Saturday, 23 November 2013


In the late 1950s and 1960s, there was a revolution in British film. Commonly dubbed the British New Wave, film makers began to produce works about the realities of working class life in Britain, focusing on realism and the everyday in a way starkly different to the high camp and theatricality of contemporary film making. These productions were cleaner and more spontaneous in style, often using real locations and real people as sets and extras, and focused on the drama and tragedy of life, and the extraordinary nature of things heretofore ignored as ordinary.
Karel Reisz's Saturday Night Sunday Morning, 1960.
An important precursor to the British New Wave - and therefore much of British film making of the last half-century - was the short-lived but extremely influential documentary movement called Free Cinema. Emerging in the 1950s, Free Cinema departed from the educational, propagandic style of much documentary making up to that point. It was naturalistic, cheaply made and experimental, and focused on the seemingly mundane aspects of everyday working class life, and laid the groundwork for the future of British film. 

In the words of the film makers themselves (quoted from the BFI): "British cinema [is] still obstinately class-bound; still rejecting the stimulus of contemporary life, as well as the responsibility to criticise; still reflecting a metropolitan, Southern English culture which excludes the rich diversity of tradition and personality which is the whole of Britain." In response to this, Free Cinema would celebrate the human, the seemingly ordinary, the everyday.
Lindsay Anderson's Every Day Except Christmas, 1957.
A vital foundation of the Free Cinema movement (and thus the New Wave, and modern British film in general) was the highly influential film journal Sequence, first published in 1947. Edited and published by Free Cinema founders Lindsay Anderson, Gavin Lambert and Karel Reisz, it was in Sequence that Free Cinema was germinated, and the journal can be read as a manifesto for the movement.
Sequence began life as an Oxford University (where Anderson, Lambert and Reisz and were students) Film Society Journal. Intrigued by its lack of availability despite its clear importance, and wanting to use my soon-to-be-revoked Bodleian card for the power of good, I did a periodical order from the salt mines and have been slowly uploading scans of full issues of Sequence. After a long time, they are finally all there. I don't have the very first instalment, which was not made under the direction of Anderson (Lindsay himself explains the situation here), but you can read the rest by visiting my page, hardworkmagazine, on Issuu.

If you'd like to know more about the journal Sequence, you can read it in Lindsay Anderson's words from 1991, or this academic article about the journal's key role in the development of film theory. You can also now for the first time read the magazine in full, in its original format, on Issuu. If you'd like to find out more about Free Cinema, the BFI (which was instrumental in the birth of the movement with its experimental film fund) has published an excellent overview, and of course, there's always Wikipedia. You can also buy a box set of the Free Cinema films from the BFI (which makes an excellent Christmas present! I got it for Christmas a couple of years ago myself, and was very happy).

Take a look at the Sequence issues now online, which I hope will be a joyful resource for cinephiles everywhere.

(If you feel you own the rights to this journal, and have a problem with these issues being shared, let me know.)