On children II

film 1 of 4

Hue and Cry

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jul 10, 2015

Exuberant light entertainment which further thought suggests might well be at the middle of a whole ton of important movements and moments, though I don’t know that anyone’s ever remarked it; the use of the Trump penny dreadful, a tawdry rag that takes the workers’ money and keeps them distracted from their true oppressions (to overstate the point) echoes Mr. Lange, and that film’s sense of fun and irony, too: it’s not necessarily oppression and masked ideology, and in fact here it becomes a vehicle for working class empowerment, something the class transforms for its own purposes and to its own benefit, or maybe it’s even a legitimate expression of working class culture (CNTV 690–also cf. Pennies From Heaven, which sees popular expressions as betrayals, and Terrence Davies, who sees them as consolations and enhancements); the fine title sequence ends with roman numerals 1946–is this when labour came in? is this an expression of the young and the worker rising out of the ruins (cf. all of neo-realism, which this absolutely resembles in its portrayal of rubbles and economic difficulty, and which it absolutely counters in its optimism, I guess because the battered British won, at least), toppling the corrupt bourgeoisie?; the fun in the ruins obviously points to Hope and Glory, and this is just as surprising, unexpected, charming (without the vulgarity) and even ambiguous, interesting to compare the portrayal of semi-underprivileged (the term is full of possibly invalid value judgments–they don’t think they’re underprivileged, so why should we?) with Hollywood: Dead End has vivid individuals, but they’re symbols, they’re on a set, and they’re presented as tragic figures, the elimination of this lifestyle, these accents becomes the object of the film’s activism, Going My Way has a fairly undifferentiated mass, inner city exotica and low comic relief (a la Shakespeare–they’re types, which reminds one of Shylock’s famous speech), and Bing’s choir allows them to rise above their conditions and achieve their better natures (not causing trouble for the privileged), these American texts come out of the In His Steps tradition, which is seeming to me to be extremely seminal; here the superb choir bracket is pretty ironic and very funny–these boys may achieve beautiful harmonies, but as individuals they’re untamed, they’re battered, and they’re delighted about the fact, here these wonderful faces and voices are presented as a collective, but one who’s individual components are provided with nuance and dimension, maybe, mostly because there’s no suggested need to improve their conditions, or to make a statement with them (except the interesting long bit with the sound effects kid going on and on with his air raid noises, as he’s sitting there in the desolation); finally this goes straight to Lester and the Fabs, who didn’t apologize for their accents either, and who represented a moment of working class culture and optimism; as for the film itself, it’s also a very fine boy’s adventure, with the usual crisp and pleasing Ealing style, the department store sequence is great, the shot where all the kids jump out of the bus and fall on the road is beautifully judged comedy, as is the interrogation and “torture” of the moll, the BBC interruption (“all boys wanting a big adventure…”) is wonderful and the gathering of the boyish throngs is quite stirring, the location work is exemplary, partly because locale so quietly yet so firmly informs and enriches both story and theme, the last fight is great, especially its extremely nervy conclusion, where our hero jumps down 10 feet right onto the bad guy’s stomach!, and is that his funeral the choir boys are singing at?