Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A reet good film tha'knows

First in a series of reet good film recommendations, and of course it has to be the 1969 classic film by Ken Loach of a Barnsley schoolboy and his pet Kestrel.

But its far more than that, its a documentary of life in South Yorkshire in the secondary modern education system where lads like the subject of the film, Billy Casper, were dumped into the lower stream of non-achievers and told to stay in a holding pattern until they were ready for release onto the unskilled labour market at 16 years old, huge concrete blocks of schools where the only measure of achievement at 16 was the fact that you were still there.

Take a look at this clip, its a classic scene from the movie, the scene where casper and a few of his classmates are in front of the headmaster for various indescretions, a bollocking and the cane to start the day with - the young kid at the end had been sent to the headmasters office with a message from a teacher but the older lads made him hide their cigarettes in his pockets and so of course he got the cane too.

I have it on good authority from someone who actually went to that school that the part of the headteacher was played by the schools own woodwork teacher, and quite frankly I believe it because his acting is terrible, but it adds to the enjoy-a-bility of this classic scene. I also understand that the woodwork teacher (lets not call him an actor) actually did cane the lads in that scene, it would certainly explain the look of shock and the tears in the little lads eyes at the end, no-one had told him that acting could be painfull.

But of course the scene that everyone remembers from this film is this one, Brian Glover as the sports teacher taking the class for a game of football with Casper the Unpopular being picked last and made to play in goals - the sounds a bit out on that clip but its worth persevering with - there's a shorter clip here if the sound delay on the long one is too annoying.

The film was taken from a book, "A Kestrel for a Knave", by Barry Hines who knows somebody that I know, and is the story of a young lad, Billy Casper, living a drudge of a life in a South Yorkshire mining village in the late 1960's, bullied by his peers and especially his older brother Judd who works darn t'pit but still shares a bed with Casper in their dirt poor council house, Casper spots a Kestrel's nest one day, steals a chick and raises it, stealing a book from the library in order to learn how to teach the young hawk to hunt.

Its a story of escapism with none of the Hollywood glamour, no dramatic scenery, not one car chase and not a trace of straight, gleaming white teeth, nor even a well known acting name unless you count Colin Welland the English teacher who is the only person to know of Caspers hawk.

It all ends in tears of course, Judd gives Casper some money to place on a horse accumulator bet which he promptly spends on a bag of chips and a comic instead, the horses in the accumulator all win and when Judd goes to collect his winnings he realises that his younger brother never placed the bet for him, failing to find him anywhere in the village he find instead the hawk Kes and wrings its neck, throwing it in the dustbin behind the house.

And thats the story, plain and simple, no happy ending, no nice moral teachings to go home with, not one American around to save the boys hawk from the dustbin, just a story, a plain straighforward story set in a very realistic setting and like life itself, it sometimes stinks.

I recommend it to the house.

PS - for those of a foreign persuasion the accent that you hear in the film clips is that of my home county, Yorkshire. there are several flavours of Yorkshire accent and this one is Barnsley, perhaps the thickest and most comical of the flavours but incredibly satisfying to listen to - Barnsley fowk still use "thee" and "thou" and call people "love" and mean it, its an honest accent with no frills and no pretensions and the best thig about it is that the soft southern nancies who inhabit the bottom bit of the UK don't understand a word of it.

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