Festival de ‘Usual Suspects’: Kes (1969) de Ken Loach

April 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

Maybe the reason for Ken Loach’s countless appearances at Cannes lies somewhere in his outstanding 1969 debut feature, Kes, in between the groggy naturalism of the performances and the wintry lyricism of the images Loach and cinematographer Chris Menges captured in South Yorkshire, a marriage of pastoral and industrial: “Make a film like this and you’re always welcome at Cannes,” where Kes premiered in the Critics Week sidebar.  Named for the gorgeous falcon stolen from its nest as a chick, trained and utterly adored by scrawny adolescent protagonist Billy Casper (David Bradley in a one-hit-wonder role, it seems), Kes looks, feels and moves like 60s British kitchen-sink realism seduced somewhat by the jazzy swagger of the French New Wave. Without a doubt, when people speak of Kes, Truffaut’s The 400 Blows must be dancing around within the same breath, and for good reason. Both films feature young working class lads (or garçons) whose hearts are good and decent but whose minds are not easily corralled and appeased by the confines of home and school. But where rascally Antoine Doinel enacts his rebellion is his own small prison-landing ways, the sweeter Billy retreats to nature somewhat, finding a kind of feral kinship with a bird he sees more as a peer than as a pet and, by way of this, finding an impressive sense of purpose too. An arguable if not undisputable granddaddy to the types of rough, humane films made by the last two competition entrants (Arnold and the Dardennes), Kes is rightfully heralded as a pinnacle of  social realist cinema, one which Loach has barely strayed from if at all. With vernacular so thick and specific that I shamefully conceded to using subtitles, Billy and his fellow characters conjure a hardscrabble world in which hope sits like a gem within a vast ore, glinting every once in a while to distract from despair. Kes is landmark stuff.

 

 

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