Sunday, 11 March 2012

Nothing But The Best (1964)

Aahhhhh, the Swinging 60s. London. A time and a place that, if you believe the movies, easily show a Great Britain that was still GREAT. The music was groovy, the sex wasn't overshadowed by the horror of HIV and the fashions were snappy and dapper. In fact, the more I see of 60s Britain the more I tend to side with people who try their best to incorporate some retro style in their wardrobe and lifestyle choices.

But there was also a battle to move up the ranks, a struggle for class and status more pronounced than anything that happens nowadays. Oh yes, the rich are now far richer than they ever were and the poor probably far poorer. The divide is certainly greater. But that middle ground, that mixture of people and finances and attitudes, is more turbulent and eclectic than ever before. You can work your way up for years but still, ultimately, find yourself in that middle ground.

Back in the 60s you could work yourself up and find yourself way up high, gazing down at the proles you used to toil alongside. Which is what Jimmy Brewster (Alan Bates) wants to do in this enjoyable, slightly perverse, comedy. To achieve his aim he decides to learn from, and model himself upon, Charles Prince (Denholm Elliott, on wonderful form). Unfortunately, tips and advice can only get you so far towards the next rung. To really make it to the top you need to clear some space by throwing others downward. Lucky for Jimmy that he seems to have the determination to go through with it.

A number of films from this decade are, unsurprisingly, about class and the trappings of any privileged social status. Thankfully, many of them are also very good films with this one being no exception. Nothing But The Best has a fun script by Frederic Raphael, fine direction by Clive Donner and a wonderful cast that starts off well with Bates and Elliott in the lead roles and then gets better and better with the performances from Harry Andrews, Millicent Martin, Pauline Delaney, James Villiers and everyone else involved.

Add many little details that make viewing a pleasure, plus cinematography by Nicolas Roeg, and you have a delightful black comedy that deserves to be given an airing occasionally (either on TV or, even better, on DVD) and to find an appreciative audience.


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