When artists come together in a spirit of union, they inevitably need a pulpit from which to expound their theories. For the Brits making films in the late '40s and early '50s, that pulpit was Sequence. Many filmmakers of the Free... [more]
When artists come together in a spirit of union, they inevitably need a pulpit from which to expound their theories. For the Brits making films in the late '40s and early '50s, that pulpit was Sequence. Many filmmakers of the Free Cinema Movement and the British New Wave found the pages of this journal fecund ground for espousing a new direction for British cinema. And Lindsay Anderson, known equally as critic and filmmaker, was one of the journal's top players.
Anderson was an adept polemicist who served as editor for Sequence through its most influential years. He led the charge against the documentary style of filmmaking that dominated Britain at that time, introducing the concept of the director as a cinematic poet. He declared that the Western, filled with allegory and symbolism, was a powerful medium at a time when it was despised in British cinema. As a result of Anderson's arguments, young British directors began turning to the likes of John Ford, the American master of the Western.
But Anderson's dislike of documentary does not mean he had no social consciousness. On the contrary, he took issue with the way social consciousness was expressed. "We were not making a film about a 'worker'," he says of his first feature, "This Sporting Life". but about an extraordinary (and therefore more deeply significant) man, and about an extraordinary relationship. We were not, in a word, making sociology." Working with social issues, Anderson trickles down from Humphrey Jenning's poetic tradition of filmmaking rather than Grierson's sociological ethic.
"If....", the first in a trilogy centered around the character of Mike Travis, is perhaps Anderson's greatest contribution to British cinema. The film takes place in a boarding school, where Travis leads a group of lower-class students in revolt against the school's strict code of behavior. (In our own age of student violence in America, the film seems frighteningly prescient.) Shocking and violent, "If...." becomes a vast metaphor for the stringent class distinctions of British society.
This mixture of the symbolic and the social is the clearest marker of Anderson. Always the maverick, Anderson sums it up best: "Fighting means commitment, means believing what you say, and saying what you believe. It will also mean being called sentimental, irresponsible, self-righteous, and out-of-date by those who equate maturity with skepticism, art with amusement, and responsibility with romantic excess." [show less]