Arts

Cult Movie: Look Back In Anger makers Woodfall Films changed cinema forever

Look Back In Anger starred Richard Burton and Claire Bloom

LOOK Back In Anger, The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner and The Entertainer are just three of the stark, black-and-white beauties to have emerged from Woodfall Films in the late 50s and early 60s.

There were plenty more, of course, that flitted between a stern and occasionally overly worthy British realist agenda that the company came to be associated with (A Taste Of Honey, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning) and the occasional flight of cinematic fancy that tapped into the swinging-decade ethos that lay ahead (Tom Jones, The Knack... And How To Get It).

As Woodfall celebrates its 60th anniversary the BFI have gone to town to mark that significant birthday with a nine-disc Blu-ray and DVD box set that contains some of the company's very finest filmic creations, many of which have been given a fresh digital sparkle and some of which have never been released in the UK before.

The full list of films gathered together here – which runs from Look Back In Anger (1959) and takes in all the above-mentioned classics plus the less-appreciated Girl With Green Eyes (1964) and a wealth of extras so excessive I suggest you check them out for yourself rather than me waste the rest of this column simply listing them – can feel a little overwhelming at first, but dig deep into this supremely stylish world and a fuller picture of a cinema powerhouse at its very peak starts to emerge.

Founded in 1958 by director Tony Richardson, writer John Osbourne and James Bond producer Harry Saltzman to initially bring Osbourne's acclaimed play Look Back In Anger to the big screen, this was a company that tapped into the new sense of confidence in the creative arts that was flourishing in postwar Britain.

That meant bold subject matter, ranging from the class divide to historical drama all framed within a fresh and almost arrogant sense of adventure.

They tackled previously taboo subjects like teenage pregnancy and the so-called permissive society and made stars of rough-and-ready working-class actors like Albert Finney and Rita Tushingham. They allowed inventive and ground breaking directors like Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson and Richard Lester to explore their art in their own idiosyncratic way and they drew audiences in without having to resort to the gloss and glamour of Hollywood.

Rewatching some of their most important productions like Saturday Night, Sunday Morning(1960) can be tough going in 2018 – all that relentless glumness and general air of 'It's grim up north' can start to grate and the offhand sexism on display can make you feel a little queasy – but it's well worth investing the time in.

I'll tackle a few of the specific films in more detail in future weeks but as an introduction to the company's work, this is hard to beat. They changed the way that cinema on this side of the Atlantic operated 60 years ago and this lovingly crafted box set reminds you of that fact beautifully.

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