Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Review - Billy Liar (1963 - Dir. John Schlesinger)

Every second of Schlesinger's kitchen sink drama is worth watching as he tells the tale of compulsive liar and would-be scriptwriter Billy Fisher. It's genuinely funny, instantly engaging, but at the same time strangely sad and unsettling.

Tom Courtenay is outstanding in the lead role and is well supported by a range of British 'superstars' of the era, like Leonard Rossiter, Julie Christie and Rodney Bewes. I also really like the contrasting girlfriends played by Helen Fraser and Gwendolyn Watts who are typically likeable, northern 1960's characters. The location of Bradford, a gritty northern town, also makes it near irresistable to me.

As a young Doccortex I watched this for the first time in a student flat in the heart of Newcastle and found myself instantly empathising with Billy's fantasy approach to life, his unattainable dreams and his dour northern background. I was expecting to feel the same on this current viewing, but sadly the passage of time has taken its toll and I now find myself in total agreement with Billy's Dad, that Billy is a lazy, waste of space who should get himself a proper job and get his head out of the clouds. The boy definitely needs rigour. Maybe we should all get on that train to London at some point...

Despite the philosophical self questioning it provoked, it's still a truly great and memorable film which everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

If you like this you could also try:
Kes, A Kind of Loving, Room at the Top.

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