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Press Reviews

Press Reviews

BFI Sight & Sound April 2011 BFI Sight & Sound April 2011

One Continuous Take: The Kay Mander Film Book

Films/Discs: British director Kay Mander first entered the pre-war film industry as a continuity assistant. From the 1950s she was an in-demand continuity 'girl' for directors including Houston, Mann and Truffaut, but between these two periods she was herself a director, as part of the documentary movement during WWII and through the late 1940s.

This two-disc anthology collects eight (sic - actually ten) documentaries Mander worked on during that period, preceded by a biographical film made by Adele Carroll in 2001. It's interesting that a potential 'extra' hence becomes the opening item and overarching narrative, meaningfully binding the shorts that follow. Carroll's documentary is a gentle, informative portrait and career history centred on Mander's engaging recollections.

The first disc collects five utilitarian Shell wartime productions, all good stuff though not much more (or less) interesting than others of their type. More distinctive are the social documentaries on the second disc, made at various production companies. Homes for the People, sponsored by the Daily Herald for the 1945 Attlee election campaign, stands out by marrying the direct-testimony technique of Housing Problems (1935) to fluent, inventive graphics and a more outspoken message. Even better are the lucid scientific filmmaking of Penicillin (1944), the beguiling atmosphere of Highland Doctor (1943) and the interesting mix of professional and amateur performance in that film and A Plan to Work On (1948).

The release of this set begs the question of whether Mander deserves the 'auteur' status it bestows on her. Few members of the British documentary school have yet been singled out for individual valorisation by DVD release - should Mander be so near the front of the queue? Talented, sometimes inventive, unfairly overlooked: such may be said of many of Mander's generation. Which isn't to criticise the release; one of DVD's continuing merits is that, by curating archival shorts, it prompts debate of kinds that online streaming lends itself less easily.

Panamint is one of a handful of cottage industry labels labouring to increase the availability of archival British documentary. It's good at reaching nostalgic or specialist audiences, which partly explaiins why it's had less attention from cineastes. From it's catalogue, John Eldridge's one-of-a-kind Edinburgh city symphony Waverley Steps (1948), the same director's patchier but intriguing Dylan Thomas collaboration Our Country (1944) and Hilary Harris's superb Oscar-winning Seawards the Great Ships (1960) can all confidently be recommended to movie buffs whose tastes extend beyond feature films. Panamint also provides impressively extensive coverage of Scottish filmmaking in particular. However, by making filmmaking itself (more than its subject matter) its binding theme, One Continuous Take marks something of a departure for the label. One hopes that Ms Mander, now 96, got a real kick out of its release. (PR)

Russell Cowe on the Film Programme Russell Cowe on the Film Programme

Russell Cowe was featured in BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland talking about Laxdale Hall on April 5th, and on Reporting Scotland on BBC 1 Television Scotland on the same day.

Click here to listen to Russell Cowe on BBC Radio 4's The Film Programme in an interview with Francine Stock.

Weave me a Rainbow
Weave me a Rainbow

The Digital Fix

Kay Mander
Kay Mander

The Herald

Rikki Fulton
Rikki Fulton

Daily Record

Laxdale Hall
Laxdale Hall

Scottish Television

Faces of Scotland
Faces of Scotland

The Digital Fix

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