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terribly, terribly happy

I'm buying a few Christmas presents on Amazon at the moment, and while I was browsing in the DVD classics section after buying someone the magnificent Sweet Smell of Success, I checked out the reviews for possibly my favourite film ever, Brief Encounter.

Among the reviews, I found this gem:

Although the movie has some middle-class British touches (the characters drink tea, for one), David Lean carefully makes the movie somewhat vague in time and mood.

Hee! Yes, drinking tea is the ultimate symbol of British middle-classness. No one but home counties doctors and housewives imbibe that amber nectar. The fact that it was the favourite beverage of my respectable working class Dublin grandmother and her peers must be a mystery. As is the fact that I drank about a gallon of it yesterday. Seriously, though, what else would they be drinking? Especially IN A TEASHOP?! Also, "somewhat vague"? That film couldn't be more "England in the 40s" if there was a bloody great 1946 calender featuring a picture of George VI in every scene. If the tea drinking is the biggest example of middle-class Britishness the reviewer can find in that film, well, really.....


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 3rd, 2004 03:16 am (UTC)
That's just peculiar. I don't drink tea, but I thought I was middle class! Oh no! Does the film ever say explicitly where it's set? I know it's Carnforth station (I've been there), but I've not seen the film.
Dec. 3rd, 2004 08:06 am (UTC)
Actually, I think there's a more middle-class correlation to drinking coffee than tea in the UK, isn't there? But that's now rather than then.

As for the "vague" dating of Brief Encounter, that would be the reviewer not really knowing that Britain is really anything other than a vague mish-mash of historical gubbins, wouldn't it? I mean, if there's old buildings in something, clearly the story itself is meant to be Regency, rather than just set in a place with lots of old buildings, for example.
Dec. 5th, 2004 05:24 am (UTC)
As for the "vague" dating of Brief Encounter, that would be the reviewer not really knowing that Britain is really anything other than a vague mish-mash of historical gubbins, wouldn't it?

Yes, that has to be it. The language, the clothes and the general look of the sets and locations are obviously irrelevent because England is just some magical "olde worlde" place.
Dec. 3rd, 2004 03:38 am (UTC)
That is certainly an American view of the world but then they had coffee supplies from South America. European coffee drinkers in the 40's were drinking burnt chicory by then after the Rising Sun had been paraded through Burma. Indian tea plantations were still in British hands.

I've read that the Irish first developed a taste for tea from cases salvaged from shipwrecked clippers and since it was "free" and the preparation process a mystery that is why it was prepared "strong enough to trot a mouse" rather than the subtle blend its originators preferred. It was also topped up with whiskey as a winter warmer, the idea being transferred to coffee later to suit american tastes.

(random response, I know but I'm bored)
Dec. 3rd, 2004 03:48 am (UTC)
The shipwrecked clippers bit sounds a bit odd, given that it would have been quite easy to acquire tea (and instructions on its preparation) by more straightforward means - we were, after all, both next door to and governed by a tea-drinking country.
Dec. 3rd, 2004 03:52 am (UTC)
But Lisa, we Irish are scavengers by nature, and can't bear to do such mundane, conformist things as.....go to a shop. And buy a tin of Lyon's. No, we prefer to just find barrels of weird leaves on the seashore and make them into a weird whiskey-laced stew!
Dec. 3rd, 2004 07:17 am (UTC)
Bejaysus, pass me the bladderwrack. D'ye take milk or lemon?

Random tea fact: my terribly honest and law-abiding grandmother was so desperate to get tea for her tea-loving father (even more honest and law-abiding) during de Emergency that she was only too happy to participate in the madcap schemes of her elder sister, and arranged cross-country barter for tea - her sister would come home from England bearing her neighbours' rations of tea, and would smuggle in the fresh produce not rationed here (and this is the really cool bit) in a special suit she had constructed to hide things like rashers invisibly. My great-aunt was apparently at most a size twelve, and made a very convincing and natural-shaped size 18-20 as she sailed past customs with her various contraband.

So the Scots are hideous Celtic tea-grubbing stereotypes too :-)
Dec. 3rd, 2004 07:23 am (UTC)
Oh my God, the giant rasher-concealing suit idea is brilliant.
Dec. 3rd, 2004 02:11 pm (UTC)
and everyone was too polite to mention that she smelled a bit? Maybe they didn't notice, the Glasgow subway can get a bit ripe during rushhour anyway.
Dec. 3rd, 2004 04:04 am (UTC)
The first time I saw that film, I suddenly understood my Grandma Mac's hairstyle. The length, the curls, the single hair grips holding one curl in place - her hair was exactly like Celia Johnson's. She'd obviously chosen it in 1945 and not altered it since.

Someone else on my friends' list adores this film - she's miss_newham now!
Dec. 3rd, 2004 06:57 am (UTC)
Oh I love love love that film- I dream about it sometimes too.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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