Sunday, 7 December 2008
Sunday Night is.. the Bethnal Green Bambinos...
...otherwise engaged in Passport to Pimlico, about as British as Jacques Tati was French. The title sequence is a fond reminder of who was who in cinema at the time. Britain was Stanley Holloway and Margaret Rutherford and John Slater and Raymond Huntley, but also Hermione Baddeley and Sidney Tafler. You begin with a quick J. Arthur gong, music by Georges Auric (Les Six). The Bethnal Green Bambinos, who sound mightily like Buena Vista Social Club, drift incongruously, yet perfectly appropriately, in after about two minutes. I have long been a fully signed up member of the Bethnal Green Bambinos Fan Club.
Much of the film is a recap of post-war conditions, but the core of it is about state versus locality, not so much who is who, but what is what; the small versus the great. Your first ties, the film firmly states, are to your neighbours and to history.
I loved it the first time I saw it, for much the same reasons as I loved Frank Capra films. They were instinctively egalitarian, democratic and generous, a kind of idyll. Tribal? Yes. Sentimental? Yes, that too. But it was a broad tribe and the sentiments were, it seemed to me, good sentiments. Such sentiments were what, I suspect, the war was popularly thought to be about.
Meanwhile, "... the most remarkable thing about the bream is when he's courting..."