In 1996, I had the real privilege to see Brassed Off (Les Virtuoses in France) in the theaters. This movie sparked off a trend of social comedies that was right in the middle of the grounds held by Four weddings and a funeral, Mike Newell's huge worldwide success in 1994, and Ken Loach more socially engaged yet funny movies, hailed by leftist french media like Telerama or France Inter but remaining invisible to the greater good.
A year later I was sad to see Full Monty, a good film ont its own right, take all the space and fame that was the result of Brassed Off's more social oriented foray into the mainstream audience. Full Monty is ok. But it's not quite what Brassed Off could achieve.
Among the cast was young Ewan McGregor. Freshly sparkling here, he was on a roll and became a huge sensation in Danny Boyle's Trainspotting the next year. And there was Pete Postlethwaite, assuming the role of the band leader and the father of one of the desperate miners. I already saw him in the "Kobayashi" part of Usual Suspects the fore year, In Jim Sheridan's Name of the Father in 1993 and unbeknownst to me at the time, in a very minor role in David Fincher's Alien3 in 1992. This time, he had much more screen presence and delivered something authentic and complex. I kept his name and talent in mind afterwards and saw him in lots of supporting characters. In 1998, surfing on this trend, I was plunged again in the theater to see him shining with a central part in Among Giants (Géants in France). But I always thought the peak of his career was this movie.
Basically, Brassed Off taught me a couple of things:
- A bit of social background in the 8O's UK, with Margaret Thatcher closing down the coal mines and Arthur Scargill waving war against her policies;
- How to sway "Bloody" with the northern accent;
- That "John Lennon can die, but Margaret Thatcher live". A way to express that culture can say and deliver more concrete stuff than money or politics. Which is at the core of the movie plot, as a group of people try to retain their honor playing the brass while being laid off;
- In Great Britain, beer is important.
This is my way to salute Mark Herman, writer and director of this important gem. And Pete Postlethwaite, who passed away in the first hours of 2011. I don't have much right now, but what I have belongs to the work done by these people to enlight the planet. If you read articles about his passing, everyone quotes Spielberg saying he was "the best actor in the world". It shows here. Watch this film.