Tuesday, May 29, 2012

40. Look Back in Anger by John Osbourne

This is the play that really started the whole Angry Young Men movement that took place in Britain in the 50s and brought us such classic movies as This Sporting Life, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (also known as Kitchen Sink cinema).  This is the story of a couple and their friend who all live on a small working class flat.  The husband, Jimmy, is lively, intelligent and bitter with resentment to the point that he is almost constantly abusive to his upper-class wife (who married him against her parents's wishes).  They live with a third friend, Cliff, who is a simpler, calmer soul and puts up with Jimmy's tirades against the upper classes, society in general, Alison, her family, her friends.

As a stand-alone story or theatre piece, I wasn't really sure what to make of it.  In context, with my limited knowledge of the period and the books and films that came out of it, I get what is being conveyed here.  This play launched a new voice and a new representation of what England was going through at the time and it caused a lot of controversy.  But by itself, it did seem just kind of depressing.  The guy is such a jerk!  I mean, I get his frustration and the shittiness of the system and the culture in Great Britain back then.  But he has an attractive wife who irons and makes tea and all he can do is shit on her because her parents are socially uptight.  I guess that's just my modern perspective speaking.  There is also a strange element where Jimmy is constantly railing against the rich and is a total jerk, but of course gets the hot upper class babe and then gets her friend as well.  And once he gets them, all they do is iron and make tea and try and understand and tolerate why he is treating them like shit all the time.  The 50's - they were bugging.

3 comments:

Louis XIV, "The Sun King" (Nick Jones) said...

It's not your modern perspective, Olman; Jimmy really is an arsehole. That's exactly what I remember thinking 25 years ago when we studied Look Back for English Lit. Personally I prefer Kingsley Amis's wittier version of the Angry Young Man in Lucky Jim. The Tony Richardson film of Look Back is worth seeing though; Richard Burton is great in that.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Ah good to know! I really should take the time to absorb these things and learn about them a bit more, but I just put one book down and move on to the next!

I definitely agree about Jim in Lucky Jim. His special faces are a much more positive coping method! I didn't really consider Amis as being part of the Angry Young Men, but I guess that makes sense.

I'll check out the film.

Louis XIV, "The Sun King" (Nick Jones) said...

Amis didn't consider himself an Angry Young Man either, but that didn't stop him being lumped in with them back then. Pigeonholing is a perennial problem, it appears...