Watch This Space: Treasures from the BFI National Archive

CineVue were honoured guests of American Express this past Thursday for a screening of three extraordinary film treasures from the BFI National Archive, as part of the Watch This Space Festival at London’s National Theatre Flytower. The selected films – Momma Don’t Allow (1956), Lindsay Anderson’s Every Day Except Christmas (1957) and Nice Time (1957) – provided a compelling, and at times hilarious insight into post-war British domestic life, and are some of the finest pieces to come from the Free Cinema movement.

Despite an occasionally bitter, biting wind coming off the Thames, the night’s entertainment helped to keep the minds of attendees of the impending British winter (bye summer, thanks for nothing) and firmly upon some of the finest British documentaries of the 1950s. First up was Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson’s Momma Don’t Allow, a non-intrusive, purely observational piece following the events of an average night at the swinging Wood Green Jazz Club. A fantastic artifact for those with any incline of interest in the evolution of London’s post-war music scene, it was extremely interesting to see the capital’s jazz community in all its glory, before the game-changing introduction of rock ‘n’ roll from the US.

The second and finest film of the night came courtesy of the late If… (1968) director Lindsay Anderson. Every Day Except Christmas is an incredible, 40-minute long documentary love-letter to stoic workers of Covent Garden market during the 1950s.

Following a number of men and women from the post-midnight stock deliveries through to the market’s daily opening, Anderson’s hypnotic Welsh tones proves the perfect guide as we weave in and out of the Garden’s many runs and stalls. There is even space for a melancholic denouement, as Anderson explains how many of the pre-war flower-sellers have gradually been pushed to the Garden’s peripheries due to lack of business from button-hole-less gents.

A relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable evening was fittingly brought to an end by Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner’s Nice Time, like Momma Don’t Allow, a narrator-less, observational montage of late night revellers congregating around a near unrecognisable Piccadilly Circus.

The Watch this Space Festival finishes tonight with The Big Smoke: Films from a Lost London

Daniel Green