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All that glitters: The early film career of John Schlesinger

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This article argues the progress of John Schlesinger (1926–2003) as a film artist, up to and including The Day of the Locust (1975), was dependent on whether he was willing to settle for surfaces or whether he would insist on an inner rationale and validity for his work: whether he would build upward from the most stringent perceptions towards a virtuoso display of them, or begin at the top with slickness and add just enough clever dialogue and facilely bitter comment to provide marketable Weltschmerz for popular audiences worldwide. In the end, Schlesinger settled for surfaces – sometimes far less – in a career that, by the time of Yanks (1979) and Honky Tonk Freeway (1981), could only descend from so much slickness into lamentable sorriness. By considering this British director's first three, and best, films – A Kind of Loving (Schlesinger, 1962), Billy Liar (Schlesinger, 1963) and Darling (Schlesinger, 1965) – I propose to demonstrate how each of this trio of works holds both the promise of cinematic growth and the prospect of directorial delinquency into which Schlesinger would ultimately decline.
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Keywords: British cinema; John Schlesinger; literary adaptation; social realism; ‘Angry Young Men’; ‘New Cinema’

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Izmir University of Economics

Publication date: 2012-07-12

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  • The Journal of European Popular Culture investigates the creative cultures of Europe, present and past. Exploring European popular imagery, media, new media, film, music, art and design, architecture, drama and dance, fine art, literature and the writing arts, and more, the journal is also of interest to those considering the influence of European creativity and European creative artefacts worldwide.
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