Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) Directed by Karel Reisz
I was just about aware around the age of four, it's about as far back as my memory goes, of a lot of the things that appear in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. I mean that in a sense of the cars in this film could still be found on the streets of Britain in the early 70's, middle-aged men had quiffs, obviously the overriding influence of Elvis and Jimmy Dean on popular culture still reverberating. Those same middle-aged men were wearing the late 50's tailored suit style as opposed to the Hippy Look. Working in factories. Council houses. My father ticked all these boxes. He was an Italian version of Albert Finney's Arthur Seaton. Certainly that's how I remember him when I was four.
My father wasn't as angry as Seaton is in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Or maybe he was. Working class. Kitchen sink drama. It's this anger that still gives the picture its power. Forget Seaton's womanizing and boozing, that's his only way to crush the boredom and his injustice of being born the wrong side of the tracks. Seaton describes his parents as "They have a TV set and a packet of fags, but they're both dead from the neck up." Seaton's different: "I'm out for a good time - all the rest is propaganda!" or as Morrissey might say "Don't let the bastards grind you down!" Yes, pop culture has loved this film, even The Arctic Monkeys have got in on the act of taking their first album title from Seaton spewing"But if any knowing bastard says that's me I'll tell them I'm a dynamite dealer waiting to blow the factory to kingdom come. Whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not because they don't know a bloody thing about me! God knows what I am."
And that's why this is a landmark film and still resonates. We're all comfortable now, middle class, wanting anything we can get in our privileged lives. But the Arthur Seatons of this world still exist, waiting to tear down your dream-houses, pissing on your front door questioning your reason for living. Me? I'm with Seaton.
I had heard talk of the English kitchen sink drama, but never seen one until Saturday Night – Sunday Morning. If some Russians have managed to spy on the American way of suburban life á la 2000s, I feel like a spy entering the Northern English way of life of the 1960s.
This is the scruffy side of cinema, where glamor appears ridiculous and distant. The narrative and the camera are working towards creating 'reality'. Documenting the present in order to preserve the experience. It just so happens that in 2010 this 'reality' appears aesthetically more coherent and romantic than our own.
Arthur (Finney) is coarse and angry. Yet, he is endearing in his boyish manner. From the beginning of the film we gather that he is rebelling inside of his claustrophobic surroundings. He has an awareness of something bigger, newer and more free. However, during the course of the film his character becomes more and more tangled in the restricting conventions of his village.
Saturday Night – Sunday Morning offers excellent acting especially in the scenes between the main character and his older and married lover and then with his new young girlfriend. It is painful to see the married woman's loneliness as she considers abortion because she is expecting her lover's child. It is fun to witness the awkward exchanges between the beautiful new girlfriend and Arthur, as they develop a kind of love.
Will Arthur break away from the life ahead of him and move to a big city in the southern parts of England? The film doesn't tell. But in a way, many of the Arthurs of 'the real world' did.