Wednesday, February 02, 2005

British films: not so cosy

On 17 February Matthew Sweet will publish his Shepperton Babylon. It's a great title, promising a British equivalent of Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon. The Faber website describes it as:

a history of home-grown movies that includes the scandals, the suicides, the immolations and the contract killings - the product of thousands of conversations with veteran film-makers.

It's not just that this is a fascinating subject in itself, but Sweet is the author of one of the most remarkable history books I know: Inventing the Victorians.

In it he argues that we have got the Victorians all wrong. They were not as, well, Victorian as we imagine. They did not cover the legs of pianos because they thought them indelicate - that was a joke they told at the expense of the prudish Americans. (See this column of mine, which acknowledges its debt to Sweet, for more details.) John Ruskin was not dumbfounded by the sight of his bride's pubic hair on their wedding night. And Prince Albert did not have a Prince Albert.

Sweet is talking on British films at the University of Warwick on 26 February. Full details here.

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