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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

My mother was afraid I'd end up a projectionist: revisiting a Kevin Brownlow masterpiece

Kevin Brownlow‘s best known for his work as a historian and restorer of movies like Napoleon, but he made two features as a young man, including the brute period marvel, Winstanley, set in the era of the English Civil War, and the what-if-the-Nazis-had-won no-budget eight-years-to-make dystopic gem It Happened Here, presently reissued in the UK, and which he began work when he was but 18. In the Independent, Neil Norman talks with Brownlow about the course of time. brownlow-ithappenedhere24956.jpg “It is one of the most striking scenes in British cinema: Nazi stormtroopers marching through Parliament Square. Clearly designed to alarm and provoke, it is an image that could have been ripped from a WWII Nazi propaganda film. [But] it is a scene from [1964’s] It Happened Here… [I]t tells of partisan resistance to the Vichy-like state, and how survival and compromise can easily slide into collaboration. Shot in black and white, in 16mm and 35mm, in the manner of a documentary, it has the jackbooted kick of authenticity… “I wanted to be the next Orson Welles… But I never even put on the weight. And I am hopeless at raising money… My mother was afraid I’d end up as a projectionist… She encouraged me to be creative and bought me a camera.” … It is hard to reconcile the massive chutzpah this must have taken with the endearingly diffident, quietly spoken 67 year-old man sitting opposite me. But the evidence is on film for all to see… Brownlow retired from the fray of feature directing to concentrate on film restoration, documentaries and his books. Even now, one senses that his directorial career was nipped in the bud…. “If we hadn’t made this film it is possible I might be making feature pictures today… [W]e made a film for what most filmmakers spend on their main titles. An iconoclast does not gain entry into the cathedral. Second, it made no money, apparently. Third, I got a reputation for being anti-Semitic, which didn’t help. Finally, one thing I’ve found as an historian is that, if you are going to ask for a great deal of money on a risk, you have to give reassurance to a producer. Directors need to look like Alan Parker, Orson Welles, Victor Fleming. A scrawny, bespectacled individual does not inspire confidence.”

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Chloë Sevigny

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~ Dallas Sonnier