bizarrely) Middlesex doubling as the Yorkshire town of Bradford.

4. Yanks. (1979)
This film about American Troops stationed in Northern England during World War II opens with the point of view of the soldiers surveying the bleak and windswept Northern countryside.  The film features Oldham, Stalybridge and Glossop, St Mary’s Church in Stockport and the railway station at Keighley.  I personally dislike violence in films and the lynching scene, filmed in Hyde Town Hall, is particularly upsetting yet the power of the scene is a credit to Schlesinger in terms of the way it is set up and filmed.

5. Hindle Wakes.  (1927, 1931 and 1952)
We only briefly talked about Hindle Wakes as we were unable to get hold of copies of the film in time for the show but it has to be mentioned in view of the fact three versions were filmed. Set in local holiday resort Blackpoolthe “Wakes” of the tile refer to the “Wakes Weeks” holidays, when mill workers were given a week off to visit the seaside.  All three versions were filmed in Blackpool and Manchester. The films were based on the Stanley Houghton play of the same name, considered extremely shocking and controversial at the time as it deals with a woman choosing to have a no strings attached sexual adventure with a man from a different social class.

A little oddity for you - I took this photo in The Stanley Arms pub of a lithograph of the 1882 Guild Celebrations.  Notice the strange, demonic figures in the foreground. I have no idea who or what they represent so if anybody does know please, feel free to enlighten us!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


I came across a brilliant article by Buddhist writer David Loy entitled “Bubbles of Delusion with some Sex” on the OBC Connect forum about how human beings can create microcosms of denial within families and other groups which facilitate abuse.

It encouraged me to revisit a show we did back in April 2009.  We covered the career of George Segal and his performance in the superb “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. The 1966 film is the film version of Edward Albee’s 1962 play of the same name.

Middle aged academic George Washington (Richard Burton) and his wife Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) invite a younger academic (Nick/George Segal) and his wife (Honey/Sandy Denny) to their home for a drink.   It’s George and Martha’s home, it’s their “bubble”,  and the dysfunctional, co-dependent, heavy drinking couple spend the evening belittling, abusing and terrorising each other before turning on their guests. Their behaviour is typical of emotional abusers; insults and humiliation disguised as “jokes” where, should the victim speak up, he will be accused of having “no sense of humour”.  Martha’s father is the President of the University and the surface gloss the couple present is one of social respectability and kindly networking with junior members of the establishment.  Blindsided, Nick and Honey know something is “wrong” but are powerless to escape, bound by the ‘rules’ of the fantasy world created by the Washingtons,  rules which the Washingtons do not adhere to themselves. They are deceived by the Washingtons show of magnanimity and narcissistic largesse and by the time they reveal their true colours it is too late.  The Washingtons have created a cult of mutual abuse which they are determined to play out in front of an audience, as if the involvement of other people validates their disordered behaviour. George and Martha  are frozen in a relational folie a deux, simultaneously needing others yet  needing to destroy others at the same time. There are several moments when the glass almost shatters, Martha talks about things “snapping” and says “Truth or illusion, George, doesn’t it matter to you at all?”.  Just as it seems that reality is going to intervene (the film has recurrent images of illumination; lights being switched on and shots of the full moon) the bubble re-inflates. The Washingtons clearly consider Nick and Honey to be rank and file subordinates, there to serve their projective needs, yet they are also envious and jealous of them, raging at those they consider inferior and unworthy as Nick and Honey’s “normal” marriage shatters their fragile, inflated and grandiose self image. Nick is not once addressed by his name throughout the film.

Given the Washingtons are named after America’s first couple it seems undoubted that Albee is trying to make a wider point about the collective bubbles in which we live.  Their “power” and respectable façade is borrowed in the first place, it is the university which employs George and Martha’s father which has the gravitas and George and Martha assume it by proxy. Arguably, universities themselves have only the ‘power’ society is encouraged, even deluded, into according them. So the ‘bubbles’ expand, ever out, or inward.   The failure of the Washingtons to support one another renders their marriage, a supposed cornerstone of “society”, nihilistic.

Loy’s article discusses the need for us to free ourselves from society’s collective delusions “Such group bubbles of denial” he writes “become much more difficult to dispel, or even become aware of, because people consciously or subconsciously believe they benefit by not seeing them.”. I recently read an article on Fred Phleps (leader of the Westboro Baptist Church) who, I understand,  is banned from entering the UK. He intimidated, bullied and abused his own children ensuring, unbelievably, their compliance and devotion.  Those reading in the UK cannot be unaware of the recent scandal surrounding the BBC after allegations that a very well known media celebrity had been abusing children on BBC premises, unchallenged by those around him despite suggestions his peccadilloes were well known.  Whilst the façade may be comforting it is, ultimately, damaging to the individual and to society.

The film is 131 minutes long (I’m with Hitchcock on this) but the original stage play ran for 3 hours! At 32, Taylor was too young to play Martha and gained weight for the role (this was the reason for filming in black and white). She won an Oscar for the role, and rightly deserved as she rocks!  Burton on the other had is awful; hammy, laboured and seemingly unable to understand the material he is delivering.  Given what we now know about the Burton/Taylor marriage this is, tragically, ironic.  

I found the David Loy article here:
There’s also another version in The Huffington Post about global warming – I’m not sure which is the earlier.
Don’t forget, we’re on air today 16th March between 4-5 GMT.

Monday, 11 March 2013


Cinema Revisited were in Barcelona over the weekend.  

We found this fantastic little DVD and record shop on Tallers which could almost have been made for us!  It has some really quirky films but we had to limit ourselves to one each as we had cabin luggage.  Hey! We're film geeks!

Here we are enjoying delicious puddings on Placa Reial, a 19th century square next to La Rambla with lanterns designed by Gaudi.

It was disappointing, after sitting outside in the sunshine, to return to the UK and find it snowing! 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


The opening 15 minutes filled me with fear/disappointment that it would be classic Spielberg (infused with schmaltz and trite symbolism) but it was very good. It's long but you don't notice it and it requires your focus. It's dialogue heavy but wonderfully articulate and the "characters" are carefully drawn.  There are flashes of humour, carefully placed to lift it when it drifts towards melancholy and it has a feel of authenticity that's good enough not to make you question the legitimacy of the version of history it provides.  His shots are varied and slight but it still has scenes(particularly the close interplay of two people) that show his skill at creating an intimacy beyond the fourth wall. In short, it's worth a watch.