Bronco Bullfrog

Was at The National Gallery after walking with The Stuart Low Trust through the China Town balloon-festooned streets in the freezing cold. We were aiming for the Sainsbury Wing for a free one hour tour.Our group leaders carried in their bright yellow Sainsbury carrier bags our free picnics: Beacons of light and joy! The tour guide was most informative, jolly and a gifted story-teller. We learnt tons about Christian symbolism through Crivelli’s work , ” Madonna of the Swallow”. The Turner exposition was illuminating (!). I felt though that I were in a church. Even the reduced Christmas cards from a fiver to a quid were too religious for me to send despite there being  the prestigious National Gallery logo on them. The other guys on the trip went home after the tour but I needed to soak up some secular stuff and finally, feet aching, found Church’s small exhibition of awesome sunsets over icebergs called “Through American Eyes”.

Culture done and over to Stratford for the film “Bronco Bullfrog”. Terrible acting, nasty wordless pauses, brilliant photography and filming, interesting landscapes and a gripping story-line. I had to pull myself into myself because it was that cold in the Stratford PictureHouse auditorium and then remember it wasn’t the theatre so it was traditional for the other members of the senior audience to rustle their sweet bags. Imagine! The music was good too. I did feel I was watching Ray Davies of The Kinks back in his day but he is and was in fact well-spoken having come from the borders of East Finchley and Muswell Hill, north London. The characters in “Bronco Buffalo” hardly moved their lips to talk their sloppy talk, their east London working class uneducated speke understood by everyone and unloved by many, Interestingly that same language survived and the tongue is still heard today amongst the ethnic minority of West Ham,  Stratford and east Leyton. Innit?

Someone clapped at the end of the film. I didn’t.

The film was a gift from ‘London On Screen’. I was ashamed of the settings, the poverty, the way people lived in Stratford 1969. I saw squalor which made the kitchens of 1960 kitchen -sink plays seem smart. They weren’t but were the common person’s habitat. I had been part of the common and hard-up mass; been there, cleaned the ash-tray, jiggled the black and white television aerial. I was allowed to feel the shame and anything else all because the London On Screen films are there to provoke memories about London and to preserve feelings of place. The films aren’t specifically for seniors. Birkbeck students, young and mature,  are invited in for free because the films provide a cultural background for all Londoners and a chance to identify with wherever one lives in London, I think. The screenings are cheap and good too and Stratford PictureHouse is so Stratford E15. i.e welcoming, homely and belonging to the local community.

Glad I made it. Wished I’d had a hot dog.

From BFI site   “Barney Platts-Mills‘ debut feature stars an entirely non-professional cast of  local teenagers from Stratford, East London.

The film grew out of a documentary, Everybody’s An Actor Shakespeare Said  (1968) made by Platts-Mills about the ‘Playbarn’ project run by veteran British  theatre figure Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Royal in Stratford. The project  aimed to divert local youths from loitering and petty crime and into creatively  channelling their energy and imagination through acting and improvisation.  Inspired by Littlewood, Platts-Mills encouraged the youths to come up with a  story based on events taken from their own lives. These were used as the basis  for Bronco Bullfrog. The young cast give the film an air of authenticity and  their sometimes awkward, hesitant performances reflect adolescence in a  non-contrived way.

The film treats its characters warmly and emphasises that their chosen  courses of action – petty crime, delinquency, and in Del’s case, elopement with  Irene (which, since Irene was 15, would make Del guilty of abduction) – are  determined by the limited choices they have.

The look of the film is reminiscent of the cinema verité/Free Cinema style  which had ushered in the 1960s, but any sense of optimism suggested by such  films is dashed. The mood of Bronco Bullfrog, shot in black and white against a  backdrop of East End bombsites and the new brutalism of urban high-rise flats,  closes the decade on a pessimistic note of limited horizons for its  working-class protagonists.

As evidence that not all of London had been swinging in the 1960s, Bronco  Bullfrog foreshadowed the ‘no future’ ethos which characterised the Punk  movement of the mid-to-late-1970s. The film also anticipated the treatment of  disaffected youth which became prevalent in British television drama”.

Littlewood suggested at Stratford Royal Theatre in those days  of yore that the aimless Stratford working class youth  be inspired by acting. “Bronco Bullfrog” reared its awkward, self-conscious head and became the chore of lazy, paid amateur kids. The project was obviously Littlewood’s baby  but just a laugh and a time-filler for opportunist thieves and petty criminals allegedly.

What is interesting is that the Theatre Royal Stratford east is still doing what their founder- director Littlewood did, that is encourage local youth to divert their energy to drama. They succeed. What is weird is that the film critic Alexander Walker, now deceased, praised the potential impact of “Bronco Bullfrog” on the film accolades’ industry and outside of the auditorium on my evening was the artist Alexander Walker’s art. Coincidence. Oooh.

There’s a striking art exhibition from Alexander Walker on the foyer walls upstairs at Stratford PictureHouse, eye-catching because of its colours noted well after a black and white film. One painting brings home Walthamstow Central. What I don’t get is why the Leytonstone-ites aren’t makng a fuss of the Hitchcock murals in their station now that Hopkins and the pink-haired lady of film are doing the rounds with their blockbuster. (I am so not interested).

Alexander Walker and The National Gallery in one blog!

Claremont Project in Islington continues to put on fabulous classical recitals. Last week the Korean pianist dazzled and excited our old limbs, mainly old white thighs.

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