South Riding 2: An Immodest Concrete Proposal

"Winifred Holtby realised that Local Government is not a dry affair of meetings and memoranda:- but 'the front-line defence thrown up by humanity against its common enemies of sickness, poverty and ignorance.' She built her story around six people working for a typical County Council:- Beneath the lives of the public servants runs the thread of their personal drama. Our story tells how a public life affects the private life; and how a man's personal sufferings make him what he is in public."

If there is a film more made for Owen, I haven't seen it.  From '38,  a melodrama focused on the thrilling world of a South Riding town council as they fight over the location of a new council housing project to replace the shacks of the poor they will demolish.  (The film has the odd sense of reversal: it isn't that it skimps on the meetings to focus on sex, romance, and action.  Oh no.  There is a lot of hot and heavy debating action and insight into the white-knuckle world of zoning decisions.)  Features a trenchcoated consumptive Socialist who coughs every time he makes a political point.  It's a film which implies that Brits may really want socialist policy, but they would really prefer them to come from the landed gentry, who manage to successfully dismantle that identity at the very moment of a) getting a bit ethical, b) sealing the deal with the ex-feminist school teacher with whom you've birthed a calf in the most hypersexualized bit of shadow play I've seen since Robin Hood: Men in Tights a long, long time ago, and c) successfully screwing over the local bourgeoisie in a fantasmatic alliance between People Who Work the Earth and People Who Own the Earth That is Work.  Also, there are a number of drawn-out school girl fights.

And yes, as my friend Hunter caught, there is an perhaps unintended, prophetic pun suggesting a "concrete proposal" for the planned Council Estate.

To top it all off, given that the squire's failing estate is donated (i.e. sold for cost of mortgage) to the project, thereby foiling the dastardly schemes of the town's small business owners and hucksters, on the one condition that the manor itself be preserved and used to house the high school run by said squire's schoolteacher/class traitor/woman who gets the soft glow treatment, the film basically ends with the unspoken prospect that what the town will now have is, basically, Bevin Court encircling a 15th century country house.  Stranded somewhere between a dream of insane repurposing (schoolgirls learn about the death of the aristocracy amongst their lost halls and scribble graffiti in their marble bathrooms) and the wet thud of socialist planning coming to rescue of the embarassed, outmoded landed class trying to save face.

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