Monday, 22 July 2013

Joanna

I must confess to be deeply intrigued by that whole 'Swinging London/Sixties' thing.  I'm definitely drawn to the look of it and also, I must admit, to its bohemianism, but I am simultaneously repulsed.  I hate its selfishness, vapidity, its indulgence.  I realise, of course that it was to a large extent a myth, a piece of journalism, something that has entered the national psyche - a moment of cultural and stylistic victory when the world looked enviously upon us.  The truth is that the majority of the nation did not swing, in fact the majority of London did not swing.  It was at its core a demographically minute group of people, perhaps a few thousand, perhaps just a few hundred (I've heard as little as five hundred).  I suspect that there is always a core of middle and upper class people, and who are welcoming of creative types, who behave in this manner.  It merely swings in and out of the public consciousness.  The 'Sixties' group was particularly conspicuous in dress and behaviour after a period of austerity and social conservatism.
That explains why late Sunday afternoon the bf played the dvd of 'Joanna'.  It's been called the definitive portrayal of the 'Swinging Sixties'.  I'm not sure about that as I've never seen such other films as 'Blow Up', 'Smashing Time', or 'Qui etes-vous, Polly Magoo?'. That said 'Joanna' certainly has the look of it.  The photography is ravishing, the whole stylish.  There are a number of beautiful interiors: Joanna's grandmother's townhouse; Joanna's first boyfriend's sitting room; Joanna's married lover's bedroom (pale blue toile de jouy - walls, bedhead, and bedcover); Joanna's nightclub owning boyfriend's flat.  Yes, I am the sort of guy to notice.  Only two of the interiors were contemporary; the others a timeless Englishness.
The story is relatively simple: a naïve (faux-naïve) girl comes up to London to study at the RCA, and sleeps her way into the aristocratic core of swinging London.  However if only the film was so elegant as the interiors or the photography.  The film is in fact a bit of a dog's dinner:  the performances variable - what did, for instance, happen to Donald Sutherland's English accent?  Popped out for a swift pint?  The characters are not that likeable - 'Joanna' herself is immensely irritating, the others self-obsessed.  Are we to read anything into the fact that the sweetest character was a member of the aristocracy?  (Not that I mind that at all.)  And what on earth was that final chorus line doing in there?  I couldn't decide in the end whether the film was a celebration or a condemnation of what we were witness to such was it's ability to constantly undermine itself.  Well, that was perhaps the message - a scatter gun depiction of people whose lives were essentially chaotic but in a beautiful dressing-up box way.  However that isn't good enough a reason to make such a film, and as the train carrying 'Joanna' pulled out of Paddington station in the final scene with her gushing declaration of return, I expressed a wish for a small terrorist bomb further down the line.  Just to be certain.


Joanna
1968

Producer:           Michael Laughlin
Director:             Mike Sarne
Cinematography: Walter Lassally

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