Against the Hollywood Grain: Trainspotting and Brassed Off

By Yacowar, Maurice | Queen's Quarterly, Summer 1997 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Against the Hollywood Grain: Trainspotting and Brassed Off


Yacowar, Maurice, Queen's Quarterly


MAURICE YACOWAR is Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Calgary.

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish between a revival and a death throe. For a case in point, consider the cinema of regional quick. As America's homogenizing commercialism colonizes the global film scene, occasional voices of dissent emerge from works that present a distinctly local habitation within the frame. Their flicker of lively difference is especially touching, fragile, and affirmative in the cinema of English-speaking countries. These are the cultures which -- to hijack Winston Churchill's apercu -- are separated from the United States by a common language.

THE case is especially interesting in Britain. True, most of the country's debate about its national identity centres upon assimilation into the new European Union: the currency, the uber-parliament, the threat of new industrial standards for such cultural essentials as beer and condoms. But in cinema the struggle for integrity is not against the French or German pressures (subtitles guard against that). It is against Hollywood.

The recent cinematic rediscovery of Jane Austen and Shakespeare shows Britain valiantly deploying its cultural heritage against US studios. Britain's classic literature weighs in heavily against the sense and sensibility of Tom Cruise and Arnie Schwarzenegger. But two recent films about the unemployed class, by their determined politics, suggest a more pertinent alternative to the colonization by Hollywood: regional realism.

At first view Mark Herman's Brassed Off! is a comfy, old-fashioned sort of film. In 1992, in the Yorkshire mining town of Grimley (the accent is on the "Grim"), the miners' brass band overcomes various obstacles to win the national championship. Sparking the otherwise all-male band is a pretty blonde surveyor, Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald), who returns to her home town and blows its flugel. This is the kind of film that would have come out of the Ealing Studios in the 1950s and 1960s. A village of eccentrics, united for a common cause, triumph both romantically and in their community mission. Thirty years ago it would have starred Alec Guinness or Alistair Sim as the band leader (and perhaps as two or three instrumentalists and the mine owner as well), with Shirley Eaton or Kay Kendall on the flugel. For political import in this diverting lark, one might have claimed its implicit celebration of English eccentricity.

But making an independent film today requires too much money and creative will to allow only an implicit politic, not to mention one of such comfortable sentiment. The world is too much with us these days, getting and monopolizing, homogenizing and spending. So the familiar character comedy of Brassed Off! is openly packaged as an anti-Tory polemic. The old bottle is dusted off to serve a new whine. It opens with a few sardonic definitions, such as "Tory" ("colloq. or derog. ... e.g., Margaret Thatcher"), "Redundancy" ("frequently British"), and "Colliery" ("a coal mine, or pit, one of many closed by the Tories").

The first shot is a line of dancing lights in the darkness. This is revealed to be light-helmeted miners at work in the dark. In redefining the initial impression of lightness as a sombre labour, this sequence encapsulates the film. The first sight gag suggests that the community is not as close as it might seem. Two women gossip over a fence. The long shot reveals that they are separated by another yard, in which a middle-aged man quips about how easy it is to get used to unemployment.

The musicians are anxious about the threatened closure of their mine. But to their conductor, Danny (Peter Postlethwaite, a craggy woebegone chap who is becoming as ubiquitous as Gerard Depardieu), "It's music that matters." He assumes that his 100-year-old band's success will survive the closure of the pit and the bankruptcy of his players. But while he leads his band to a victory in the regional semi-finals, the miners vote to accept a redundancy offer, effectively closing the pit.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Against the Hollywood Grain: Trainspotting and Brassed Off
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.