A Day Of One's Own (1955)
|There are times in every woman's life when she feels like playing truant from her round of domestic chores, and taking a day off. She may go alone, or with others, and her adventures may take a variety of forms. This film shows how a random selection of women in Scotland, Northumberland, Lancashire, East Anglia, Wales and Southern England chose to spend days of their own.
Director: Kenneth Fairbairn
16mm & 35mm
of the British Film Institute.
Review: British Transport Films' 1950s output is the most complete expression of the era's middle England dream, and as such I love and hate them (as usual). "A Day of One's Own" especially is utterly evocative of something now lost, from the opening animated credit sequence of a housewife and washing line, to the opening sequence (sunbaked Betjemanesque suburbia, Macdonald Hobley reciting "Twas on a Monday morning as I beheld my darling...") to the mundane lives of housewives from which the film promotes an escape in the form of a day in the country or out shopping (and how quaint those very concepts seem now that we are all children of the electronic biosphere, however much we may deny it). There are scenes here - the Palm Court orchestra in Manchester, the library in Norwich - where the people hardly seem alive at all, in the modern sense of the word (and how much we have all been transformed by the unapologetic emotional expression that arrived in the 60s - British people before that now seem unreal, never saying what they mean, just parading through an ordered life in which every event seems almost to have been planned to the last detail five hours before it happened). I can't even feel than I can vaguely reach out and touch the world of this film, rather it is, quite literally, untouchable. It might as well be hidden behind a glass case in a fusty Surrey museum, removed from public view (because that's what it resembles - a Victorian magic-lantern show). It is a fragile film - touch it in the wrong place, and you feel it might explode (this other-worldly feel is helped by the fact that it's in black and white - already by 1955, many BTF productions were in colour). And, of course, we can only begin to speculate on what kind of unaltered Victorian backstreet prejudices it might hide.
I want to spit on this film's grave. But there's such a charm at its heart (does that sign at Waterloo really say that "Tickets Must Be Shewn", rather than "Shown"? It certainly looks like that ...) that I have to love it.
Cherish every moment of "A Day of One's Own". Luxuriate in it. Wallow in it, if you want. But don't wish you were there. It only becomes beautiful when it's gone.
Robin Carmody, January 2000 from his webpsite : http://www.elidor.freeserve.co.uk
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