I was privileged to have belonged to Clapham Film Unit for a while and to have done some research at the LSE and on the Internet into the Women’s Peace Movement.(WILF). Many people including Guardian readers do not know that women activists went to the Hague in 1915 to try to stop WW1. They weren’t all knitting for the troops. They were rather posh though. Clapham Film Unit empowered women to make a film about Tilbury Dock and to dress up and be seen. It was good. Women through Up Your Street came along and they were ones who had opposed passively the Women’s Liberation Movement in the sixties. or not been in the UK then and saw politics as trouble. We all learnt together. We published stories about women in 1915.
Today went like this…
Me “No. No. I don’t feel like going to watch a women and angst film”.
Daughter “Oh go and enjoy yourself”.
Oh dear. thinking positive, I accepted the challenge and went for my first visit to the Empire in Walthamstow E17. The website was a little unhelpful but finally I knew I could see “Suffragette” for a fiver. Only one person I know had seen it and she was impressed because the story was through the life of a working class woman. (So? Remember “Dagenham”?) I knew the W I in Redbridge had gone as a group to celebrate themselves in Stratford east.
It was raining and the cinema at 12.30 was pretty empty. Plush but empty. One commentator on the Guardian review had said that older people would be more inclined to like the film. Bloomin’ cheek. But apart from one restless pregnant customer we were all old. Mind you, look at the time; hardly the lounging hour.
The film’s opening is powerful because of the music and the close-ups and bird’s eye views of machinery in a Bethnal Green laundry in 1912. I perked up. My grandmother to my shame worked in a laundry in 1912. Silly me not imagining how it really was. You know, wash boards and soap. Curiously the working women in the blockbuster never wear head coverings whilst working at the machines and over the tubs. Fired up I remembered that my grandfather met nanny whilst he worked in a chemist’s. Woohoo. The Suffragette women in the film spent time meeting and planning in a pharmacy. But actually for most of the film I wondered what my female ancestors did for the cause. I am old enough to have been in the situation where a husband banned me from doing much because my feminist ways would shame him. My sister couldn’t even buy a new bra until her husband had decided the elastic was spent. We evolved. In the auditorium I spent time sucking my Tesco chocolate thinking of women worldwide.
The camera work may have been innovative but was pretty annoying. Still if it had been slower the film would have been draggier. The whooshing shots helped to heighten the thrust of the violence and to be honest the force-feeding scene was more 18 than 12A.
After the story line was set with the usual run of characters representing the lower class; there’s a nasty boss, a hubby unable to work out child care, foul-mouthed workers, the beaten wife and so on then the rest was sentimental slosh.
Yes the music was grand. The Empire is grand and better at welcoming than Hackney Picture House. If you say the word “Senior” the staff talk louder and slower. No magic cup of tea appears though. That’s at 11 am.
At Chapel Cinema in Bethnal Green next Tuesday on offer for free is “West Side Story”.
Cinema at its best.