Flipside 009: Permissive

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MichaelB
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Flipside 009: Permissive

#1 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:35 pm

Full specs announced:
In January 2010 the BFI will issue Lindsay Shonteff's Permissive (1970) on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the Flipside collection.

When Suzy arrives in London to visit an old school friend, she is unwittingly plunged into the ruthless world of the 'groupie'. Fuelled by sex, drugs and jealousy, her new lifestyle fosters in her a cold, cynical instinct for survival. But tragedy is never far away.

With its effective blend of gritty location work, brooding flash-forward devices, and a soundtrack by cult acid folk and prog rock legends Comus, Forever More – who also star – and Titus Groan, Permissive is a dark British counter-cultural artefact that's shot through with grim authenticity.

As a bonus, this release also includes Stanley Long's ultra-rare Bread, a film which, whilst exploring the same cultural milieu as Permissive (and featuring its own bona fide cult British rock band, Juicy Lucy), takes a somewhat more light-hearted approach to its subject.

Special features:
• All films transferred to High Definition
• Original Permissive trailer
Bread (Stanley Long, 1971, 79 mins): whilst hitch-hiking back from the Isle of Wight Festival, a group of friends decide to stage their own music event. But how will they afford it?
Bread – outtakes (13 mins): newly transferred from the original negative
'Ave You Got a Male Assistant Please Miss? (Graham Jones, Jon Astley, 1973, 4 mins): a humorous short film in which a 'permissive' couple are given some useful advice
• Extensive illustrated booklet with contributions by I.Q. Hunter and Lee Dorrian, and Comus band-members' recollections of working with Lindsay Shonteff
Last edited by MichaelB on Mon Nov 30, 2009 8:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Peacock
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Re: Flipside: Permissive

#2 Post by Peacock » Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:58 pm

Nice to see some more Flipside releases coming
makes me wanna ask:

How long till we get Guy Hamilton's The Party's Over?

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Re: Flipside: Permissive

#3 Post by MichaelB » Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:30 am

No idea - has it been announced as a Flipside release, or are you just speculating?

Anyway, I'm happy to confirm that the Permissive Blu-ray will be region-free.

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GaryC
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Re: Flipside: Permissive

#4 Post by GaryC » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:18 pm

The Party's Over is one I'd like to see, whether or not it's the BFI who release it. It was originally BBFC-banned, then heavily cut on its cinema release, but apparently an uncut print exists. (As per IMDB.)

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Re: Flipside: Permissive

#5 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Nov 13, 2009 7:30 pm

Excellent - I can upgrade from the old Jezebel VHS of Permissive! This film features Madeleine and Mary Collinson, who were Playboy's first identical twin centrefolds, as groupies! Their short careers culminated in their titular roles as the Twins of Evil, one of the late Hammers which had an amusing "one's good and virginal, one's been seduced by a vampire...but which one's which?" plot.

Nice to see that some of the Joy of Sex Education features are being recycled onto these latest discs. Perhaps they might work to inspire the curious to pick up that DVD as well when they might ordinarily have not approached it!

I also really like that we have Privilege and Permissive released together to show the pop idol/groupie era from both side's perspectives!


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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#7 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jan 15, 2010 8:14 am

DVD Active - a 4,300 word rave by the Wilson Brothers.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#8 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jan 15, 2010 8:29 am


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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#9 Post by antnield » Mon Jan 25, 2010 8:21 am

DVD Times on the Blu.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#10 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:26 pm

Beaver on the Blu.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#11 Post by MichaelB » Tue Jan 26, 2010 7:06 pm

DVD Outsider on the Blu.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#12 Post by cdnchris » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:59 am


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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#13 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jan 31, 2010 3:16 pm

DVD Times on the DVD.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#14 Post by MichaelB » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:20 pm


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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#15 Post by MichaelB » Tue May 25, 2010 11:08 am

Mubi (The Auteurs as was) - Glenn Kenny on both Permissive and the BFI Flipside range in general.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#16 Post by zedz » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:25 pm

I picked up a few Flipside releases in the recent sales and have been working through them, so. . .

This film has obvious flaws, particularly in the performances and characterization, but it also has an odd, grim power. Maggie Stride's blankness works to draw you in to the film, and the film attains an air of seedy desperation without taking the obvious route through hysterical sensationalism. The plot is sort of aimless and lurching, but even that's a nice change from the numbingly predictable beats of most scripts. The modish flash forward cutting doesn't add much to the enterprise. Also - big surprise - the music was generally very good, and certainly persuasive enough to keep that side of the story plausible and provide a rhythm for the film when the action was (deliberately) becalmed or repetitive.

Most of the Flipside films serve as fascinating social documents, and Permissive is no exception, but there's more to enjoy besides that. I'm not sure the same can be said about the largely dreadful second feature Bread, which is exactly the sort of derivative, amateurish mess you'd expect from a bunch of stoned friends deciding "Hey, let's make a movie right here!" Admittedly, this was harder to pull off in the late sixties than it is in the digital age, but the end result isn't much more enlightening than today's laziest DV insta-feature.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#17 Post by Gregory » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:33 pm

Interesting to read your take on this, zedz, because with many things competing for time and money, I've found it difficult to justify blind-buying many of the Flipside releases* with the expectation that they'll be valuable mainly as "social documents." Even with the recent/current low prices, I had a hard time pulling the trigger on things like Permissive. I was tempted to buy it solely on the basis of Comus soundtrack appearances and bit parts, but after seeing the trailer for it on the Kim Newman's Guide to the Flipside of British Cinema disc, I felt I'd definitely made the right choice in passing on it, at least for now.

*Very glad I bought Privilege last year, and Herostatus is in the mail (we shall see).

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#18 Post by zedz » Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:23 pm

You're probably right. I only picked this up because they were ridiculously cheap and I'm a sucker for 'social documents' - and I was pleasantly surprised with it. All the Right Noises is a really good film, however, and might have more rewatch value.

Herostratus is weird enough to be worthwhile, even though I didn't think it was wholly successful.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#19 Post by MichaelB » Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:55 am

This will be reissued as a Dual Format edition on October 24 - details here.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#20 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Sep 14, 2015 6:35 am

"Man does not live by bread alone"
"Maybe not, but I'm starving"

Major spoilers:

This was a fantastic film. What initially seems as if it is going to be a rather charmingly dated look at a naive girl coming to London to meet her friend, having the strange concept of a 'groupie' explained to her and partaking in some of the band's handrolled 'special cigarettes' before getting passed around in a similar fashion to the doobie turns into a surprisingly sexually frank and unsparingly, brutally piercing and insightful film. It's less about charting the band or the music (though this is definitely going to be part of my musical list, with its wall to wall performance soundtrack) but about the ruthless social climbing that occurs even within a social group seemingly as casual as a bunch of girls waiting to service the musicians once they are off stage!

The film features a rather unorthodox editing style in which even from the very first scene we keep getting brief premonitory flashes of future events. This might just be having recently come off the videogame Until Dawn in which various characters kept encountering steadily more unnerving 'totems' showing future actions from the most mundane to their own deaths, but Permissive appears to have gotten there 45 years earlier! We see flashes showing everything from simply the next scene just before the current one (say Suzy meeting up with Fiona again once the band comes back to London. But is this also the first film to feature someone getting a vision of performing oral sex in their future?), to key 'death events' of someone lying dead in a road or a bloody razorblade on the side of a bathtub. Or someone in their happiest and most triumphant moment at the top of the pecking order of groupies intercut with brief flashes of their dead eyes.

That sort of removes a lot of the suspense about the final outcome of the film, but instead replaces it with a sense of foreboding throughout all of the early scenes. We see Suzy arrive in London bundled up in a figure-hiding duffle coat. She visits her friend Fiona who has sort of climbed the groupie ladder to be attached to the lead singer of a band, Lee (quite literally, as Suzy is told by the slimy road manager Jimi to walk in on Fiona and Lee whilst they are having sex). Fiona takes Suzy in, after getting her to change clothes (foreshadowing, as this will not be the last thing that Suzy borrows!) and introduces her to the groupie lifestyle.

For some reason Suzy is attracted to the slimy road manager Jimi (perhaps power attracts?), who uses and then casually discards her, throwing Suzy out onto the streets with the other nameless girls the next morning ("I thought he liked me. Oh, I thought he was marvellous. Until he left me lying on the floor") despite Fiona's protests of wanting Suzy to come with the band when they gig up north. Before she goes Fiona tells Suzy to ask another girl who will be following another band at the club that evening and they will be able to put her up until Fiona and her gang get back the next week. Unfortunately on visiting this other girl Suzy gets introduced to the way that every band seems to have a discreet bunch of groupies at war with their own interpersonal rivalries, and when one of the members of this new band makes a complimentary comment towards Suzy, the other girl literally throws her out of the place, telling her not to come back.

The film then moves into its homelessness section, as Suzy re-encounters a guy she briefly met backstage, who is a full on meditating hippie type (though with cut glass accent) who calls everyone "Man" in every sentence (even the female Suzy!). He is named Pogo (I wish Suzy had responded with "Oh, like the stick?") and they go around the streets of London in a few 'state of the nation' scenes, sleeping rough in graveyards, scrabbling through the rubble of bombed out houses still existing decades after World War Two (a few years later Derek Jarman's Jubilee also took advantage of these types of still extant locations for his apocalypic vision), and having cosy chats in what is perhaps the most desolate, dangerous and uninviting looking children's playground that has ever been put onto film!

One of the great aspects of this film is all of the on location scenes such as these. Earlier in the film as Suzy arrives in London there are lots of great shots of her wandering the streets of London that are full of historical interest now. There are also some regular 'on the road' shots of the countryside outside of London as viewed from the band's van, in which we see beautiful images of clouds in the sky and fields passing by as the band travels to their next destination.

This sequence climaxes in Pogo and Suzy visiting a church ("We shouldn't be here" "It's OK Man, they don't charge admission") in which he decides to climb up to the pulpit and deliver a rant about the state of the nation to Suzy and a couple of dozing parishioners before the police arrive to take him away. This I think is an early example of the seeming contrarian streak running through drop out counter culture subscribers - Pogo wants to deride society, but at the same time appears to be wanting to be up there on the pulpit himself, rather than tear the institution down. Perhaps it is the naivete of the audience in seeing a meditating hippie and assuming that he's only got ideas of peace and love on his mind, when perhaps he is more ambitious than that. Perhaps it is best not to underestimate, or let your guard down, around people such as Pogo. Or later Suzy.

Anyway the first of the 'death events' arrives, as Pogo gets knocked down by a car, and we cut to Fiona having arrived back consoling Suzy with a brutally blunt 'life goes on and these things happen every day' response. This seems to be the turning point for Suzy and soon she is laser focused on shagging her way through various key members of bands (including nailing the guy in the other band from earlier, which lets Suzy get her own back on that girl who attacked her) all watched with a surprisingly hypocritically moralising eye by Lee, Jimi and their other semi-comatose bandmates. Only Lee can really afford to give lectures due to his relationship with Fiona, but of course when Suzy calls his bluff that almost immediately and upsettingly falls apart, leading to Fiona angrily reacting to Suzy muscling in on her relationship, and perhaps realising that her relationship with Lee wasn't as secure as she had thought it was.

Does Suzy know what she is doing? I think she is well aware but we are seeing her moving up in the heirarchy until the relationship between Lee and Fiona is the one last obstacle to surmount. Suzy has gone from literally homeless and sleeping rough, thrown out of the band's hotel room with other anonymous girls once they are done with using her for the night, to with Fiona's help actually having a place to sit in the band's van and a hotel room of her own.

We see Suzy move from a sort of initial sensitivity of asking exactly why she needs to hook up with a guy at all, to a kind of jaded acceptance of playing the game fully if that is what is necessary, at whatever cost. The scene of Suzy's discovery of Fiona's suicide in the hotel bathtub is beautifully played, as she initially doesn't see the bathtub but is going back for the tweezers that Fiona took a scene or two before, whilst the audience can see the body in the mirror behind her. Then on seeing the body the audience might expect Suzy to perhaps react with shock (or at least surprise) and break down into tears realising the error of her ways and the effect that it has had on her friend. Instead she stops, impassively takes a look at her friend's body, then walks out of the bathroom shutting the door behind her. Cut to Lee on stage singing again until the final perfectly frozen freeze frame at the end of his song, over which the end credits play.

But strangely I don't think that we are just meant to take this as just a naive girl getting jaded and uncaring about who she destroys on the way to the top of the heap. I think this film has a surprisingly complex take on women's sexual liberation during this period and on the practice of casual sex in general. There feels like the suggestion that with liberation inevitably comes exploitation (all those breasts and frank sexuality on display in the early part of the film), a shift in gender roles of passive and aggressor (who takes control of the scene between Jimi and Suzy in the bathroom? The man walking in on a woman in only a towel, or the woman who then backs him up against the wall and unzips his flies?), and a whole new set of conflicts that were not quite there in the same way as before.

We see Suzy and Fiona navigating this world (along with the other women who are casually sketched in, such as the lesbian who briefly takes advantage of comforting Suzy after Fiona has beaten her up), actively fighting for their positions within it. Though it could be argued that this is not exactly a feminist piece, as the women here all have their status defined by what man they are currently with and who they have been with before. It could perhaps be argued that this film shows women getting diverted into backstabbing and destroying each other, rather than any form of gender solidarity! Though I guess this isn't really the kind of millieu in which to expect that!

But for all the flaws the female characters show, the male characters come out of this the worst. Most of the band members don't seem to be able to keep awake whenever they are not on stage, suggesting that all of their energy is confined to their on stage performances with little kept in reserve. There is little or no deeper interest paid to any of the groupies except for casual sex and eyeing up of the latest girls to parade themselves before their eyes and certainly no sense of responsibility for anyone or commitment to anything but the music. Fiona's greatest tragic flaw was that she thought that her relationship with Lee, presumably because it had lasted a while and was seemingly monogamous, was an actual relationship. The scene in which Lee breaks up with her makes it clear that it was not just that Suzy muscled in on their relationship, but that there was no relationship, at least from Lee's point of view. That's a shattering moment.

Anyway, this is a fantastic film in which the band themselves, although they provide the catchy soundtrack, regular performance footage and the framework for the groupie drama, are in no way the focus of the action of this film. The emphasis is much more on all of the stuff going on around that, downplayed almost into irrelevancy, centre: the fascinating internecine backstage fighting and manipulations for position.

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Re: Flipside 009: Permissive

#21 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Sep 15, 2015 2:21 pm

Spoilers:

I was not hugely impressed by Bread, the bonus film on the disc, though it has a few fun moments. A bunch of hippies decide to camp out in the garden of a big mansion and then after the man of the house agrees to their ruse to have them paint it whilst he is away, the hippies decide instead to restore a dilapidated old classic car in his garage and go on a quest for performers to play at an impromptu concert in the grounds of the mansion.

There are a lot of broad comedy bits and quite a bit of seemingly unfaked dangerous driving scenes in this! That moment when three people (and a dog!) are in the two seater car and also try and transport long planks of wood on it, that are twice the size of the car itself, is pretty ridiculous!

The whole thing is presented as a bunch of friends larking about with youthful hijinks. I’m not sure if the audience is supposed to identify with them, but I found the three guys in particular to be pretty annoying! Mainly for their shallow attempts at getting money for their concert, from wanting to rob a bank (but “only a little one”), to making a porno (which gets derailed when one of the guys fails to perform and they realise that they have nowhere to develop their film) to eventually just badgering groups into performing for free. Their two girlfriends get used for a couple of nude scenes but otherwise drop out for an extended period of time during the final section of the film. Really the only relatable character in the bunch is the dog! I love the scene when it is asleep on the couch next to one of the other guys!

As bad as these characters are though, we get an even worse mansion owner to make them look better in comparison, although I did end up feeling a little sorry for him by the end of his scenes! He gets introduced coming home drunk with his wife and finding a tent in his garden, angrily tries to throw the characters out and then passes out. The wife gets a couple of the guys to carry him inside but then in a weird scene (this is very early on in the film too) blocks one of them from leaving and insists that they have sex next to the passed out body of her husband! The husband has no idea afterwards (cue a lot of knowing smirks from the hippies and meaningful looks from the wife) and so gets them to paint his house for him whilst he is away during the week. The wife disappears from the film entirely at this point too, so the only point to the earlier scene was to throw in a bit of full frontal nudity in there. It is quite strange, as the film starts off like a sexploitation piece with these scenes (and one in which the husband watches one of the hippie girls walk nude out and back into the tent), but then apart from the attempted porno scene a little later the hippies turn out to be rather prudish (as well as extremely sneering and rude towards a porn shop owner and his customers!) and the sexy aspects all get dropped for the more lighthearted car driving and ‘let’s put on a show’ stuff! It sort of feels like the film cannot decide what it wants to go for, so tries a little of everything. It was unsurprising to find out from the booklet essay that Stanley Long, the director of Bread went on to the “Adventures of…” sex comedy films competing against the Robin Askwith starring "Confessions of..." films later on! This feels tonally similar, just with a musical backdrop to it.

The most interesting thing about the film is that it seems more concerned with the logistics of the show rather than the music itself, spending as much if not more time during the final concert on the entrepreneurial sausage roll stall and cans of Coca-Cola getting raided by ravenous concert goers (fascinating to find out that there was a time when cola cans didn't have a ring pull and apparently had to be punctured by a vendor with a device before they handed the can over!), or trinkets being sold out of the back of cars, or the frustration that our ‘hippies’ have about a bunch of anti-establishmentarians not coming through the front gate and paying an entrance fee but instead hopping the fence (who would have expected such a thing!)

I’m not sure it really is much of a ‘hippie’ piece then, though the film neatly foreshadows its more entrepreneurial and ambitious aims in its opening credits sequence showing the Isle of Wight festival with our characters complaining about the ticket prices and featuring footage of threatening Hell’s Angels-types climbing over fences to patrol the festival! There are also lots of crowds of hippies climbing on and off the ferry after the festival, immediately suggesting the potential number of exploitable music fans our heroes (and the filmmakers themselves) can mercenarily pander to! I particularly liked the pointed shots in that early Isle of Wight footage of a field full of discarded food wrappers and drink cans! Environmentalists would have an aneurysm at this shot! Yet just think of all the money that must have been made from selling all that food! I wonder, though this may be giving the film too much credit, if there is a sense of irony that at the end the hippies similarly abandon the clean up of the concert they have organised once it has served its use and leave the angry owner of mansion behind with a giant stage in his garden, telling him to keep it and that it might then inspire him to throw his own concert! That's capitalism for you (and an early version of the Millennium Dome?), I suppose!

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