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	Image: Still from My beautiful laundrette 1985

Film series: Hitting rock bottom in post-war England

In association with ‘Francis Bacon: five decades’

Francis Bacon’s uncompromising paintings epitomise the grimness of post-war England. This collection of films, screening in conjunction with the exhibition Francis Bacon: five decades, covers from the post-World War II period to the late 1980s and composes a riveting survey of the changing social structure in Britain. The films transport us from Bacon’s Soho nightworld to Pinteresque 'no man’s lands’, exploring the effects of the war, austerity, disaffected youth, the decriminalisation of homosexuality and the seedy, hypocritical Puritanism that regulated a class-ridden British society. Class, which is the defining feature of British society, has changed many aspects of its character in the 20th century.

Part of the Summer in Soho program

Image: Still from My beautiful laundrette 1985

Wednesdays 2pm & 7.15pm, Sundays 2pm
7 November – 16 December 2012
9 January – 17 February 2013

Special Saturday screenings:
19 January, 2, 16 February 2013, 2pm


Tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre one hour before commencement. Films start at the advertised time. Doors open 30 minutes before this. Latecomers not admitted.

Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: Francis Bacon

National Film & Sound Archive

Room at the top

Dir: Jack Clayton 1959
117 mins 35mm B&W Rated M
Starring Laurence Harvey, Simone Signoret
When Room at the top hit the screen in 1959, it signalled the beginning of an exhilarating burst of creativity in British cinema. In this adaptation of novelist John Braine’s modern morality tale, a working-class young man becomes an opportunist who will stop at nothing – cynically marrying the boss’s daughter to get to the top of the business world. With its frank treatment of sexuality, Jack Clayton’s poetic masterpiece was a huge success at the box office. One of the first British films to present a disenchanted view of provincial urban life, it critiqued the British class system and seriously explored adult sexual relationships. Simone Signoret won an Academy Award for Best Actress.


Wednesday 7 November 2012 2pm – 3:57pm

Wednesday 7 November 2012 7:15pm – 9:12pm

Sunday 11 November 2012 2pm – 3:57pm


Dir: Basil Deardon 1961
100 mins 35mm B&W Rated R (unclassified)
Starring Dirk Bogarde, Sylvia Syms
In one of the first films to deal directly with homosexuality, Dirk Bogarde plays a married lawyer – one of a large group of closeted London men – who confronts a blackmailer after the suicide of his male lover. An extraordinary performance by Bogarde grounds this intense indictment of early-sixties social intolerance and sexual Puritanism. The film became a cry of protest against British laws forbidding homosexuality. Matinee idol Bogarde risked his film career to play the role.

Sydney author and gay activist Robert French will introduce the 7.15pm screening on Wednesday, 14 November. Considered to be one of Australia’s foremost community historians, French was co-convenor of the NSW Gay Rights Lobby (GRL) 1982–88 and has been secretary of the Pride History Group since 2008. A professional archivist, who worked for the National Archives for over 30 years, he contributed a widely syndicated history column to the community newspaper, Sydney Star Observer in 1992–93, which in edited form, was published as Camping by a Billabong: Gay and Lesbian Stories from Australia’s History.


Wednesday 14 November 2012 2pm – 3:40pm

Wednesday 14 November 2012 7:15pm – 9:05pm

Sunday 18 November 2012 2pm – 3:40pm

The servant

Dir Joseph Losey 1963
115 mins 35mm B&W Rated R (unclassified)
Starring Dirk Bogarde, James Fox
Expatriate American director Joseph Losey was a long-time resident in Britain. His 1963 film is a sly allegory of class conflict, in which a manservant, newly employed by a wealthy socialite, orchestrates a game of role reversal that develops into a highly charged love-hate relationship. Scripted by Nobel Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter Harold Pinter.


Wednesday 21 November 2012 2pm – 3:55pm

Wednesday 21 November 2012 7:15pm – 9:10pm

Sunday 25 November 2012 2pm – 3:55pm

Withnail and I

Dir: Bruce Robinson 1987
107 mis 35mm Colour Rated MA15+
Starring Richard E Grant, Paul McGann
A black comedy set in the twilight days of ‘swinging London’. Two unemployed and unemployable actors, living a decadent lifestyle of booze and drugs, finally hit rock bottom. They try to make a new start by taking a holiday in the country. The elegantly wasted and privileged Withnail (Richard E Grant), a depraved dandy without money or ambition, and his anxious, gullible sidekick (Paul McGann), decide to move into a country cottage owned by Withnail’s lecherous Uncle Monty (Richard Griffiths). Their retreat turns into a nightmare of violent weather, hunger and recalcitrant locals. Taughtly scripted, indecent but honest, it features a brilliant performance by Richard E Grant, which launched his career.


Wednesday 28 November 2012 2pm – 3:47pm

Wednesday 28 November 2012 7:15pm – 9:02pm

Sunday 2 December 2012 2pm – 3:47pm

Grown ups

Dir: Mike Leigh 1980
95 mins 16mm Colour Rated R (unclassified)
Starring Philip Davis, Lesley Manville
One of contemporary Britain’s most renowned directors, Mike Leigh is known for his unflinching depictions of the lives of regular people. Dick and Mandy, a young working-class couple, move into a council house in Canterbury. Mandy’s infuriating sister, Gloria, is constantly dropping in and will not take any hints that the couple would prefer to be left alone. A rare screening of one of Leigh’s unflinching made-for-television dramas, Grown ups was produced ten years after his stunning feature film debut with Bleak moments in 1971.


Wednesday 5 December 2012 2pm – 3:35pm

The birthday party

Dir: Willian Friedkin 1968
127 mins 35mm Colour Rated R (unclassified)
Starring Dandy Nichols, Robert Shaw
Based on Harold Pinter’s first full-length play, director William Friedkin (The exorcist, The French connection) creates a new genre of British seaside gothic, which draws marvellous performances from the key players. The story concerns a down-at-heel lodger in a boarding house who is menaced by two mysterious strangers, hard man Shamus McCann (Patrick Magee) and ladies’ man Nat Goldberg (Sydney Tafler). The two persecutors – described by Pinter as ‘decayed spiders of the establishment’ – eventually escort the lodger away, supposedly to receive medical attention. Infused with inexplicable violence, the hallucinogenic cinematography creates its own atmosphere.


Wednesday 5 December 2012 7:15pm – 9:22pm

Sunday 9 December 2012 2pm – 4:07pm

High hopes

Dir: Mike Leigh 1988
112 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Starring Philip Davis, Ruth Sheen
A sombre, biting satire of Margaret Thatcher’s England, as viewed by three distinct, combative couples in modern London. Ruth Sheen and Philip Davis are memorable as distinctly unfashionable hippie leftists, Shirley and Cyril, who name their potted cactus ‘Thatcher’ because it’s a pain in the you-know-where. Edna Doré received the award for Best Supporting Player at the 1989 European Film Awards for her portrayal of Mrs Bender, Cyril’s ageing, indomitable mother, who suffers from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. With flamboyant performances by the key players, Mike Leigh’s open-ended narrative explores societal and familial mores in a tough, credible fashion: the neglect of the elderly, the aimless temporising of the upper-middle classes and the questionable motives of aspirational social climbers.


Wednesday 12 December 2012 2pm – 3:52pm

The killing of Sister George

Dir: Robert Aldrich 1968
140 mins 35mm Colour Rated R (unclassified)
Starring Beryl Reid, Susannah York
An ageing lesbian actress falls apart when she loses her job playing a cheerful district nurse in a TV soap opera. Groundbreaking but also excessively sensational, The killing of Sister George is an historical curio. Its producer/director was Robert Aldrich, whose Westerns, prison pictures, war pictures and neo-gothic thrillers invented new cinematic genres, usually centering on struggling outsiders, decadence and disorder. In The killing of Sister George he creates a satire on the world of television, with a spaced-out and problematical portrait of lesbian life.


Wednesday 12 December 2012 7:15pm – 9:35pm

Sunday 16 December 2012 2pm – 4:20pm

10 Rillington Place

Dir: Richard Fleischer 1970
111 mins 35mm Colour Rated R (unclassified)
Starring Richard Attenborough, Judy Geeson
Director Richard Fleischer’s bleak, true-crime drama is based on one of England’s most famous murder cases. Photographed in the neighbourhood where the crimes were committed, the squalor of the surroundings mirrors the shabby mind and soul of John Christie, whose murders remained undetected for ten years. His unassuming demeanour conceals a ruthless psychopath with at least eight victims – including his wife Ethel. Richard Attenborough gives an unforgettable performance as the irredeemable Christie.


Wednesday 9 January 2013 2pm – 3:51pm

Wednesday 9 January 2013 7:15pm – 9:06pm

Sunday 13 January 2013 2pm – 3:51pm

My beautiful laundrette

Dir: Stephen Frears 1985
97 mins 35mm Colour Rated R (unclassified)
Starring: Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth
Hanif Kureishi’s script for My beautiful laundrette is a cutting, compassionate vision of the realities of being Asian and British in Margaret Thatcher’s England. Shot in London in the mid-1980s, the film explores relationships between representatives of the Asian and White communities. In a love story between Johnny, an ex-National Front thug, and Omar, a young Pakistani man living in London, the film unflinchingly portrays homosexual love and the repercussions of Thatcher’s economic policy during this turbulent period. My beautiful laundrette was director Stephen Frears’ fifth feature film and his first international success.


Wednesday 16 January 2013 2pm – 3:37pm

Wednesday 16 January 2013 7:15pm – 8:52pm

Sunday 20 January 2013 2pm – 3:37pm

Love is the devil: study for a portrait of Francis Bacon

Dir: John Maybury 1998
90 mins 35mm Colour Rated MA15+
Starring Derek Jacobi, Daniel Craig
This biographical drama probes the mid-life of painter Francis Bacon. The story begins when George Dyer, a small-time criminal from the working-class East End, drops through the skylight in an attempt to rob Bacon’s studio. Upon discovery, he is coerced into the painter’s bed. In the fraught relationship that develops, the two become a familiar couple in Bacon’s hangout, the Colony Room in Soho. Drawing heavily on the authorised biography of Bacon, The gilded gutter life of Francis Bacon, by Daniel Farson, director John Maybury and actor Derek Jacobi sketch Bacon’s daily life as a tortured, bitter ordeal. Cinematographer John Mathieson manipulates images to make the film look like one of Bacon’s paintings. Wide-angle lenses distort faces, reflections in beer mugs and ashtrays elongate images, resulting in visually complex and unsettling visual experience.


Saturday 19 January 2013 2pm – 3:30pm

Saturday 16 February 2013 2pm – 3:30pm

Prick up your ears

Dir: Stephen Frears 1987
110 mins 35mm Colour Rated R (unclassified)
Starring Gary Oldman, Alfred Molina
Stephen Frears’ sixth feature is a fascinating portrait of the playwright Joe Orton, his lover Kenneth Halliwell and their defiant opposition to conventional British society. Brisk and blunt, the film benefits from a remarkable convergence of talent: adapted by Alan Bennett from the biography of Orton by John Lahr, and directed by Frears, fresh from the success of My beautiful laundrette, starring Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina, there’s a poignant love story at the centre.


Wednesday 23 January 2013 2pm – 3:50pm

Wednesday 23 January 2013 7:15pm – 9:05pm

Sunday 27 January 2013 2pm – 3:50pm

Vera Drake

Dir: Mike Leigh 2004
125 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Starring Imelda Staunton, Richard Graham
In 1950s London, Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton) works as a charlady for upper-middle-class women. A kindly person, she is devoted to her family and willing to lend a hand to needy friends and neighbours. At a time when legal abortion is impossible for the very poor, she helps girls who are ‘in trouble’. Mike Leigh’s finest film brings humanity and empathy to a controversial subject. Utterly compelling, it depicts an uncomplicated, selfless woman whose beliefs and practices clash with the mores of 1950s. Imelda Staunton was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.


Wednesday 30 January 2013 2pm – 4:05pm

Wednesday 30 January 2013 7:15pm – 9:20pm

Sunday 3 February 2013 2pm – 4:05pm


Dir: Ron Peck 1978
113 mins 35mm Colour Rated R (unclassified)
Starring Ken Robertson, Tony Westrope
Released the year Thatcher came to power, Nighthawks could be seen as a political statement rather than a mainstream feature film. Jim is a geography teacher at a London comprehensive school. His sexuality is an open secret to everyone except his parents and his pupils. He spends evenings cruising gay bars and discos, looking in vain for ‘Mr Right’. His frenetic promiscuity yields no emotional satisfaction. Passionately contested on its initial release, Nighthawks was one of the first British movies to depict accurately the painful reality – and often banality – of a gay man’s life in London. It is a valuable document of late-1970s London, constructed from a series of plotless tableaux shot on a miniscule budget, with a cast of professional and non-professional actors.

This screening will be introduced by Sydney-based writer and historian, Garry Wotherspoon. Wotherspoon’s academic work has been published in journals in the UK, France, Germany, the US, and Australia. He was a NSW History Fellow in 1997–98, and the recipient of the Centenary of Federation Medal for his work as an academic, researcher and human rights activist. His books include Being Different: nine gay men remember, Gay Perspectives: Essays in Australian Gay culture and City of the Plain: History of a Gay Subculture.


Saturday 2 February 2013 2pm – 4:25pm

Get Carter

Dir: Mike Hodges 1971
112 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
Starring Michael Caine, Britt Ekland
Hard, witty and uncompromising, Get Carter was described by one reviewer as ‘like drinking a bottle of gin before breakfast’. In spite of the unrelenting seediness of the Newcastle locations, Michael Caine’s performance as London wide boy Jack Carter is the epitome of cool: a measured and ruthless portrayal of a man consumed with a desire for revenge.


Wednesday 6 February 2013 2pm – 3:52pm

Wednesday 6 February 2013 7:15pm – 9:07pm

Sunday 10 February 2013 2pm – 3:52pm

This is England

Dir: Shane Meadows 2006
101 mins 35mm Colour Rated MA15+
Starring Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham
Shane Meadows’ film is a reassessment of one of the most iconic English tribes to emerge in the post-war era. Set in England in the 1980s, twelve-year-old Shaun is a lonely boy growing up in a grim coastal town in the Midlands. Haunted by the death of his father in the Falklands War, he befriends a group of local skinheads. With his pent-up rage and frustration, Shaun finds exactly what he needs in the gang: mischief, mayhem and brotherhood. Beneath the shaved heads and steel-capped boots however, is the more complex reality of a movement with its roots in 1960s West Indian culture and music (particularly ska and reggae).


Wednesday 13 February 2013 2pm – 3:41pm

Wednesday 13 February 2013 7:15pm – 8:56pm

Sunday 17 February 2013 2pm – 2pm