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..."


Linda Grant said...

The film's director was Henry Cornelius. As British as a nine bob note

George S said...

And that is what 'British' is, isn't it? Why it allows all kinds of odd bods to find shelter in it.

George S said...

ps - I mean, doesn't The Bethnal Green Bambinos sum it up perfectly?

A dozen cheers for the Bethnal Green Bambinos.

James Hamilton said...

It does. And a dozen more cheers.

The film's not untrue to modern London either: when I was there in the early '90s, Streatham was forever about to declare UDI from Lambeth. I think they hoped it would bring the trams back. Which it would have done, of course, in moments.

Poet in Residence said...

Wednesday; but better late than never. Wonderful theatrical characters.
94F on the Air Ministry roof, the bream gone off and an unexploded bomb in the street...what a beginning!