Thursday, January 11, 2007

While away the hours...

One web site that can alwasy be guaranteed to provide. oooh. minutes of entertainment, is the British Pathe archive.

Originally a Parisien photographer and fledgling filmmaker, Cahrles Pathe came to London in 1902 and set up a business of movie theatres, owning more than 200 in England, France and Belgium by 1909 whilst also manufacturing the cameras and projectors - Charles Pathe was a busy man.

The name "British Pathe" though is synominous with cinema newsreels, something which the company specialised in and produced for genrations of British families for whom a television set was either impossible (not invented yet) or a far distant luxury - most people would go to their local cinema at least once a week (often much more than that) and inbetween the two-film presentation they'd be treated to the Pathe news clips.

Some years ago with the aid of National Lottery funding the British Pathe newsreel film catalogue was made availble online and for private, non-commercial use you can, by giving the minimum of details, download and view any of their hundreds of thousands of old newsreel clips.

Some of them have obvious personal interest - the clip of the 1968 rugby legaue challenge cup final is a favourite of mine and the staff at the Pathe web site must be sick and tired of running along the library shelves to get the correct reel to download for me (thats how it works isn't it ?) , but you can have lots of fun by simply searching for completely random subjects too.

For instance last night on some anonymous teatime tv chat show they showed a clip of the first bananas to arrive in the UK after the second world war - a whole generation of children had grown up not knowing what a banana was due to the wartime import restrictions and a very self important narrator explained this on the film and then in a very condescending manner handed a banana to a young girl and aksed her to eat it - she obviously thought he was some sort of pervert or one of the "dirty men" that her mother had warned her of and it took a lot of persuasion for her to nibble just a tiny little piece off the top of the exotic fruit and then declare to the camera in a very carefully scripted way "mmm, its delicious !"

The accents on those old films are hilarious, everyone sounds just like the Queen does now (note for non-UK residents - no-one speaks like the Queen does in this country, we all have our own accents and dialects) but the subjects of the Pathe films were obviously pre-selected for their Queens English cut-glass accents and word perfect, well scripted delivery to camera, even scruffy oik, working class people speak like the Duke of Edinburgh in Pathe films and if you look closely enough you can see where dirt and grime has been smeared on the actors face just before the shot was taken for that "working class man in the street" look.

I recommend the Pathe film library to the house - do a search for "bananas" and scroll down until you get to the monochrome ones.

PS - For complete British sycophancy you simply must do a search for "Windrush" and view the "Ingrid Bergman/ new immigrants" film - your toes will curl I promise you !

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