Fri 30 Sep 2011
WEST 11. Warner-Pathé, UK, 1963. Alfred Lynch, Kathleen Breck, Eric Portman, Diana Dors, Kathleen Harrison, Finlay Currie. Director: Michael Winner.
A minor, all-but-forgotten film, one that Leonard Maltin’s book (2009 edition) gives only one and a half stars to, but it’s far better than that. Filmed on location in London’s Notting Hill section, West 11 (named after the postal code) is a true noir film. If you’re ever able to see this film, you’re likely not to forget it for a while.
That it’s filmed in black-and-white only adds to the mood: rundown post-war apartment complexes, seedy eating establishments and swinging basement level jazz clubs, rain-slicked streets, and members of both sexes searching for love and the meaning of life (with sex on sweat-stained sheets standing in as a poor substitute for companionship).
The movie is slow in getting going, I admit that (which I’m sure explains Maltin’s use of the word “lumbering” to describe it). One might easily get frustrated in following Joe Beckett (Alfred Lynch) around – Beckett is an emotional cripple stumbling from job to job, from girl to girl (Kathleen Breck, and the slightly older Diana Dors), unable even to love his mother (Kathleen Harrison) – if one were not fully aware of the interest that the old soldier-type Richard Dyce (Eric Portman) has in him.
The criminous portion of this film is confined to the final 20 minutes – Dyce has an aunt who he believes has lived long enough, and Beckett might be just the person to do something about it – but the slow build-up is worth the wait. And it should be noted that by the time the 60s had rolled around, noirish films like this one were no longer required to have “happy” endings, as most of them in the 40s and 50s needed to do.
Note: Here’s an amusing two minute clip from YouTube. I think what’s happening is self-explanatory.