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Running off the Anger: British New Wave


Anna Śliwińska

Running off the Anger. British New Wave includes several areas of research that suggest interpreting the cinema of the British New Wave in relation to social realism, the construction of the main characters, popular culture and the way New Wave played with film-making. Thanks to an in-depth analysis of key films of this trend, it is possible not only to understand the workings of social realism and examine character creation and their rebellion, but also to explore the intentionality of the utilising New Wave techniques that were known from nouvelle vague. The last chapter of this book is devoted to the most recent references to British New Wave Cinema.

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Chapter 6 Distant Voices of the British New Wave


One man can change the world

with a bullet in the right place.

Mick Travis in If….

1. New Wave and What Next?

There is no clearly defined point marking the end of the British New Wave, as the trend evolved with in alongside the changes experienced in the United Kingdom. The 1960s saw changes in the law and social mores. Gambling was legalised and the death penalty abolished. In the late 1960s abortion and homosexuality ceased to be illegal, and the Divorce Reform Act of 1969 facilitated divorce. The welfare state developed further, with slum clearance programmes and the construction of new housing estates. The right to benefits and social welfare was extended. The women’s rights movement led to the 1970 Equal Pay Act and the Equality Commission. Liberalisation and equality became slogans central to state policy, permeating pop culture dominated by young representatives of the working classes, and marked by sexual permissiveness and a relaxed approach to drug use1. Many of the watchwords espoused by the New Wave were put into practice:

[…] but by 1964 the ‘new wave’ had spent itself. ‘Swinging London’ had been born, an increasingly frenzied saturnalia whose cult was the new and the now, a world of colour supplements, pirate radio, glamorous television commercials, dolly birds, discos and boutiques. With the backing of the Hollywood giants, British filmmakers set out to capture the glitter and the glamour. Sober realism and earnest social...

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