A key film of the British New Wave, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning was a great box-office success-audiences were thrilled by its anti-establishment energy, the gritty realism of its setting, and most of all by a working-class hero of a fresh and outspoken kind. Based on Alan Silletoe's largely autobiographical novel, the film is set in the grim industrial streets and factories of Nottingham, where Arthur Seaton spends his days at a factory bench, his Saturday nights with Brenda (Rachel Roberts), wife of a fellow factory worker. Played by Albert Finney with an irresistible animal vitality, Arthur is anti-authority and unashamedly amoral. With powerful central performances, crackling dialogue by Sillitoe and a superb jazz score by Johnny Dankwroth, the film stands as a vibrant modern classic.
Highly recommended period piece
- Saturday Night and Sunday Morning review by RP
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'Saturday Night And Sunday Morning' is a classic of the British New Wave / social realism / kitchen sink films of the late 1950s / early 1960s and stars Albert Finney as anti-hero Arthur Seaton.
Allan Sillitoe wrote the novel on which the film is based – and also the screenplay for the film - and I suspect much of it is semi-autobiographical. He worked for Raleigh in Nottingham, at one time the largest cycle manufacturer in the world. Those times are gone, Raleigh moved out of Nottingham some years ago (and has now been sold to a Dutch company) and its UK operations reduced to distributing bikes imported from the far East.
Raleigh is where Arthur Seaton worked, machining cycle components from Monday to Friday, and on weekends was unleashed to consume large quantities of beer and chase the ladies. Arthur is angry, loud – and full of himself. He is involved with two women at once, one (Brenda, played by Rachel Roberts) the wife of a colleague at work, the other a young woman (Doreen, played by Shirley Anne Field) who has plans for marriage. Brenda fall pregnant, there are failed attempts at an abortion, Brenda's husband finds out, his soldier friends give Arthur a beating, but life goes on and the film ends with Arthur and Doreen talking about moving into a newly built house. So far, so grim – what do you expect of a 'social realist' film?
Arthur Seaton is not a likeable character: he is drunken, surly, rebellious, immoral and while the acting and the script are excellent it does not have the 'heart' of similar films such as, for example, 'This Sporting Life' made few years later in 1963, also with Rachel Roberts.
The film won 3 BAFTAs (Rachel Roberts – Best Actress, Karel Reisz – Best Director, Albert Finney – Best Newcomer to Film Role). And a minor point but something that often irritates me – the accents – work well here. Albert Finney is from Salford so manages a flat Midlands accent well, and Rachel Roberts although Welsh manages to sound fairly authentic.
Period details abound, from old-fashioned names (you don't find many Arthurs, Brendas or Doreens today), old-fashioned industries, manual lathes on the factory floor rather than CNC automation, old-fashioned pubs, to the wearing of a suit to go out to the pub.
The films of Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson, Lindsay Anderson and others laid the foundation for modern British films that did not hark back to the war and did not depend on the Hollywood idiom. The film is a classic, but it's very much a period piece that provides a window onto a lost world of Midlands industry and life which is now long gone. 4/5 stars - highly recommended.