Flipside 007: Privilege

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MichaelB
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Flipside 007: Privilege

#1 Post by MichaelB » Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:38 pm

Full specs announced:
In January 2010 the BFI will issue Peter Watkins' Privilege (1967) on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the Flipside collection.

Steve Shorter, the biggest pop star of his day, is loved by millions; his approval or endorsement can guide the choices and actions of the masses. But, in reality, he is a puppet whose popularity is carefully managed by government-backed handlers keen to keep the country's youth under control. Only an act of complete rebellion can set him free.

Starring Manfred Mann lead singer Paul Jones as Shorter, and iconic Sixties supermodel Jean Shrimpton as the girl who tries to help him defy the system, Privilege is the third feature from provocative British director Peter Watkins, a filmmaker whose unique vérité-style and oppositional themes have continually met with controversy throughout his career.

Remastered in high-definition and made available in the UK for the first time since its original cinema release, Privilege is presented here with two of Watkins' earliest film works.

Special features:
• All films remastered to High Definition
• Original trailer
The Diary of an Unknown Soldier (Peter Watkins, 1959, 17 mins): a compelling short film in which a young solider in the trenches of the First World War shares his innermost feelings
The Forgotten Faces (Peter Watkins, 1961, 17 mins): a gripping newsreel-style account of the peoples' uprising in Hungary, 1956, given forceful authenticity by Watkins' unique approach
• Extensive illustrated booklet with essays by Peter Watkins, film historian Robert Murphy, and Watkins specialist John Cook.
Sadly, I can confirm that the Blu-ray will definitely be Region B - a non-negotiable contractual condition laid down by rightsholders Universal Pictures. However, the other two January Flipside Blu-ray releases, Permissive and That Kind of Girl, will be region-free.
Last edited by MichaelB on Mon Nov 30, 2009 8:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Flipside: Privilege

#2 Post by perkizitore » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:59 am

Bummer! Did this got delayed until June, as Moviemail implies?
Last edited by perkizitore on Thu Dec 10, 2009 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#3 Post by MichaelB » Mon Nov 30, 2009 8:07 am

Sadly, due to a delay in securing the right mastering materials, Privilege will only be released on DVD on 25 January, with the Blu-ray to follow at some unspecified point later in 2010. I'll update when I have more details: that's literally all I know at the moment.

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#4 Post by RossyG » Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:31 pm

That's a shame, but I don't mind waiting. It'll be worth it.

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#5 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jan 15, 2010 8:34 am

Cinedelica (a review of the DVD; the Blu-ray is still delayed).

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#6 Post by Awesome Welles » Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:08 pm

Obviously we're all waiting for the Blu but at £7.98 this is pretty hard to pass up!

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#7 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:33 pm


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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#8 Post by antnield » Tue Feb 09, 2010 7:03 am


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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#9 Post by MichaelB » Thu Mar 25, 2010 8:32 am

I can now confirm that the Blu-ray will be out on May 17.

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#10 Post by RossyG » Fri Mar 26, 2010 2:13 pm

Brilliant news. :)

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#11 Post by Duncan Hopper » Sun May 16, 2010 3:38 pm

The Blu review is up on Beaver, they think its had some edge-enhancement.

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#12 Post by MichaelB » Wed May 26, 2010 6:44 pm

DVD Outsider on the Blu-ray.

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#13 Post by frankiecrisp » Sun May 30, 2010 11:56 am

Anyone noticed on the back of the blu-ray box. BFI Flipside Presents Privilege A film by Pete Walker.

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#14 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jun 03, 2010 10:13 am


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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#15 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jun 11, 2010 4:33 pm


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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#16 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jun 14, 2010 5:07 am


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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#17 Post by MichaelB » Wed Jun 16, 2010 9:05 am


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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#18 Post by MichaelB » Wed Sep 28, 2011 8:56 am

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

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#19 Post by jamie_atp » Wed Sep 12, 2012 8:22 pm

Considering it came out years before the Flipside release, do Sloan win the prize for most obscure film reference in a music video?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_ON9YJs6RM" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#20 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Mar 22, 2015 8:06 pm

The coalition government of Britain, formed because of the complete lack of difference between the policies of the Conservative and Labour parties, has given its blessing and a state subsidy to the mounting of Christian Crusade week. Because as the official pamphlet states, "We need to no longer have any disturbing political differences when we are all of one faith and believe in one God and one Flag"
A fantastic piece of blackly comic polemic, as scathing about organised religion and celebrity as The Devils, and just as funny! Strangely this film, despite being rooted in 60s pop culture, perhaps is more relevant to today's culture than ever. The plot involves a teen idol pop star who has a bad boy persona and regularly does performance art-style on stage mortification rituals 'drawn from life' of being put in prison and then released through the power of squealing teen (and middle-aged housewife) groupies, and what happens when his managers start manipulating his image in association first with government policies about getting everyone eating six apples a day (to get the surplus down), and then when the church decides that they want to use Steve Shorter's conversion to true faith to bring his young audience back to regular worshipping.

Even during the first jailbird performance, Steve Shorter is already a kind of uncomfortable figure of unquestioned worship by his legions of adoring fans. The film is audacious in its suggestion that it doesn't take much to have the underlying ideology of an act completely change as long as the figurehead remains the same, and lends their stamp of approval to the new message of going from rebellion to repentance.

It is a film that lets nobody off the hook. It is scathing about the manipulative celebrity managers (yes men, but always with an eye towards making more money and doing whatever pleases the investors more than protecting their client); the wider society (1984-esque situations of monolithic government or religious bodies getting their unpalatable message bluntly put across beneath the figure of a currently in vogue celebrity endorsement, with an uncompromising fanatical zeal); the earnestness of the pretentiously artistic (with terribly shocking avant garde points of view, yet espousing them while sipping champagne with their oligarch father. And wanting innovative entertainment, but also needing it to be sanitised and mass market replicable rather than disturbingly one off); is upset by the over emotional and easily led audience just waiting to be told what to think next; and is even scathing towards the two lead performances themselves from our impossibly beautiful, yet strangely impassive and blank, couple, acting like posable mannequins just waiting to be put into correct positions to sell the best products. That leaves a disturbing unrelatable blankness at the heart of the film, though in some ways that makes the later sections when Steve is lashing out against Vanessa or trying and failing to orate a damning speech at an award ceremony, more upsetting rather than less, as it feels as if these 'beautiful people' are struggling to articulate emotions and anger towards their situation that they cannot really understand. Instead their beauty hardens into a shell masking their emotional immaturities (although the immaturities still regularly break through in Steve's case, from the adolescent lashing out at authority figures, to Clockwork Orange-style becoming the figurehead of a new form of control without ever really changing at all. Rather the society does around him, and wants different things to be embodied by him).

This all sounds rather bleak, and indeed it does feel that way, but it is also extremely funny too! Especially the deliriously ecstatic government ad extolling the chivalrous virtues of apples, although this section involving the filming of the advert is itself only a precursor to when the church gets involved! There is a brilliant shot of a bunch of Bishops all in a recording studio (one of whom is just barely gritting his teeth and getting through it, who is also the only one who raises concerns about the cheapening of religion but who gets completely ignored by his companions!) listening to a 'groovy' version of "Onward Christian Soldiers" by a Beatles-style boy band all dressed in monk robes (even with sandals and tonsures! Though a couple of band members still have cigarettes stuck in the strings of their guitars and are wearing cool dark glasses!), and then during the big Christian Crusade rally the same boy band return except doing a borderline-litigious riff on The Shadows both in dress and in their way of playing a version of Jerusalem! (One of the great things about the film is that it actually does make the anthems toe tappingly catchy!)

The Christian Crusade rally itself is almost visit of the Pope-levels of gaudy insanity. We get cute kids introducing the festivities, an Olympic Torch-style runner setting the event off, a bunch of Boy Scout marching bands dressed unnervingly like Hitler Youths. There are banners galore and the whole thing has an aura of a wild revivalist preacher ceremony too, even before the afflicted are wheeled into the front row to benefit from the healing properties of Steve Shorter's specially composed song for the event (brilliantly we get the shot of Steve coming off the stage to lay hands on them then as he turns to go back onstage the various people try to get out of their wheelchairs to follow him, only to collapse in a heap on the ground!), there are marching band songs (including a snatch of the Monty Python theme tune avant la lettre!) fireworks galore and even a perhaps inadvisable decision to use an icon of a burning cross by the organisers! Oh and there is also a team of cheerleaders too, adding to the sense that an American football game is going to break out at any minute and adding a weird Transatlantic-vibe to the proceedings that only compounds the American accented management team behind Steve Shorter's company (who also appear to own the rights to exclusively broadcast the event on the, again unfortunately named, SS TV station!)

So as you might have guessed, the satire isn't very subtle! But it is really amusing! I especially like that they have flyers for this event that advertises Steve Shorter prominently and then at the very bottom has a speech by a firebrand Bishop (complete with 50s-style Teddy Boy quiff in his picture!) as the supporting act! That speech ends up having the Bishop (with very Hitler-esque lectern pounding orating!) doing a 1984-style indoctrination of the crowd into carrying a card bearing the words "We will conform" with them at all times!

We then get the conflicted Steve having a final breakdown at, where else, a glitzy award acceptance dinner, in which just asking to be treated as an individual more than just a mouthpiece (though he doesn't articulate it as clearly as that. I was actually reminded of a number of episodes of the recent Black Mirror series by this film. In this section Bing's inarticulate speech at the talent show judges in Fifty Million Merits. But the interchangable figurehead material also plays like a far better cynical take on politics and passive audiences than Waldo Moment) leads to Steve's complete fall from grace. He's been built up to be a faux-Messiah figure and in the end even his destruction takes the form of being crucified by the media. Steve goes from being the nation's (maybe the world's) favourite and beloved entertainer to being a shunned pariah because of his reprehensible actions within a matter of days. Even his ex-manager can only imagine that his reputation will perhaps rise again (resurrect?) far in the future once Steve is safely dead.

Despite these blackly comic themes and blank, inarticulate, even passive lead performances, Steve's situation eventually becomes quite moving. What happens when you have given such solace to others through your performances, and they have (unwisely) invested so much of themselves into you and your persona, only to find that you have to collude in a fraudulent act (one that destroys your own faith) to allow others to unquestioningly belive in you? And how far can you take it into horrible, manipulative, twisted parody of genuine feelings and still be able live with yourself, let alone with the debasing effect that your act is having on others?
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Apr 02, 2015 8:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Flipside 007: Privilege

#21 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Mar 23, 2015 10:21 am

The Diary of an Unknown Soldier is an interesting early work by Peter Watkins, using a similar mix of voiceover and silent documentary-style footage that would come to characterise his later films. Rather than a dispassionate and authoritative narrator though, this takes the form of one soldier's thoughts on being about to cross the front lines to almost certain death in WWI - his thoughts about his companions, of the war itself, his own mortality and the point of war itself on seeing a German soldier who looks like any other person.

There are some great images here, such as the branches of a tree suddenly turning into bayonets and back again, but the narration (by Watkins himself) is a little grating and overwrought, even perhaps whiny. It is someone feeling sorry for themselves because nobody else cares. Though in some ways I can allow that, if you are going off to die in vain! Wooden Crosses is still the ultimate WWI film though!

And The Forgotten Faces is a brilliant newsreel style film (with an early example of the Watkins-motif of authoritative narrator) about a rebel uprising in protest to Soviet troops invading Hungary (all filmed in Cambridge), and arguably showing that whoever has the upper hand in a conflict, whatever their ideology, they'll end up carrying out disturbingly similar revenge executions. (A slight flaw of the film is that in its presentation of contextless duality of invader and rebel being as bad as each other, the film is taking a comfortable step back from identifying with the point of view of either, and arguably retreats into a more simply emotive 'foreigners killing each other over there' attitude towards its subject. Although this is something that itself interestingly prefigures today's even more context-less, refusal to take a stance on a political topic for fear of alienation, media landscape)

Beyond its contemporary issues, this short is still important in pointing out the fragile illusion spun by the news media even today. When something as fabricated such as this can create the illusion of you are there reportage, over which a narrator can moralise so effectively, illusions of objectivity of the news media might be completely shattered. Eventually this film itself retreats from battle footage (itself seeming like it was influenced by silent Soviet film, especially in the scene of the lady reading a proclamation from the back of a truck and whipping a crowd into a frenzy) into a montage of passive faces of forgotten civillians getting swallowed up by history, onto which any final message about their terrible fates can be projected or narrated over (later used again in Culloden and The War Game). Powerful and still a disturbing piece of work.

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