Cathy Come Home (Ken Loach / United Kingdom, 1966):

Swinging London, pulverized: "Oh, it's a scourge here." The big city Cathy (Carol White) arrives in is out of a shampoo commercial, she meets the bloke of her dreams (Ray Brooks) in a telescoped montage ladled with "Stand by Me." The lovebirds start out with a steady home but spiral down as their brood multiplies, Ken Loach turns the BBC: Wednesday Play handheld camera on the collisions of character, shouting fits and teary ruptures that turn the vibrant hitchhiker from the first frames into the dilapidated, bereft hausfrau of the last. The couple trudges from overcrowded flats to caravans in rubbish dumps, sees their trailer burn down and is corralled away to a derelict hostel. The city slums are glimpsed in a bladelike journalistic style of 16mm tremors and heightened grain, with a furious sound mix of disembodied thoughts, cries, platitudes, and statistics ("There are 200,000 more families in the London area than there are homes to put them in") that's like a dour corrective to Lester's whimsical Greek chorus in The Knack... and How to Get It. ("There is another side. Our side." Government agencies try to defend their strictures, though it's clear that, at the time of crisis, "our sympathies will be very much with ourselves.") The characters suffer from their stubborn spirits as much as from systematic pressures, the wrenching j'accuse is aimed at the political machine grinding them down -- Loach goes beyond criticism straight to a call of arms. With Winfred Dennis, Emmett Hennessy, Wally Patch, Adrienne Frame, and Geoffrey Palmer. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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