Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Privilege (1967)


Steven Shorter is the ultimate British music star. His music is listened to by everyone from pre-teens to grandparents. He has no trace of public bad habits or drug involvement. Everyone in Britain loves him. His handlers begin to use his popularity for projects like increasing the consumption of apples after a bumper crop as an aid to farmers. The handlers decide that Steven should support God and Country next. This leads to, among other things, a rock version of "Onward Christian Soldiers," and the inclusion of a Nazi salute to make it clear (to the viewer) how far the British population will be taken for love of God and Country under Steven's guidance. Steven is very plastic in his direction, shifting as his handlers point him toward new projects until he meets Vanessa Ritchie, an artist who makes him look at what's happening.


Privilege was Peter Watkins' feature length debut. Using the faux documentary style, Watkins' follows a year in the life of a pop star. Stephen Shorter, Britian's most beloved pop icon. Shorter's handlers pimp him out to the highest bidder. What's so scary about this movie is how it's still relevant, even in today's society.

Peter Watkins-directed mockumentary about a pop star whose fame is engineered by the government. Paul Jones gives a wonderful performance as Steven Shorter, possibly the most famous man in Great Britain. We watch his daily exploits as he's followed by a documentary crew that also narrates. Although Shorter is clearly in the vein of a "mod" from the mid-1960's, the film has aged quite well. The original songs are great ("Privilege(Set Me Free)" was covered by Patti Smith in 1978) and the scenes of Shorter leading a fascist-like rally are still eerie (perhaps an influence on the film PINK FLOYD THE WALL?). Another great scene deals with Shorter being conscripted into writing a Catholic rock song, which anticipates how the organized Christianity of today tries to use rock as a way of converting people. Definitely worth watching.

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