Friday, September 07, 2007

Summer of British Film: Comedy

An old fart in a blazer is ringing the bell, so we must be starting the last week of the BBC's festival. The theme is comedy, but the fare looks disappointing compared with the earlier weeks.

There are three Aardman animations. These are great, of course, but haven't we seem them all several times before? And they're not really for grown ups, are they?

There a couple of Carry Ons: Camping and Spying. Good, but not the best in the series.

And there are, God help us, two Norman Wisdom films.

Even Lucky Jim is spoilt by the miscast Ian Carmichael.

If I have the energy left I shall tape and watch Oh! Mr Porter and The Battle of the Sexes. And there is also A Hard Day's Night. But unlike in most other weeks, there is no film here that I can say I have long wanted to see. Perhaps it is a bad selection, or perhaps comedy tends to date more than other film genres.

I have been picking the best film of the week, but none excites me enough this time. Instead let me pick the worse. Norman Wisdom's 1950s films were bad enough, with their mawkishness - we had to forgive Norman for being stupid because it was all for the orphans' Christmas party and he always got the girl despite being an immature idiot. (What would the sex have been like?)

Press for Time, made in 1966 in an attempt to update his image for the swinging decade, is far worse.

Instead of worrying about it, let me repeat an anecdote I heard from someone who acted as the straight man in Wisdom's stage show for many years.

One day Wisdom took him to one side and told him how much he admired his professionalism. "We've been working together all this time, and you've never cracked up during my act once." The straight man later commented: "I could hardly tell him: 'Norman, the reason I have never once laughed during your act is that I do not find it the remotest bit funny'."

Press for Time is on BBC2 at 1.30 p.m. on Monday 10 September. Don't watch it.

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