This week’s MNFC was a very enjoyable night of firsts:
- The first location that rhymed with the name of the host – Felix of Helix Road
- The first showing of a film made for TV
- The first MNFC film from the ’70s
Felix delighted us with Nuts in May, a film by Mike Leigh which formed part of the BBC’s Play for Today series. The film starred Alison Steadman and Roger Sloman as Keith and Candice-Marie Pratt, a middle class couple who travel to Dorset for a camping holiday, to enjoy the fresh air, landscape and sing beautiful songs together on their banjo and guitar. Keith is a very organised, knowing sort of man, whilst Candice-Marie is a bit more child-like (“Kiss Prudence!”) and spontaneous. Unfortunately for them their fellow campers prefer playing loud music and getting drunk at the pub, and this drives Keith to breaking point.The film was a fantastic example of a very British kind of character-based comedy, which portrayed all the little foibles and habits of the vegetarian, unpasteurised milk-drinking couple and, as Felix pointed out in his introduction, laid the groundwork for future TV classic comedies like Alan Partridge and the Office. Roger Sloman actually went on to act in some of the more famous British TV comedies: Blackadder, The Young Ones, Terry & June, Mr Bean, Bottom, The Brittas Empire, and, um, Family Affairs! Alison Steadman is best known for another Mike Leigh Play for Today, Abigail’s Party, and to the MNFC ladies as Mrs Bennett in the BBC’s sublime Pride & Prejudice from 1995.
The film made most of us chuckle as we recognised some of the holiday habits of our parents (Felix), our partners (Jess) and our friends (Jon)! Jon also picked up a good quote to use on patients who smoke too much: “It’s just that Keith and I believe that smoking damages your health. You see, Ray, you can’t see the damage that it’s doing. But if I could take one of your lungs now, and put it on the table in front of you and cut it in half, I think you’d be absolutely horrified.”
A very earnest article about the cultural significance of the Play for Today films can be found here. Apparently the playwright David Hare, who was one of the series’ contributors, argued that the format of Play for Today films became “the most important new indigenous art form of the 20th century”, and that it allowed the “freedom to say what you wanted, and the rare excitement of knowing that it was being talked about by people all over the country”. So there you go. Those of you who’d like to explore a few more Plays for Today will be pleased to know that they can be watched free at the BFI Mediatheque.
Mike Leigh is a bit of national treasure as far as British directors go, and is famous for directing films which are partially or fully-improvised. He has won prizes at most of the major European film festivals, but in spite of being nominated 7 times in assorted categories he has never won an Oscar. He was also married to Alison Steadman for almost 30 years.
One last bit of random trivia before I go: Nuts in May was actually the name of the 1917 film which marked the Hollywood debut of another national treasure, Mr Stan Laurel (for all of you who’ve been to the Lakes with me, you may or may not know that Stan Laurel was born in Ulverston).
Next MNFC will be on the 22nd August courtesy of Dr Love. The next one after that should be on the 12th September, but we’re flexible about that. I’m hoping our other doctor, the lovely Dr Payne will be able to fit in one more hosting session before she leaves London…
COME ALONG, CANDICE-MARIE, THIS ISN’T A DEMOCRACY!