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Attention Brits and Americans--a Discussion of British and American Films

Cat

over 2 years ago

@Polaris – love that you’re a fan of Keiller’s work, he doesn’t have enough attention around here…

@Sally – i still get confused with pants/trousers, it sounds funny. (what do americans call pants?) and the orange juice thing, if you ask for it you never know if you’re going to get the real thing or just squash.

Cat

over 2 years ago

““i think cat should give us a quick essay on keiller, greenaway, petit, kotting, ben rivers, whitehead, raban, welsby, keen, hogg etc…”

Totally agree. There’s your homework, Cat. Or would you say homework?"

hahhh, that’s something to think about. not sure I could talk about all of those…

VOLUPTE NOIR

over 2 years ago

Well, Greenaway and Hogg (now Keiller) are the only ones I have heard of, so I definitely could use a good tutorial.

Kenji

over 2 years ago

In the interests of limey-yank, i mean British-US, relations, i’ve done a Connecticut list

odilonvert

over 2 years ago

^ nice, Kenji!

Polaris​DiB

over 2 years ago

“@Polaris – love that you’re a fan of Keiller’s work, he doesn’t have enough attention around here…”

I was introduced to him in one of the greatest classes ever, “Postmodernism in the European Road Trip Movie”, which featured Keiller’s Robinson in Space, Wim Wender’s Alice in the Cities, and Aki Kaurismaki’s The Leningrad Cowboys Go America amongst things I had already seen like Stalker (YES!) and Sans Soleil (HELLS YES!). After the class the professor actually told me I had a personal responsibility to myself to read Borges Ficciones. It was awesome

But anyway, Keiller was presented as sort of a follow-up/counterpoint to the Sans Soleil mode. It’s similar, but of course very different, especially since Sans Soleil does not spend very much time in France so the alienation and “Otherness” of the footage being seen can in some sense be a little exoticist. Robinson in Space, as the title shows, is a discovery/exploration of alien space but this time the alien space is ostensibly familiar to Keiller himself. After those two movies, our class watched some Peter Hutton films like Skagasfjorder. Now Keiller’s flat almost rigid cinematography got counterpointed by a more abstract observational mode.

As I said, one of the greatest classes ever.

—PolarisDiB

Mutt

over 2 years ago

Inspired by Kenji’s sterling efforts on behalf of Oregon and Connecticut, I’ve just quickly put together a filmic introduction to my home county of Nottinghamshire. It’s a work in progress, so let me have your feedback…

Meet You at the Lions — Nottingham Goes to the Movies

Bad Story

over 2 years ago

Here’s a quote from Werner Herzog on the reunification of Ireland when speaking about the reunification of Germany.

“Ireland will and has to be reunited one day, Korea will be reunited one day, and we cannot abandon these quests.”

and from from Conquest of the Useless

“During the scene Mick was bitten on the shoulder by one of the monkeys and laughed so uproariously about it aftwerward that it sounded like a donkey braying. Whenever we take a break he distracts me with clever little lectures on English dialects and the development of the language since the late Middle Ages.”

The best accent for me has to be Australian. I worked with a South African Australian called Rayf, a real hench and muscley man, and instead of saying goodbye he would say “Cheers!”

Birmingham’s not a place well represented in films or television shows and in that respect is discriminated against, but micro-regional accents still vary. There was a heavy West Indian influence on the area so most of the kids here speak perfect and accurate patois.

You can watch Handsworth Songs on youtube.

..and the influence of central and south asian people, half of my workmates speak Punjabi and I’m looking forward for the BBC to finish making an asian sit-com called Citizen Kahn, maybe the first ever set in the area.

As for United States, I will buy property and move to Detroit one day. I’ve always had the feeling that city encapsulates the American dream more than any other, and with the collapse of industry people need to have real integrity and do things like urban farming to regenerate their neighbourhood. I even have a sweatshirt that says Detroit.

Rich Uncle Skeleton

over 2 years ago

Heh, I shamelessly use the word cookie. Though I also use the word biscuit. To me cookies are softer, sometimes more gooey (and hence generally more preferable) biscuits.

“question for the other brits: does the pants/trousers distinction still stand for you?”

It still stands true in my head, though I don’t really use the word pants at all: I prefer to just refer to them as underwear as I find that more modest (not sure if that’s the right word, but you know what I mean…).

“the orange juice thing, if you ask for it you never know if you’re going to get the real thing or just squash.”

Really? I’ve yet to ever have this problem…

Kenji

over 2 years ago

Nottingham has cornered the Robin Hood legend internationally but South Yorkshire also claims him. Now what is the truth?

Ali

over 2 years ago

I even heard he was once spotted on the Wirral.

Kenji

over 2 years ago

A case of measles or local plague? Ah yes, the Wirral has been known to have funny effects

Arcanus

over 2 years ago

You ask if the term “Brit” is offensive and the answer is no, it’s just a bit alien. Is the term “yank” offensive? British people don’t call themselves Brits (except jokingly) or even British usually. We call ourselves English, Scottish, Welsh etc. And “Irish” is far too complex to go into here.

I was interested to see how American people don’t seem to understand the complexity of accents in Britain. There are TWO separate dimensions: region and social class. Most well-educated British people speak “standard” English (RP = received pronunciation) but perhaps with a slight regional accent (standard RP is SE England-based). We perhaps regard the English spoken by Obama as “standard RP American” in this context: educated without a strong accent.

However there are very strong regional variations among the less educated working classes. These accents are particularly strong in Western Scotland, NW & NE England and the East End of London. On top of all that there are what might be called ethnic accents as spoken by Asian, Caribbean, Chinese Jewish and other immigrants to Britain (including in recent years many hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans). And of course, as well as accents, many working class British people make major grammatical mistakes in English, as do their US counterparts.

Linguistic usages and differences are also interesting. Apart from all the obvious and well-known ones (biscuit/cookie, lift/elevator, footpath/sidewalk, lorry/truck, caravan/trailer, car bonnet/hood, boot/trunk, petrol/gas) there are hundreds of other usages and spellings which cause confusion. However, most British people can usually work out what Americans are talking about in films (the major exception is probably black American English a la Spike Lee type films) but Americans (being more insular and less exposed to travel abroad) flounder more.

My recommendation is to do what I do with US films on DVD or on TV: switch on the sub-titles.

Ali

over 2 years ago

@Kenji – just mud, I expect.

ruby stevens

over 2 years ago

the most difficulty i’ve had recently was with four lions. i’ve been told it’s hilarious but couldn’t make head or tails of it. will try again with subs

Bad Story

over 2 years ago

Chris Morris is from Bristol.

ruby stevens

over 2 years ago

haha ^ like cary grant

Cat

over 2 years ago

Arcanus’ post is quite true. I wouldn’t call myself ‘British’, ‘English’ is far more comfortable to say.

the thing about accents is right, you can often tell what class someone is from depending on how they speak and the different words they might use.

Arcanus

over 2 years ago

^ Cat: Thankyou. “British” refers to citizenship. I have British citizenship and a British passport. But if someone asked me (say), “Are you Dutch?” I would answer “I’m English”. There is no such thing as a “British” accent. What less well-informed Americans call a “British accent” usually refers to standard upper-middle-class educated Southern English (eg as spoken by film actors like Judi Dench, John Cleese, Hugh Grant etc, or by politicians like David Cameron, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher etc.) Maybe 20% of English people speak line that.

When Britons meet each other for the first time, the first thing they notice about each other is their accent and speech mode. Instantly one places the other socially, educationally and regionally and it lets people know if they are likely to have much in common with each other. This works both ways: a working class person with poor English might instantly dislike someone with what he perceived as a snobbish “posh” accent whilst a “posh” person might well instantly look down on someone seen as being “common”. What is very interesting is that many people talk up/talk down to a stranger so as to minimise these differences: a highly educated person might use simpler words when speaking to someone less educated and someone with a lethal regional accent will move more towards standard English. I assume similar things happen in the USA.

Kenji

over 2 years ago

Since Scotland has had a parliament, Wales and N.Ireland an assembly, English people seem to have become more aware of their Englishness. When i went to watch Wales play England at Wembley in the 70s, the English had Union flags everywhere- now they would have English ones

Arcanus

over 2 years ago

Possibly. However, whilst the trend towards asserting Scottish and Welsh nationalism is positive (ie re-asserting the right to nationhood within the UK and preventing being swamped by the “English” majority – nearly 90% of the British live in England), the increased awareness of “Englishness” is sadly tinged with racist connotations. For example the “English” flag of St George is strongly linked to the racist English Defence League and to English football voilence.
I fear we are off topic and should return to the subject of film.

Drunken Father Figure of Old

over 2 years ago

a highly educated person might use simpler words when speaking to someone less educated and someone with a lethal regional accent will move more towards standard English. I assume similar things happen in the USA.

Weird – As far as I know, similar things don’t happen in the USA… or, at least, to that extent. Generally, you can’t tell a person’s class from their accent… just their region (i.e. many rich and many poor Southerners have Southern accents). The notable exception is African American Vernacular English which is a whole other clusterfuck of conflicting viewpoints and generalizations.

Bad Story

over 2 years ago

Yeah, Ruby. Cary Grant. Banksy is another notable resident. Bristol gets all the fun.

All this hoo-hah about placing people actually gets easier when you’ve spent time living in more than one area of England; Birmingham, London, Manchester etc (it is a small Island in comparison to USA).

Incidentally, I have a thirty old German friend, so not even originally English, who spent his childhood in a deprived area of Hamburg until age fifteen when he moved with his family to a lower middle class place in South London. It wasn’t until recently he suddenly developed Standard English, which he now somehow speaks better than most properly educated southerners. Quite remarkable. He will be writing plays for Radio Four in no time.

And on the topic of whether British or English is more comfortable, that’s why the Scottish and Welsh National Parties both have my full support for devolution of parliament, whereas the English Defence League and the European far right will always remain an angry minority.

toodead

over 2 years ago

my pa tottersdown in brizzle! :) (local reference)

the most difficulty i’ve had recently was with four lions. i’ve been told it’s hilarious but couldn’t make head or tails of it

haha ruby, that’s half the local accent where i live, it isn’t exaggerated one bit. and i never thought much of it apart from the occasional ‘innit’ until i saw four lions. now i crack up every time i get on a bus, bro. ‘rubber dinghy rapids!’

the EDL has too much support here :(

Kenji

over 2 years ago

BFI 100 20th century

AFI 100 2007

Arcanus

over 2 years ago

^ 2 very interesting (if fairly predictable) lists. The only real oddities seem to be the inclusion of “Don’t Look Now” in the British Top 10 and the inclusion of “Singing in the Rain” and the sickening “Gone With The Wind” in the US Top 10. I would say the #1 in each case (The Third Man and Citizen Kane) is pretty well 100% acceptable.

odilonvert

over 2 years ago

I’ll agree with DFFOO. People do notice accents associated with class (Good Fellas vs. Metropolitan) but it’s not a big deal the way it is in England. What talks, and gets the most respect in America is money.

ruby stevens

over 2 years ago

@twodead – i will keep that in mind and in future read your posts w/regional accent (once i’ve practiced a bit)

Santino

over 2 years ago

^That’s actually an interesting notion.

When people read comments from users, do you read them with a particular accent? In other words, do you read all comments with your native accent, even if you know they are from somewhere else?

For instance, I knew Rumplesink was from Scotland and I used to try to imagine a Scottish accent when I read his comments. But I had such a hard time hearing anything except my own American accent.

I wonder if other people do the same thing.

odilonvert

over 2 years ago

I for one cannot do that, Santino. HOW do you even do that?? lol