#222 Billy Liar

Watched: March 02 2019

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Gwendolyn Watts, Helen Fraser, Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne, Ethel Griffies, Finlay Currie

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 38min

Billy

Source

Meet Billy (Courtenay). Billy lives with his parents and works at an undertakers’. Billy juggles girlfriends/fiancĂ©es Barbara (Fraser) and Rita (Watts) while harbouring a secret crush on free spirit and original manic pixie dream girl Liz (Christie). He also lies through his teeth.

Billy2
Why on earth this lovely, innocent girl would let this man bring her to a cemetery is beyond us. Here, she clearly only has a few minutes left to live.

Source

Billy has an imaginary world where he is not only king, but pretty much every inhabitant, at least any person of note. This kingdom of Ambrosia is his escape from his boring, average life, as well as an outlet for his creativity. And a source of frustration for his fed up family.

Billy3
Who hasn’t dreamt of being a hero, loved and admired by men and women alike?

Source

Sexually frustrated ladies man, compulsive liar, rebellious teen and part time sociopath, Billy’s fantasies often end in him gunning down everyone around him, especially those who inconvenience him. He lies to protect himself and to seem more interesting. He’s not too good with criticism or confrontation, and he dreams of a more exciting life which he is too scared to actually pursue.

Billy4
We get it, Billy. It’s much easier to be the fictional ruler of Ambrosia than to actually go out and take chances with your life, risking defeat. Go Liz!

Source

Oh, did we mention he also tries to drug one his girlfriends to have sex with her? Which definitely ranks in the top three of “the worst thing that can happen when a man brings a woman to a cemetery”-list.

Billy5
Lucky for her he bought bad drugs. And also didn’t know which part of her to suck…

Source

You can probably tell that we’re not quite sold on the character of Billy… In fact, we found him somewhat sinister at times. However, there are still a lot of things to enjoy about this movie. As always, we loved Tom Courtenay’s face(s), we loved the banter in the funeral home, the twist dancing, and the flashes between reality and Billy’s fantasy world.

billy6
For all his faults, it’s hard to completely hate a man who is so overly dramatic and extra.

Source

We also liked Liz. Where Billy had only his dreams, Liz had the guts and the follow-through. He talked a good game, but she actually went out and did things with her life. The only thing that confused us about her was why she would be interested in someone like him.

Billy7
“Shit! I just realized I’m Julie Motherfucking Christie! So long, sucker!”

Source

It’s an interesting movie and well worth watching. Apart from his treatment of the women in his life (this goes for girlfriends as well as his mother and grandmother), Billy is relatable in a lot of ways. Frustrated with his mundane working class existence, he retreats into his fantasy world where he can actually achieve and experience things. We can understand that. But like the demolition work going on all around him, he has a destructive streak, and it’s a dark one…

Billy8
Why can’t it be both..?

Source

What we learned: There’s a fine line between having an active imagination and being a compulsive liar.

Next time: Black Sabbath (1963)

#216 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Watched: January 05 2019

Director: Tony Richardson

Starring: Tom Courtenay, Michael Redgrave, Avis Bunnage, Alec McCowen, James Bolam, Topsy Jane

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 44min

Runner

Source

Colin Smith (Courtenay), a working class boy with anger issues, is sent to a borstal school (or reform school for those of us not in the know) for burgling a bakery. Once there, he is sorted into Drake House in a ritual we found disappointingly lacking in hats.

runner3
Face says Slytherin. Actions say Gryffindor. Absolutely nothing says Ravenclaw…

Source

The school’s philosophy is that hard work, discipline, and exercise will put these young men on the right track in life. During training, the governor of the school (Redgrave) observes Colin’s brilliant running skills and takes a special interest in his new pupil.

runner2
By “brilliant running skills” we refer to his speed and endurance. Not running style.

Source

Colin is given special permission to train outside the school’s fence for an upcoming race against a public school (or private school for those of us not in Britain), and in between training sessions, we get flashbacks to his life before this and the circumstances which led him to this point.

runner4
Before his arrest, he led a happy, fulfilling life, filled with laughter and friends

Source

Like many of the old dramas we’ve watched in the past few years, we enjoyed this movie so much more than we thought we would. We loved the flashbacks, the smart-ass remarks of our (anti-)hero, Colin’s singular running style, and the clash of cultures in the changing rooms before the race.

runner5
This innocent, outgoing public school kid had no idea about the world he walked into. Or the Quasimodo-looking criminal following him.

Source

At first, the governor seemed like quite a good guy, but we soon realised that this was mainly due to what we have dubbed the “Michael Redgrave-effect,” in which a character become instantly likable because the actor playing him/her just exudes kindness and benevolence. (See also: The Innocents, in which Redgrave plays the uncle who basically abandons his young relatives and sends a youngish governess in without warning her about the circumstances, but you still go “oh, what a charming chap! I’m sure he had his reasons!”)

runner6
It is basically impossible to dislike a pipe smoker

Source

Without spoiling it too much (although light spoilers ahead), the ending was the sort of ending which would have very much appealed to our teenage, rebellious selves and which frustrates our old, security-concerned selves. This was your chance, kid! But also: yeah! Stick it to the man!

runner7
We’re so torn…

Source

What we learned: Don’t let the bastards grind you down. But also don’t let your own stubbornness deprive you of a chance to make a better life for yourself. Man, we’re confused on this one…

Next time: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)