BFI Top British Films
An Examination of British Culture Through Film
In 1999, the British Film Institute compiled a list of the best British films made in throughout the 20th century. The list included a range of films from Hitchcockian thrillers to breathtaking period drama; a wide variety of British auteurs from Laurence Olivier to Ken Loach and Danny Boyle; and a detailed examination of British culture through film.
Personally, one of my favorite variety of film is the social drama. This genre provides a stark, and often brutal, look at the social ills of modern society and the impact it has on the individual, on the community, and on the country. British films have had a long history with social realism, with the kitchen sink realism movement transforming British art and culture from the late 50s. Social commentary had become the norm in film, television, theatre, and literature, paving the way for the creation and exploration of rich and tantalizing art.
So, it's not surprising that many of the films included on the BFI's Top 100 British Films list are social realism dramas. Britain produced an array of dramas that question what it means to British in the modern age and that draws on challenges facing a nation to create something poetic and provoking. When selected the six films for this month's film club, I wanted to capture this social movement by curating a collection of films that vary in style and narration but ultimately tell the story of Britain. These films aren't fanciful costume dramas nor do they represent the archetypical "posh" Britain. Rather they are a raw, bleak, and moralizing look at the Britain that is often forgotten, hidden underneath layers of aristocracy and class.
In addition to the four social realism films, I also included two sci-fi / dystopian films, Brazil and The Wicker Man. Despite these films not being set in our reality, they are still able to capture, through formalism and symbolism, the deteriorating nature of an oppressed Britain, proving that not all social commentaries have to come in the form of depressing Ken Loach narratives.
The six films of the BFI Top British Films are:
A Taste of Honey (dir. Tony Richardson)
Kes (dir. Ken Loach)
Brazil (dir. Terry Gilliam)
The Wicker Man (dir. Robin Hardy)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (dir. Karel Reisz)
My Name is Joe (dir. Ken Loach)
Here's how The Film Club works. Each month I curate a collection of films that demonstrate the best of filmmaking. Over the course of the month, you watch as many films on this list as you can, and, with your help, we can discuss how these films work together as a collection and how they reflect the artistry of filmmaking. At the end of the month, come back here to read my review a film in this month's collection. If you want to take part in this month's film club, leave a comment Tweet me, Tumblr me, or Email me discussing your thoughts on this collection!