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Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach

  • News and current affairs
  • Documentary and factual
  • 2016
  • Louise Osmond
  • 93 mins
  • 12A

Summary

Premiere. A biography of the celebrated British director, catching up with him as he enjoys his retirement. During a career spanning more than 50 years, Ken Loach specialised in creating socially aware dramas and documentaries. Among the most successful were Cathy Come Home, Kes and The Wind that Shakes the Barley, the latter of which secured Loach a Palm d'Or award. Here, Ken revisits the production of his most celebrated movies, and shares details of projects shelved or pilloried, including a stage play cancelled during rehearsals, and a personal tragedy.

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Review

Ken Loach is mild-mannered and looks like a geography teacher, but for 50 years this firestarter in elbow patches has been shaking up the British film industry. With family and key collaborators, the Nuneaton-born director, now 80, reviews a prodigious career of pricked social conscience (Cathy Come Home, Ladybird Ladybird), political agitation (Hidden Agenda) and working-class isolation (evergreen, ever-heartbreaking Kes).

Aside from his unquenchable drive and battles with broadcasters, the documentary also offers surprising glimpses of a cricket lover who loves musicals (“the more camp and glossy, the better”).

It’s a measured profile, but not a hagiography. We see how Loach’s apparently inflexible principles bent enough to make commercials in the 1980s, including one for McDonald’s. And his quest for naturalism crossed a line for the moment in Kes in which schoolboys were caned on the hands.

But critics of “Red Ken” as a troublemaker tend to miss the point. As Gabriel Byrne puts it, “What they call intractable, what they call unchanging, is what makes him that powerful.”

Beyond the sheer humanity of his projects, he also gives voice to the downtrodden and the hopeless. Recalling the scene in Kes where Billy Casper tells his class how he trained a kestrel, Loach says, “I didn’t want him to learn it too word-for-word because the point of the scene is for a boy who can never string two words together to become articulate.”

How to watch

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Credits

Cast

rolename
Ken LoachKen Loach
Tony GarnettTony Garnett

Crew

rolename
DirectorLouise Osmond

Details

Theatrical distributor
Dogwoof
Released on
2016-06-03
Languages
English
Guidance
Swearing.
Formats
Colour
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