Saturday, November 05, 2011

Lindsay Anderson: Britannia Hospital

This, my friends, is what a crazy anarchist movie looks like. Take the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (1933) -- shot during the Great Depression -- and mix in Jean-Luc Godard's Tout va bien / Everything's Fine (1972) with Luis Buñuel's Le Fantôme de la liberté / The Phantom of Liberty (1974) and class-conscious British sitcoms of the 1970s, with an added dash of horror, fantasy and science fiction, plus Robert Altman and voilà, presto -- there you have it.

Hotel Britannia (1982) is neither good for casual entertainment, nor is it the first Lindsay Anderson film to check out. As Anderson himself put it (quoted in the twelve-minute extra featuring Malcolm McDowell): "you need a strong sense of humor to understand the satire in Britannia Hospital." That said, it's very relevant for a sharper understanding of the dramatic global happenings of 2011.

The initial release of Britannia Hospital fared well in France, but it suffered from terrible timing on its release in the UK (thanks to the nationalistic, jingoistic and xenophobic enthusiasm of the Falklands/Malvinas War managed by Margaret Thatcher). In the USA, Ronald Reagan was in power, gearing up with his own foreign adventures. Today's underlying economic inequities were reinforced just then, as Anderson clearly observed. But Anderson's critique, along with others, largely fell on deaf ears thanks to the draw of unleashed greed and the pursuit of power. It's quite an interesting film, albeit with an ick factor and a slapstick feel, not too far off from the Pink Panther films. Its themes go deep, and its critique of class, power and the human condition cuts deep, as well.

Snippets of Britannia Hospital such as this brief one may be more evocative than the film as a whole. This one's very telling as to Lindsay's Anderson's worldview.   

Today's Rune: Movement.


Charles Gramlich said...

I think I'm in a transitional phase in my life. I used to really not like the strangeness of so much British cinema, but I've come to tolerate it, and now I'm moving in some cases toward appreciation.

Erik Donald France said...

Hey Charles, cool. It's interesting, the differences in language usage and attitude, between British and American.