Premium Black rum

_ _ Hard ram

While others refuse to see cinema as anything other than escapist fantasy, Ken Loach has never shied away from serious political and social issues. Alan Morrison met him to discuss Raining Stones.

What do we expect of political agitators these days? Long hair. cropped hair, screaming, abusive, violently confrontational, banner-waving, loony leftists or rightists creating ideological vacuums of wind and piss? Everything, perhaps, that is not Ken

Loach. For decades now, his calmly reasoned, quietly .

convincing voice has remained consistent and inspiring. A shy and gentle man, he has nevertheless tackled Britain‘s social and political outrages with a vigour and a sense of humour that often sparks the controversy latent in his subject matter.

‘People who come from a different political angle


Bruce Jones in Raining Stones

unemployed father whose pride compels him to buy a ' costly new dress for his daughter‘s first communion.

despite the bills that are already filling the hall. The role of religion in the film may surprise many but, as Loach explains, these people are religious ‘in that the

‘There‘s no reason that the range of films at a cinema shouldn‘t be as wide as the range of books you see when you go into a library,‘ argues Loach, and it is to be hoped that a new audience may discover a brand of cinema that is heartening and human at its core.

The Loach technique. if it could be called that. comes from bringing together the talents closest to the reality of the material. Writer Jim Allen (who also wrote Hidden Agenda) lives within half a mile of where the film was shot and, when working in the construction trade, actually built some of the tower blocks used in the film. Lead actor Bruce Jones returned to his job as a boilerrnan in a dairy after the film wrapped. He is part of a club act, as is actress Julie Brown, who sings in the Manchester area while bringing up her three children. Ricky Tomlinson, familiar from Bron/(side and Riff-Raff was a building worker who was imprisoned as one of the ‘Shrewsbury Three‘ on account of his political beliefs. This is no casting gimmick; it is the means by which Loach brings the essence of working-class life to the big screen.

‘lt’s not essential that everybody in the film has a well-argued political viewpoint, they‘ve simply got to make that person absolutely credible.‘ Loach explains. ‘Although there‘s a lot of hardship and unemployment in the community where we filmed, if you go there for any time, you come back invigorated by people‘s spirits. You can go to where people are

will always either simplify or reduce what you‘re saying,‘ argues the 57-year-old director. ‘One statement on television one night is very insufficient. That's not to say you shouldn’t try to do it; but we shouldn‘t have inflated ideas of how important they are . . . unless we‘re part of a broader movement that is based on a political analysis that spreads beyond one television film.‘

Raining Stones, Loach‘s latest film, will also suffer from those commentators who claim it is one thing when it is quite clearly another. An uplifting and humorous tale of life on a council estate in this case, Middleton in Lancashire it tells of an

main rituals of the Church birth, marriage and death are just a pan oftheir lives . . . it’s more a folk memory than a real belief in the Church‘.

No doubt, particularly when the film approaches areas of debt and loansharks, critics will drag out the old arguments that working-class audiences don’t want to relive working-class problems when they go to the cinema. What they fail to understand is that, for a filmmaker as dedicated to his causes as Loach. there is no point in having his films play only regional arthouses filled with the converted. Raining Stones will also be screening at multiplexes across the country, and this is exactly as it should be.

3 really up against it, and come back strengthened by 5 having met them and shared a drink and ajoke. There's all kinds of mischief going on . . . While we were there, we could have bought anything in the

f pubs. things that other people had liberated from various warehouses or chain stores or farms. You

. only had to say “I take trousers 32 waist, 32 inside leg“, and a few days later you‘d be able to buy a pair cheaply in the pub. There’s a strong element of comedy in that.‘

Raining Stones opens in Scotland on Fri 15. A special free preview screening takes place at the Cameo, Edinburgh at 10.30am on Sat 9.

:- Technically hitched

Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s usually humourless Berlin Film Festival and a hit in Edinburgh expatriate Taiwanese writer/director Ang lee’s gay-themed, trans-Pacific comedy of marital manners, ‘The Wedding Banquet’, came about in the first place on a whim and a prayer.

In 1991, eager to foder artistic rather than purely commercial moviemaking, Taiwan’s Government Information Office sponsored a National Script Competition. Lee entered in the hope of retiring a us-

sights on the land of his birth, the prospect of official support proved too enticing to turn down. ‘I wrote a new script about an old Taiwanese man’s experiences on a i visit to America, which was basically - what I thought the iudges wanted to hear,’ explains the 39-year-old Masters graduate of IIYII film school. ‘It’s always dangerous trying to second-guess these things, but ‘Pushing IIands’ won the award and get made with state backing. Its success then persuaded the authorities to put some more money into the production of the other script I’d put in the envelope just on the off- chance. That was ‘The Wedding Banquet’, which I’d been working on intermittently for several years.’ Considering the film’s potentially

based career stalled in ‘development awkward subject matter, even Lee hell’ 8“!!! the 88"! Promise of a admits his surprise at the involvement much-admired student short. Initially ot the Iaiwanese powers-that-be. The

reticent about retraining his cinematici story, after all, concerns the efforts of

! gay New York yuppie couple Wai-Tung l (debut boy Winston Chao) and Simon

; (Mitchell lichtenstein, son of the pop I artist) in their attempt to conceal their ! relationship from the fonner’s

conservative Taiwanese parents. Wai- i Tung’s marriage to immigrant Chinese I painter Wei-Wei (Taiwan’s queen of

l the small screen, May Chin) makes a convincing cover - until his folks show up and turn a regisz office formality into a fully-fledged traditional ‘do’, manic party games and all.

It’s the crazed series of traditional high-links on the wedding night - after a flood of drink, the assembled guests invade the bridal suite until the happy couple disrobe beneath the sheets - which provide much of the film’s raucous entertainment value, yet the often farcical template of a sharply worked-out plot never obscures Lee’s

sponsored by BACARDH Premium Black rum

sensitive and sensible approach to the I

sexual politics of the piece.

‘I never set out to make a specifically ‘gay’ movie,’ he points out, ‘but one which a pretty wide audience could enjoy because they understood the point of view of all of the characters, and the human confusions that crop up whenever they get tangled.’

Appealing for sexual tolerance without ever resorting to special pleading, ‘The Wedding Banquet’ balances respect for the past with an acknowledgement of the need to move beyond it, while Lee’s take on the snowballing complications into which our emotions blither transport as is as perceptive as it is compassionate. It’s a movie well worth celebrating. (Trevor Johnston)

The Wedding Banquet opens at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Fri 8 and the Glasgow Film Theatre on Fri 22.

The List 8-2] October I993 15