Here we continue, what will probably eventually become known as, the ill-fated journey of watching each of the British Film Institute’s 100 best films of the 20th Century. Starting at 100 and working my way to Orson Welles’ The Third Man at number 1. I’ll try to keep these blogs relatively spoiler free and I’ll consider them only a small record of moving through this series.
An early start on my 3 hours of guitar practice this morning left me with an extra couple of hours in the middle of the day, so I decided to pick up the long neglected BFI 100 list, from where I last left it in September 2016 – number 85. Now, it’s surprising that I’d not yet seen Mark Herman’s 1996 comedy-drama, Brassed Off; a film telling the story of coal-mine closures in the early 90s – as it does – through the eyes of the Colliery’s brass band. Surprising, because my girlfriend of the time performed in a brass band, playing euphonium, and from memory seemed to love this film. To my shame I dismissed it as a romantic comedy, something it very much is not.
Brassed Off is a moving depiction of the struggles faced by miners as privatisation of the industry forced many pits to close, and the film – and possibly more the music therein – moved me to tears more than once. The tone of the film occasionally feels dated. Gloria, Tara Fitzgerald’s character, for instance, faces the odd moment of casual sexism; and of course coal is somewhat problematic in today’s climate (both figuratively and literally). The characters, however, have so much charm that you root for them from the off, and despite a 2018 understanding that clean energies are the way forward; to see these people struggle with their impending unemployment is deeply moving. The sentiment expressed at the end of the film in particular, especially for someone that grew up in a post-industrial, ex-mining town, under Thatcher.
While I felt this was a film I’d just have to “get through”, I sit here writing afterwards, and I can’t recommend it more highly.