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Critics reviews
Ken Loach United Kingdom, 1969
Loach tends to make films that are blunt, terse and didactic (often unapologetically so), and Kes is a story which (still) transcends time and place in its exploration into the limits of personal freedom. Knock-kneed northern runt Billy Casper (David Bradley) is like a walking whipping boy for everyone he encounters.
November 11, 2016
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Despite the overt symbolism of the bird, the film never feels contrived or hackneyed. Loach’s great accomplishment is that he manages to illicit pathos without relying on cheap sentimentality. Though the film is relentlessly bleak, there are moments of comic relief (most notably the football scene), and Billy retains some glimmer of resilience until the very end.
January 13, 2012
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Working out of his own production company instead of the BBC, Loach adapts the novel by Barry Hines (like Bradley, the son of miner), observing faces and places with semistaged candor taking its cue from Forman and Menzel rather than the unchained egotism of Angry Young Man theater.
May 01, 2011
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Kes’s narrative structure—a young boy finds hope and confidence through an art form and a nurturing adult—is terribly familiar at base level, but Loach stresses a sincerity in dialect, settings, and character development that is sobering in its lack of sentimentality.
April 20, 2011
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Kes stands apart in Loach’s career as his first full engage¬ment with cinema—his only previous theatrical film, Poor Cow (1967), being a transitional work following three years in television—and for other reasons: its remarkable blend of the magical aura of a children’s film with grim adult realities; its tacit belief in the transcendent power of nature; an indelible performance by the young lead, David Bradley, supported by an exceptional cast of non- and semiprofessionals…
April 19, 2011
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Loach isn’t usually associated with bucolic poetry, but I defy anyone to watch the kestrel-training sequences in Kes and not be impressed by the way the director conveys the uplift of Billy’s communion with nature. They can’t help but remind one, too, of British cinema’s perennial lack of imagination in the face of its most criminally underexplored resource, the varied beauty of the island’s natural landscapes.
July 01, 2007
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In 1969 Ken Loach took time out from an acclaimed television career to direct this quietly powerful narrative feature, a classic of British social realism… Working in the style of cinema verite, cinematographer Chris Menges captures the petty tyrannies of the provincial working class and the inchoate joys of a youngster stumbling toward the greater world.
January 01, 2007
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Despite truly bleak moments and an ambiguous finale, Loach infuses the film with enough warmth and humor to carry its audience along… Loach’s attention to detail consistently reveals aspects of daily life rarely featured on film.
October 01, 2003
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Contrasting the desolation and spiritual poverty of Billy’s oppressively confining environment against his liberating, almost meditative ritual of kestrel training in the open field, Loach creates a sublimely transitory, yet indelible image of natural communion, existential purpose, and transcendence.
January 01, 2003
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