' Cinema Romantico: Friday's Old Fashioned: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday's Old Fashioned: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

This 1960 UK production features a young, charismatic, ornery, self-righteous, clueless Albert Finney as Arthur, a machinist at a British factory who works hard during the week, takes that hard-earned money home to where he lives with his checked-out mother and father and then does himself up real nice in suits and ties to head downtown to the pub for a pint. Eh, make that several pints. And then several more. An early shot shows him in the midst of a deliriously drunken stumble falling down a flight of stairs, landing hard, rolling over and then......smiling. As if falling down those stairs was his aim the entire time.


He's seeing a girl. Well, make that a woman. A slightly older woman. That's Brenda (Rachel Roberts). Plus, uh, she's, like, married. Yeah. Married. To his co-worker, his co-worker who has a young kid with Brenda. Not that Arthur gives much of, shall we say, a damn. One of the film's original posters shows Finney standing at the center with his dukes up, like a young Jack Dempsey, and brings to mind Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" being asked just what the heck he's rebelling against and Brando replying "Whaddya got?" Arthur is rebelling against the dreary, settled lives of the old men he sees at the factory and of his parents who get along simply because they never speak and let the TV speak for them. But the twist, it seems, is not that Arthur has any "big dream", he just plans to LIVE HIS LIFE. That's his act of rebellion.

He meets a younger gal name Doreen (Shirley Anne Field, fetching to the hilt), who, as she musn't be, isn't like all the other girls. She's more polite, more refined, and has a strict mother. Arthur courts her anyway, even as he continues the affair with Brenda. But reality, as it must, interferes. Brenda reveals she is pregnant......with Arthur's baby.

Hold it, hold it, hold it. I know what you're thinking. Married woman pregnant with another guy's baby. Enter: melodrama. "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning", though, was among the first of the British "kitchen-sink dramas" and this pregnancy revelation isn't built to and is presented so matter-of-factly you don't groan at its development, you merely want to reach into the screen, grab Arthur, shake him, and repeatedly call him an idiot. He and Brenda barely even entertain a single thought of keeping the child at first and immediately turn to - without actually employing the word - an abortion. It is for this reason, and perhaps others, that the film in 1960 received an "X" rating from the British Board of Film Classification. As with any older film deemed shocking in its day it feels, in one way, tame to a modern audience. Yet, at the same time, its characters' casual disregard for the enormity of the situation into which they have gotten themselves is still brutal.



The film's conclusion, however, is mighty curious. It puts Arthur through the deserved ringer with the intention of having him emerge on the other end much more the wise, but still with that rebellious spirit intact as the last shot and line illustrate. Except this isn't necessarily how it plays. "You're gettin' off light, aren't you?" This is what Brenda says to Arthur late in the film. And, most shocking of all, this is how the movie ends. I don't mind a film - not at all - that concludes with its main character failing to learn from his gross misdeeds, because those movies can be powerful and resonate in their own way, as the long as the movie is aware of its intention.

I do mind a film, though, that seems to presume its main character hasn't gotten off light when it's fairly clear that he has.

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