As a mopey teenager I was crazy for Woodfall Films. I wasn’t sure how well they’d hold up for a mopey adult, but I was excited to see Lincoln Center hosting “Woodfall Film Productions and the Revolution in '60s British Cinema” this month.
I sold tickets at a movie box office as a college work-study student (when you could still smoke indoors—it seems crazy now that cashiers were allowed to behind the counter) and I’d try to get the Northwest Film Center to show the likes of The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Look Back in Anger. I also used to stuff the suggestion box of the other artsy theater up the street, Fifth Avenue Cinema. Idle hands, apparently.
The only way to see any of these movies at all was fervently checking TV listings and taping them off of public broadcasting or borrowing the more mainstream titles from the library. It wasn’t like there was a Netflix, eBay or IMDb to search in the late ‘80s.
The plays and paperbacks were readily available, though, thanks to Powell’s. I can’t think of anything so grotesquely tormented and teenage now as practicing scenes from A Taste of Honey with your gay boyfriend for a high school drama competition. Thankfully, we had a falling out before said contest transpired. And one little shred of dignity remains intact.
Well, it only took two decades to get my wish. Last week I finally got to see Taste of Honey on the big screen. And it was made all the better because I’d ingested ribs, fries, onion loaf and a Texas-sized mango martini (and a Texas-sized beer) at ever-classy Dallas BBQ beforehand. There’s nothing remotely British or downtrodden about that spread and I appreciated the balance.
It’s funny that in 1995 I was worried about the movie not aging well. Sure, bits are melodramatic and characters are broadly rendered but it’s held up. The movie was funnier than I remembered and not half as bleak. I was a little disturbed when it was said that the old floozy of a mother was 40 (goodness, I was going to say that Dora Bryan, who played the role must’ve been older than her character but if I’m to believe her bio she was only 37 in A Taste of Honey). Yikes, that doesn’t even sound so far off now.
And the honeymoon scenes in Blackpool (incidentally, my mom and the step-dude were there last summer) are classic. Black and white fun houses, freak shows, all set against a dreary backdrop of Northern England. I can watch those sorts of scenes all afternoon. Too bad the only footage I can find is in a fan created Smiths' video.
Completely on a tangent: One thing that never really crossed my mind until this viewing is why Jo, the main character would want to keep her baby. Fine, “I’m not planning big plans for this baby or dreaming big dreams” but from my 2007 perspective that came across way sadder than when I was the same age as the character. I guess when I was a youngster playing house with a gay friend didn’t sound so bad. Perhaps homosexuality and interracial relationships were enough taboos for one movie. It’s not even like abortion is viable option for ‘00s protagonists.
But taken as the period piece that it is, A Taste of Honey is exemplary of the British “kitchen sink” genre, pre-swinging ‘60s. No angry young men in sight, just ordinary people and problems.
Oh, do I love me some ‘90s Geocities pages. They always have the best fan memorabilia frozen in last millennium time.