Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Taste of Honey (1961).

Watch the full film in parts on Youtube!

A Taste of Honey is a 1961 British film and adaptation of a play by 18 year-old Shelagh Delaney. The screenplay was adapted by Delaney herself, aided by the film and play's director Tony Richardson. It was seen as a new, gritty genre of British film that has been called kitchen sink realism.  The film won four BAFTA awards and is considered one of BAFTA's top 100 British films. Actors won awards at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival and the 1963 Golden Globes.  Tony Richardson received a 1963 Directors Guild of America award nomination. Delaney and Richardson also won a Writers' Guild of Great Britainaward.  Its fascinating to know that a young Audrey Hepburn was actually the first choice for lead actress-- it certainly would have been a completely different start to her career, changing the trajectory from prim and proper, classy ladies to... something grittier and more challenging?  The film greatly influenced The Smiths, who must have been drawn to all the teenage angst in the film.   Morrissey loved Delaney and her image is on the cover of The Smith's compilation Louder than Bombs.  The influence can easily be sensed in "This Night has Opened my Eyes".  Lyrics such as "I'm not sorry and I'm not glad" and "the dream is gone but the baby is real" were lifted from the film.

The film is a very tender, gritty portrayal of working class teenage misfits that bonded together despite the odds against them.  They are two kids, alone in the cold, bleak rumble of Northern England where one envisions color film a complete waste.  They dance between smokestacks and under bridges trying to figure out their next move and whispering silent promises to one another.   The city never intervenes unless it is to smack down some brutal punishment.   The two are tough on the surface, sweetly naive to the core, and utter adorable phrases in a comical, garish accent.  One, a young gay runaway who has been cast off by family and friends, the other a spunky girl without parental guidance who just discovered she is pregnant and alone.  To make matters more complicated, the tender and handsome sailor who fathered Jo's child was black, causing her to question how she will be treated raising a mixed-race child as a single mother in early 60s Britain.  Yearning for a family of his own and a semblance of normalcy, Geoffrey pledges to stick with Jo and the baby.  The story focuses on how the relationships evolve, grow, fester, or wither away at various points between Jo and her mother, Jo and Geoffrey, and Geoffrey and her mother.   They let peripheral characters come in and out of their lives and seem to greatly effect their core relationships with one another.   Despite underlying tensions, bitterness, resentment, distrust and doubt plaguing their relationships,  they still must rely on each other and deeply care.   They are all afraid of being alone.  

"Do you like me more than you don't like me or do you not like me more than you do? "

Its a bittersweet, beautiful film shot in a dark, grainy contrast, early 60s black and white on location in Manchester and Salford, with an excursion in the movie to Blackpool.   Cameraman Walter Lassally's work was so infused with documentary and French New Wave approaches that A Taste of Honey gets its gritty, realistic feel from this unique treatment.  It was such a rare treasure to see such real issues of teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, race, abandonment & neglect, alcoholism, and promiscuity be handled in such a realistic yet tender manner.  As sensitive as the film was in its handling of a homosexual character, on its initial release, the film was unfortunately supplemented by a study guide on the "causes and cures" of homosexuality. The guide was subsequently reprinted in Life magazine.

"I dreamt about you last night, fell out of bed twice" 


"Black and white, gay and straight, mothers and daughters, class, and coming of age. Jo is working class, in her teens, living with her drunk and libidinous mother in northern England. When mom marries impulsively, Jo is out on the streets; she and Geoffrey, a gay co worker who's adrift himself, find a room together. Then Jo finds herself pregnant after a one night stand with Jimmy, a Black sailor. They vow to make a life together until Jo's mother returns back on the scene. Which "family" will emerge?" -Via IMDB


The prize winning comedy-drama of a young girl's passionate love for life!...


Tony RICHARDSON - Director
Shelagh DELANEY - Screenplay
Tony RICHARDSON - Screenplay
Walter LASSALLY - Cinematography
John ADDISSON - Music



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