England Made Me

Culture Editor Richard Whittaker presents a season of classic British movies that defined the nation’s cinema

British cinema is not just American cinema with a funny accent. Across November and December, I'll be presenting a series of films that speak to that divide: films that may be completely new to American viewers, and those that they may know but may not understand the cultural context of how geography and class and time made these movies so ... English.

AFS Cinema Presents England Made Me: Six Films with The Austin Chronicle’s Richard Whittaker, Nov. 1-Dec. 10. AFS Cinema, 6406 N. I-35. Tickets and info at austinfilm.org.

24 Hour Party People

D: Michael Winterbottom, 2002, 35mm, 117 min.

Imagine finding out that Regis Philbin had founded Sub Pop, or Willard Scott secretly ran CBGB. That's kind of like the intellectual dissonance of having Tony Wilson, the definitive "and finally" segment host on local TV show Granada Reports, as the hapless genius behind Factory Records (home of Joy Division and the Happy Mondays) and scene-changing club the Hacienda. It's as unlikely as having Manchester, rain-soaked post-industrial Manchester in Britain's answer to the Rust Belt, become the cultural epicenter for dance music. Steve Coogan heads up a cast that perfectly captures the era of thrills, pills, and bellyaches, with the inevitable comedown crash.

Screening in 35mm. Nov. 1, 7:30pm; Nov. 5, 2pm.

The Draughtman's Contract

D: Peter Greenaway, 1982, DCP, 104 min.

How did Merchant Ivory manage to make the Eighties the era of the dry period drama when Peter Greenaway had killed the form so perfectly a year before Heat and Dust? After the director's cut-up experimental mockumentary The Falls made art gallery rumbles rather than finding arthouse success, he subverted expectations about what audiences can expect from a film about fancy wigs and aristocratic airs in an English manor house in the late 17th century. A sordid mélange of sex and crime, class and art.

Celebrating its 40th Anniversary. Newly Remastered in 4K. Nov. 8, 7:30pm; Dec. 12, 2pm.

The Long Good Friday

D: John Mackenzie, 1979, 35mm, 114 min.

American audiences may think of Bob Hoskins as the adorable British actor from Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Super Mario Bros. But for British viewers his defining role may still well be the seething, squat, brutal gangster Harold Shand in screenwriter Barrie Keeffe's merciless depiction of hubris in a corrupted London, where the American mob and the IRA want their slice. Violence is smeared across the walls in this depiction of the Smoke as an international center – for crime, as it is for business.

Screening in 35mm. Nov. 15, 7:30pm; Nov. 19, 2pm.


D: Franc Roddam, 1979, DCP, 129 min.

Graham Greene's Brighton Rock was arguably where Britain's disaffected youth found its dangerous voice. It's hard to imagine that the Who didn't have that in mind when they set their 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia in the seaside town that was London's escape valve. But it was also the end of the road, and Franc Roddam kept the band out of the way as his movie version focused on the self-destructive instincts of Jimmy the Mod (a squirrely Phil Daniels), which say more about Seventies burnout than the death of Sixties Cool Britannia.

Nov. 22, 7:30pm; Nov. 26, 2pm.

My Beautiful Laundrette

D: Stephen Frears, 1985, 35mm, 98 min.

In a single film, Daniel Day-Lewis (oddly miscredited without the hyphen) went from supporting roles to one of the most lauded leading actors of his generation. But his performance as conflicted racist punk Johnny was not the only ground-shaking element of Stephen Frears' grimy and comedic film based on Hanif Kureishi's semi-autobiographical story of growing up gay in a Pakistani family in racially divided South London. Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke's seemingly doomed romance crackles, and provided British audiences with something they had never seen on the screen before: a queer, interracial love affair with a happy ending.

Screening in 35mm. Nov. 29, 7:30pm; Dec. 3, 2pm.

Withnail & I

D: Bruce Robinson, 1986, 35mm, 108 min.

"We've gone on holiday by mistake." "Here hare here." "Throw yourself into the road, darling, you haven't got a chance!" Being the most eminently quotable comedy of the 1980s, with a poster that adorned every student bedroom for a decade, overshadows the scathing brilliance of a vaporous Paul McGann and a whirling dervish performance from Richard E. Grant as struggling actors who take a misguided trip to the countryside. Under a hilarious and ridiculous version of 1960s Britain is a heartbroken depiction of what the Thatcher years did to the creative class, and the rival perils of selling out and artistic hubris.

Screening in 35mm. Dec. 6, 7:30pm; Dec. 10, 2pm.

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AFS Cinema, 24 Hour Party People, The Draughtsman's Contract, My Beautiful Laundrette, Quadrophenia, The Long Good Friday, Withnail & I

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