I have recentley watched ‘Blow-Up’ by Michelangelo Antonioni which is set during the 60s in London. I love the atmosphere of that period and would like to watch more films set during the Swinging London? Could anyone please recommend any other?
A Hard Day´s Night (Richard Lester, 1964)
Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?
My dissertation used lots of London set films from the 1960s so hopefully I can help.
I’m at the office now, so off the top of my head;
Twisted Nerve – minor horror masterpiece, with a Herrmann score to boot. Hywell Bennett was a great actor but sadly never went anywhere
Help! – Full blown masterpiece, forget that it’s a vehicle for The Beatles, this isn’t a trfile. Monty Python humour before Python and the best ‘swinging sixties’ sets.
Catch Us If You Can – again, a vehicle for a band and whilst not a great film like Help! it’s really not bad either. Quite a lot going on and a great time capsule.
Darling – not a favourite from Schlesinger but lots of people seem to really like it and it certainly does capture the swinging element.
Alfie – One of the greatest British films of its era and a popular success. Turned Michael Caine into a star. Swinging, but more working class than Darling and Blow Up
The Knack and How to Get It – I don’t think this has aged too well but it is very interesting as a time capsule. Was extremely popular in its day too and definitely fits your criteria
Bedazzled – Truly hilarious and a really great film. Peter Cook is phenomenal. I put off watching this for years because of the awful remake, but it’s one of my favourite films from the era now
Up the Junction – great little film from a director who was extremely promising. See The Italian Job too.
The Ipcress File – Fantastic use of the library at the British Museum. Furie thought he was the reincarnation of Gregg Toland and the weirdly placed shots for no reason can get a bit annoying. All the Deighton films from the 60s are better than the Bond films though.
I’ll try and think of some more but they should hopefully get you started.
PERFORMANCE paints a much grimmer picture London that you might find interesting.
“Films set during Swinging London” is a rather loose definition, as Swinging London could be defined as the summer after Time Magazine published an article “The City That Swings” in April 1966. A better definition is probably sixties London, (The sixties began in 1963 with the Beatles and ended in 1970, with the Beatles!).
So, as Tom has said, Sixties films set in London (between 1963 and 1970?)
One of my favourites is The Sorcerer (1967) starring Ian Ogilvy and Boris Karloff, directed by the great Michael Reeves, who also directed The Witchfinder General (1968). It’s a great horror flick set in “swinging London”!
I Think you could probably get away with Peformance 1970), made at the backend of the sixties by Donald Cammel and Nic Roeg, starring James Fox and Mick Jagger. Superb psychedelic gangster movie.
Georgy Girl (1966) is a rather light hearted look at relationships in sixties London, directed by Silvio Narizzano, and starring Lynn Redgrave, James Mason and Charlotte Rampling.
Wonderwall (1968) A psychedelic fantasy steeped in voyeurism, this film features a musical score by George Harrison – the quintessential 60s ‘Swinging London’ film.
The Magic Christian (1969) Rich man adopts boy to prove anything can be bought with money. Starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr and an impossible amount of cameos from the great and the good of sixties British cinema. A film that exploits the cynicism that was creeping into the counter culture by the late sixties. Entertaining.
I’m a sucker for this genre. If one could actually call it a genre. Abel and Tom pretty much nailed the cream of the crop.
Privilege loosely fits the boundaries too.
“Blow-Up” definitely deserves to be part of this!
Peter Whitehead’s documentary “Tonight Let’s All make Love in London” is a fiarly definitive look at the place, the time and the people.
While relased in 1970, “Performance” was shot in 1968 — and it’s central to what drove the dark undercurrents of the “Swinging Sixties” ie. The Kray brothers.
“Smashing Time” is a marvelously weird louche slab of 60’s zeitgeist with Lynn Redgrave, Rita Tushingham and (of course) Michael York.
I knew the thread was missing a key film and that was Smashing Time. Wonderful little movie.
Yes, Abel’s history is spot on. If you want to concentrate solely on ‘swinging’ iconic, carnaby street London, there’s not much use looking at stuff before 1965. The guys that came over from the Free cinema movement in the late 50s didn’t really make the sort of films I mentioned above. Although by all means check out masterpieces like Peeping Tom and stuff like The L Shaped Room.
You do start to see films more concerned with relationships in 63 with stuff like The Servant, which probably wouldn’t have been made in the 1950s. But 1965 is the point where the floodgates begin to burst and we get stuff like Repulsion and gonzo oddities like Primitive London (definitely check this curio out!). OOhh, I nearly forgot Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment. Another big success at the time that’s more in the realm of Knack and Catch Us If You Can; worth a watch if you’ve seen most of the other stuff.
Another film from an outsider, Godard’s One + One (partly) about another iconic band in the recording studio.
‘Another film from an outsider, Godard’s One + One (partly) about another iconic band in the recording studio.’
As much as I liked that film, I would hesitate to say it represented the ‘Swinging London’ era. If anything, it’s more about the aftermath when things started getting more political and SERIOUS. The Stones looked so burnt out (which they were!) and Brian Jones had turned into a wasted ghost which was a shame because he was a true icon of the Swinging London times.
Oh definitely Jeff, I completely agree. People often mistakenly think that the ‘swinging’ 60s was swinging from the get go and till the end, but if we’re being really strict, emancipation, full adoption of fashion and design comes as late as 66 (at least for the masses and media) and dissipates as early as 68-69, with the onset of dissilusionment, the riots, the protests and young people just being generally pissed off at what didn’t come to pass.
Then the Americans take over from the Brits at making films about the zeitgeist and we get stuff like Easy Rider and Two Lane Blacktop. And retrospectively Regular Lovers, which I’m sure Garrell would have made at the time if he could afford to make anything other than shorts.
You could see the tide turning in Blow-Up which was one of the first Swinging London films. Even the big scene with the Yardbirds had strangely dark overtones. You could tell that Antonioni knew the positive vibes were not going to last very long.
Yes, true. Although Antonioni was never exactly upbeat! No matter where or when he was. But he was probably more prescient than most, through luck or intuition. I doubt many of that generation would have believed all the perceived freedoms and hopes would end so quickly.
“Even the big scene with the Yardbirds had strangely dark overtones.”
Yeah, as in, it’s super weird and populated by at best holographic representations of humans or at worst zombies (excluding those 2 hippies dancing in the corner of the room). Like going to any show in Brooklyn these days.
Speaking of The Zombies…
Also check out BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING, thought not strictly swinging by a long shot, a really good look at London from around that time period.
Antonioni didn’t set out to make a “swinging London” film. H wanted to make a murder mystery set in London and the scene simply just happened to be going on. He was sharp enough to catch the zeitgeist in a bottle — a rare thing to do.
Rumor has it, Antonioni wanted the Velvet Underground originally but had to settle for the Yardbirds. I can’t see the VU fitting into the Swinging London scene but it would have been good exposure for them.
Wow! Thank you much you all for your help! I think I’ll start with Quadrophenia and Tom B’s list. :)
Actually Antonioni wanted The Who, but couldn’t get them.
they just accepted to perform at the halftime show of the super bowl! money talks.
just a word of warning, Quadrophenia isn’t really about “swinging” London. albeit a fantastic film about London mods and the character Jimmy’s spiral into drug-induced isolation and paranoia. Filmed in 1979, it maybe says more about the late 70s UK pop culture and British film industry of the time. But hey, it is well worth a watch. Tom’s recommendations however are probably, as Jeff says, the cream of the crop. But if you haven’t seen it do check out Performance. Good luck!
I was going to mention too that Quadrophenia isn’t really a ‘Swinging London’ movie because it was released so much later than the first batch. Like Abel said, it’s still a good film and well worth a watch,
I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of this little independent cult film that dealt with the mods. It was released in the late 60’s and I can’t think of its title. I haven’t seen it but those who have said it was a grim, low-key film. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?
Please tell me you’re referring to the VELVET UNDERGROUND and not THE WHO. That’s a halftime show I would watch.
Could you imagine the Velvet Underground performing ‘Heroin’ at the halftime show? haha
It sounds like it could be Bronco Bullfrog, but it’s only a guess.
Or just a 30 minute version of SISTER RAY?