Sunday, July 8, 2018

Just watched...

...a fantastical short film from 1967, "The White Bus" directed by Lindsay Anderson and starring Patricia Healey.

This short film (a scant 47 minutes long) was intended to be one third of a feature length film called "Red White and Zero" with the other two parts being directed by Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz, but the other sections never materialized. Thankfully we are left with this peculiar little gem.

This is only the second film of Anderson's career but I must say that "The White Bus" seemingly owes a tremendous debt to the master of surreal cinema, Federico Fellini. By the time Anderson made this film, Fellini had already made "Nights of Cabiria," "La Dolce Vita," "8 1/2," and "Juliet of the Spirits"--more than enough to influence a young filmmaker. While the content is based on one of Shelagh Delaney's short stories in her collection SWEETLY SINGS THE DONKEY (she and Anderson adapted the screenplay for "The White Bus" together), the filmed presentation is decidedly on the surreal side. A young woman working in a dreary black and white London (played by Healey) is suicidal but manages to slip away, back to her hometown in the north. While never named, the hometown is clearly Manchester. After she arrives, we see her wandering around the city like an Everywoman--allowing us to see the kaleidoscopic, strange outer world through her eyes-- until she encounters a bus tour of the city, the titular white bus. She is beckoned aboard and discovers the reason for the tour: the mayor and city macebearer are leading a tour of the city for a delegation of visiting foreigners from as far away as Japan and Africa. They find themselves in increasingly stranger and stranger situations and locations...even the musical soundtrack with its quirky, carnivalesque sense sounds like the kind of things Nino Rota wrote for Fellini films...

The entire thing is fascinating from beginning to end, and the comparison to Fellini is not meant as a criticism. If you're going to be inspired, why not be inspired by the best? Take a look and see what I mean (also look for a very young Anthony Hopkins singing a Brecht song in German, his first film role!):

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