Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Well worth seeing

Just saw Brassed Off, which I recommend highly.

And I recommend it despite the fact that I, as a thoroughgoing libertarian and believer in Austrian economics and the free market, not only disagree with the fundamental political premise that the movie exists in order to promote, but am in fact one of the people that the producers and writers of the movie would dearly love to inspire you to hate. For the movie is, shamelessly, propaganda.

But it's good propaganda -- it's a great movie. Furthermore, because they didn't expect anybody who wasn't a coal miner to watch the movie, they figured they were preaching to the choir and didn't have to spend all their time being persuasive, which means that although the movie's background is a period and culture of despair, the movie's heart is in the characters and families who rose above the despair around and among them to reach their own personal mountaintop; so the movie played quite successfully here in America as, of all things, a light-hearted romantic comedy.

That's not what they meant to make, and the movie is so good I think that those who wrote and directed and acted in it deserve -- that they have earned the right -- to have the movie taken on their terms rather than on the terms in which the suits at the international distribution headquarters decided to market it. Besides, the plight of Great Britain's miners during the Thatcher years -- their economic, emotional and spiritual plight -- was indeed deeply tragic, and there is something missing in your humanity if you do not respond to it, and it dishonors what the Grimethorpe Colliery Band really did accomplish if you fail to understand what it was they were rising above.

[Spoiler Alert!! What follows gives away the ending, just in case you were unable to figure out the ending after the first ten minutes or so. (A suspenseful thriller full of twists and turns, this is not. But still -- it's only polite to give you a Spoiler Alert.)]

Now, since they were making a deliberately political movie, and deserve a nod in the direction of a political response: okay, I happen to think the movie assigns blame for their plight to entirely the wrong set of people, and that indeed the miners' plight was as bad as it was when their industry finally died primarily because years of Labour governments had postponed the inevitable and therefore inadvertently made the transition orders of magnitude worse than it ought to have been had the transition taken its natural course to begin with. The people who made the movie, on the other hand, think that (a) everything was the Tories' fault, and (b) the Tories were not just misguided, but were the spawn of hell on earth. "God? Oh, right. Yeah, now there's a fella. I mean what's 'E doin'? Eh? 'E can take John Lennon. 'E can take those three young lads down at Tainsley Pit. 'E's even thinkin' of takin' my old man...and Margaret bloody Thatcher lives?? I mean what's 'E soddin' playin' at, eh??" Um...okay, we disagree on the cause.

What we do not at all disagree on, is the effect. The period of the pit closures was a time of privation and poverty and despair, and the miners and their families, who by their culture and their upbringing were completely unprepared to deal with the situation into which they were thrust, deserve our deepest compassion. But it is the glory of humanity to triumph in the face of adversity, and when the Grimethorpe Colliery Band (rechristened "Grimley" in a perfunctory gesture toward fictionalization) won England's national brass band contest four days -- four days! -- after the Grimethorpe pit closing that left practically every band member unemployed and doomed the town in which they had lived all their lives...okay, now you have to admit that that story is a story that deserves to be told, and to be told well.

And the people who made this movie, told that story well. It helps that the Grimethorpe Colliery Band provided the soundtrack, which is outstanding. But, frankly, this is a low-budget movie that reminds you of why movies are worth making in the first place, other than, you know, to have an excuse to make really big explosions for fun. If you don't shed a few delighted tears in the "Danny Boy" scene, then you have no heart; and if you don't want to leap up and dance to one of the best performances of the "William Tell Overture" that I remember hearing, then...well, you might have a soul, but you don't have any music in it. This is just a delightful movie.

And this, about a piece of shameless Leftist propaganda, from a guy who thinks England's Tory Party has tended to be entirely too prone to socialism and government intervention.

Just see the movie, and then tell me what you think in the comments. I loved it, myself. Just loved it. Am trying to figure out whether I have time to watch it again before my bedtime.

P.S. Couldn't help but take a great deal of amusement from one part of the credits. This is a movie in which the "Grimely Colliery Band" wins the National Brass Band Competition in London a week after the "Grimely" pit is permanently closed; and the very soundtrack is provided by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, which won the National Brass Band Competition in London (with a judges' score of 99 out of a possible 100) four days after the Grimethorpe pit was closed. So what do the credits say?

The events and characters in this photoplay are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Man, do I ever love corporate lawyers.


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