From his groundbreaking dramas of the 60s, through the early-90s resurgence to the unexpected box office successes of recent years, we assess the director’s output
My Name Is Joe (1998)
Loach didn’t exactly discover Peter Mullan, who had been bobbing about for years – and had even played one of the builders in Riff-Raff (see below) – but he gave him a tremendous showcase in what turned out to be the finest of Loach’s Scotland-set films. Mullan plays the classic Loachian male: struggling with demons, hoping to be redeemed by love but dragged down by misplaced loyalties. It’s Mullan’s charisma that puts this one over the top, both ferocious and tender as the film requires it [ . . . ]
Filmmaker Ken Loach on populism, the gig economy, and the importance of transnational solidarity in his movies and beyond.
The British film director Ken Loach is one of the most celebrated cinematic voices of our time. A deeply engaged artist and one of a handful of directors to have been awarded the prestigious Palme d’Or twice, Loach’s work often takes up social and political themes. His oeuvre has spanned the Spanish civil war (Land and Freedom), the Los Angeles janitors’ strike (Bread and Roses), the occupation of Iraq (Route Irish), the Irish war of independence (The Wind That Shakes the Barley), and the coercive side of the welfare state (I, Daniel Blake). While the so-called “populist revolt” has triggered much debate on the role of economic inequalities and social exclusion, Ken Loach has been one of the greatest narrators of working-class consciousness and its transformations under neoliberalism.
In this conversation with Italian writer and political activist Lorenzo Marsili, Loach looks at the role of art in moments of political transformation, the evolution of the working class, the meaning of class struggle today, and the left’s failure to inspire radical change.
The interview was recorded during the shooting of DEMOS, a forthcoming documentary in which Lorenzo Marsili travels across Europe investigating transnational solidarity 10 years after the financial crisis [ . . . ]
As regular readers will know, I have been following the footsteps of British writer and director Bruce Robinson in recent weeks. His name is not well known, but he is the creative genius behind cult 80s movie Withnail & I, its ‘follow-up’ How To Get Ahead in Advertising and, more recently, Jennifer Eight and The Rum Diary. The latter saw him coming out of exile at the request of producer Johnny Depp, who remembered Withnail and wanted him for Hunter S. Thompson’s memorable story about a journalist in Puerto Rico. In fact, my Robinson journey began with the fabulous but long book about Jack The Ripper.
What I realised yesterday evening, while chuckling through How To Get Ahead In Advertising, is that Robinson belongs to a group of 70s and 80s British creatives which includes people like Roger Waters and Ken Loach. What they all share is an instinctive disdain or even hatred for Margaret Thatcher and her vision for Britain. As a child of the 80s, I can only say that Thatcher was a peripheral figure at home. Appearing on the news, invariably to cries of ‘that bloody woman’ from the men in whichever house I was watching TV in, she was our most popular leader, yet absolutely nobody admitted to ever voting for her. This is not a piece about Thatcher, but about Thatcherism. [ . . . ]
Fresh from his Outstanding British Film BAFTA win for I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach tells me how troubled he is by the lack of working class voices at the ceremony. Typical of his quiet modesty, there is no mention of the film’s multiple successes or of the award itself, nor the second Palme d’Or of Loach’s career after The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Instead, he’s more interested in an issue that has been at the heart of his ground-breaking cinema for over fifty years.“The people who presented the prizes, never mind the people who won, there were more presenters from Eton than any working class voices. You heard no working class voices amongst the presenters. Where were all the voices from the regions? I didn’t hear one. Where are the voices from the working class Londoners? I didn’t hear one. I mean, just think about the image they’re projecting. Why does every presenter have to be posh?” [ . . . ]