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Privilege
     

Privilege

Director: Peter Watkins, Paul Jones, Jean Shrimpton, Mark London

Cast: Peter Watkins, Paul Jones, Jean Shrimpton, Mark London

 
After directing several extraordinary documentaries for the BBC, including the award-winning The War Game and Culloden, Peter Watkins made his first dramatic feature with this flawed but striking film about Steven Shorter (Paul Jones), a pop singer in a future society where entertainment is controlled by a totalitarian

Overview

After directing several extraordinary documentaries for the BBC, including the award-winning The War Game and Culloden, Peter Watkins made his first dramatic feature with this flawed but striking film about Steven Shorter (Paul Jones), a pop singer in a future society where entertainment is controlled by a totalitarian government. Shorter's music and image are used to channel the impulses of rebellious youth; in one concert sequence, the crowd watches him sing a plaintive plea for love and understanding while locked in a cage surrounded by police officers armed with clubs. While Shorter is remarkably popular, he's also living a life created for him by the government, which Steven knows is a sham. When Shorter's handlers decide to revamp his image into that of an obedient, religious boy, he rebels, to his peril. Model Jean Shrimpton made her film debut here as an artist commissioned to paint a portrait of Shorter. Privilege later became something of a cult film; one of the film's admirers was rock poet Patti Smith, who recorded one of "Steven Shorter"'s songs, "Set Me Free," on her 1978 album Easter.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Few major filmmakers of the 1960s and '70s are as underappreciated as Peter Watkins, though given the current availability of his body of work, that's not so difficult to understand. Only one of his films, The War Game, is widely available on video in the United States, and Privilege, which by all rights should be Watkins' most accessible film as his only project financed and distributed by a major American studio, has never received an authorized release on home video, and has gone largely unseen since it dropped out of television distribution in the 1970s. Like the majority of Watkins' films, Privilege is fashioned in the form of a mock-documentary, in this case concerning the life and career of Steven Shorter, a pop star whose career has been carefully stage-managed by the British government to give youthful rebellion a harmless outlet and encourage teenagers to put their pocket money into the U.K. economy. Visually, it's is quite impressive; as a false documentary, it looks every bit as convincing as The War Game and Culloden, and on a grander (and more expensive) scale than either. And while the sociopolitical slant of the film is a bit more obvious than one might expect from Watkins, the material is handled with steely intelligence and no small amount of bleak humor. However, while Watkins was able to draw strikingly naturalistic performances from his actors in most of his films, several members of the cast let him down, particularly Paul Jones as Shorter (as a former singer for Manfred Mann's group, it seem odd that Jones has a hard time fitting in his role as a pop singer) and Jean Shrimpton as an artist commissioned to paint his portrait who also becomes his lover (Shrimpton was a famous model of the day, and while her thespian skills are a notch or two up from the average cover-girl-turned-actress, she has little to do and seems unsure about how to fill up the spaces). But unlike the vast majority of films which attempt to put a serious spin on the significance of youth-culture stardom, Privilege suggests that the real issues are less about selling records and T-shirts to screaming teenagers, but rather the marketing of ideas and political stances to an audience still forming their opinions, and if the specifics are a bit out of date, the guiding ideas behind it are more pertinent than ever.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/29/2008
UPC:
0881751200785
Original Release:
1967
Source:
Project X
Time:
1:43:00

Special Features

26 minute short firlm Lonely Boy; Original privilege trailer; Stills and poster gallery; Peter watkins filmography; 40 page booklet

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Jones Steve Shorter
Jean Shrimpton Vanessa Ritchie
Mark London Alvin Kirsch
William Job Andrew Butler
Max Bacon Julie Jordan
Jeremy Child Martin Crossley
James Cossins Prof. Tatham
Frederick Danner Marcus Hooper
Victor Henry Freddie K.
Arthur Pentelow Leo Stanley
Michael Barrington Bishop of Essex
Edwin Finn Bishop of Cornwall
John Gill Bishop of Surrey
Norman Pitt Bishop of Hersham
Alba Bishop of Rutland
Steve Kirby Squit
Doreen Mantle Miss Crawford
Michael Graham Timothy Arbutt

Technical Credits
Peter Watkins Director,Screenwriter
Norman Bogner Screenwriter
William Brodie Art Director
Timothy Burrill Associate Producer
Jill Carpenter Makeup
Vanessa Clarke Costumes/Costume Designer
John Heyman Producer
Mike Leander Score Composer
Mark London Songwriter
Johnny Speight Original Story
Peter Suschitzky Cinematographer
John Trumper Editor

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