Sunday, May 28, 2017

THE 'FREE CINEMA' APPROACH


THE ‘FREE CINEMA’ APPROACH

The ethos behind the 1950s FREE CINEMA movement is vital to understand the way ADRIFT IN SOHO was shot. 


The filmmakers used similar ideas and methods although modern technology and a bigger budget replaced the limited equipment used at the time by Free Cinema filmmakers.





In 1956 a group of film directors and technicians started a kind of ‘movement’ now known as FREE CINEMA and which lasted until early 1960s. The group tried to distance themselves from the established commercial cinema that was churning out heroic war films and star-studded romantic comedies.

Independent filmmakers of that period took advantage of low-cost technology by using small and relatively cheap 16mm Bolex and Arriflex cameras to produce highly original short documentaries.



ADRIFT IN SOHO is also a homage to other European filmmakers, like Dziga Vertov and Francois Truffaut. 

Vertov is the man seen carrying the tripod in the film and then editing the material back in the studio. Vertov also inspired FREE CINEMA but only in choice of subject matter and not in extreme camera movement. The woman filmmaker in the ADRIFT IN SOHO represents the new generation of female directors and producers which started with Vertov and re-started with Free Cinema.

Also an influence are the early films of Francois Truffaut, like The 400 Blows, which was released in 1959, and Jules et Jim in the early sixties. 

The film also uses some dialogue and shots from iconic films beyond Free Cinema.



FREE CINEMA filmmakers became mainstream a few years later when their creative methods and subject matter catapulted them to be part of the 1960s New British Cinema generation. 

Some of the FREE CINEMA directors who went on to create a new wave in British cinema were Tony Richardson (Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner), Karel Reisz (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning), Lindsay Anderson (If…). 

Technicians of the movement such as Director of Photography Walter Lassally went on to work in seminal international films such as Zorba the Greek (1964) while innovative sound recordist and editor John Fletcher was recognised years later.

   


Colin Wilson, the writer of the novel in which the film is based (Soho segment only) was in contact with this movement and he was briefly featured in one its productions (Food for a Blush).

Other filmmakers also connected to FREE CINEMA were Europeans Lorenza Mazzetti, Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner. The last two continued their filmmaking close to France’s Nouvelle Vague. The Soho night photographs of Ken Russell also inspired Pablo Behrens to make the movie.

ADRIFT IN SOHO recreates some of the original Free Cinema documentaries like ‘Momma Don’t Allow’ which features Jazz as the music of choice of Soho inhabitants and visitors in the 1950s, followed by Rock’n’Roll a few years later. If fact, the jazz 'jive' was the precursor of the rock dance. Other Free Cinema productions that inspired ADRIFT IN SOHO are 'Nice Time', 'March to Aldermaston' and to a lesser extent 'Every Day Except Christmas'.




In the cinema version of ADRIFT IN SOHO the very act of filmmaking is also one of the protagonists of the movie and not just a tool behind the camera.