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Hindle Wakes
cast: Estelle Brody, and Peggy Carlisle

director: Maurice Elvey

116 minutes (U) 1927 BFI retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Dawn Andrews
'Wakes Week' was the annual holiday for Lancashire mill workers, and one that turns out, in this film, to be both eventful and fated. The musical score, by Klive and Nigel Hawthorne, is perfect, and keeps pace with the cinematic swings and roundabouts, from the early scenes of the mill workers lives, to the magical innovative cinematography of Blackpool - this film makes of Blackpool a very believable luminous and ephemeral wonderland, and gives an understanding of how it must have appeared, to the mill workers who once flocked there. There is no patronising of any of the characters, from the workers to the owners, they are all portrayed as three-dimensional, fleshed-out, all with their individual quirks and flaws.
   This is an amazing film - at first I expected a parade of 'social' generalisations, stereotypes and easy moralising, but it never descends to this level. Throughout it maintains dignity and humour, even when it seems on the brink of a 'message', and the strong mindedness of Fanny, who chooses her own way throughout and never just goes along with convention, or the wishes of others, truly startled me. I half expected the melodramatic 'victim' scenario, beloved of Hollywood. Not a chance! One of my favourite scenes is when the factory girls change their cumbersome work shoes for their holiday shoes, a symbolic and oddly erotic moment.
   Our two likely lasses, Fanny and Mary (Estelle Brody and Peggy Carlisle) determined on their good time and tough minded enough to get it, both radiate such vital presence on screen. Mary's early loss, in the film (it is her accidental death by drowning that allows Fanny's misconduct in Llandudno to be brought to light) robs it of half its charm, so strongly has she made her mark. Estelle Brody's heroine, with her mobile face and expressive gestures, carries us along with her, through her moods, doubts and ultimate defiance.
   The camera is used as an eye (for some odd reason I was reminded of Peeping Tom) recording the moment, taking us all for a ride on the roller coaster, the helter-skelter, and snaking through the mass of dancers in the shadowy ballroom. The plays of powerful beams of light illuminate the dancers, whose pulse and fluid movement resembles that of the sea, which is paradoxically never shown. This film is all about the moment, seizing the day, and having the courage to face the consequences alone, if need be. The camera is as much of a conspirator in this as the actors.
   The ballroom, often shot from above, is finally slowed down until it appears to be beneath a grey net or gauze, or underwater. This is wonderful, elegiac cinematography, as floating scraps of paper descend upon the dancers, white through the darkening air: an elemental scene, with people taking the place of nature. Magic.
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