April 26, 2010
Capital Tales: Four in the Morning
The BFI screening of Four in the Morning
Wed 21 Apr. 2010, 18:20, NFT1
"Anthony Simmons' film, which plays like a L'Avventura of the Docklands."
Peter Greenhill saw 'Four In The Morning', the 1965 film directed by Anthony Simmons at BFI in London.
The film has three threads:
1) The river police picking up the body of a dead woman from the Thames.
2) A seemingly rootless young man (Brian Phelan) picks up a singer (Ann Lynn) he knows, after her work. At four in the morning they romp around the Thames' shores, steal a boat, leave it, almost touch each other emotionally but are they committed?
3) The other couple is shown as a woman (Judi Dench) waiting for her husband, (Norman Rodway) out on the town with a bachelor crony. The baby cries and exasperates her. The growing incompatibility of the couple is deftly outlined in bold, dramatic strokes...
The three threads are linked by London’s river. The film is bleak but is also absorbing and eminently watchable thanks to great performances, atmospheric photography and a haunting score by John Barry which is just perfect for the movie, underlining its sense of sadness and yearning with mournful oboes and sighing flutes.
There was a good turnout for the movie with BFI 1 almost full. The film was introduced by director/writer Anthony Simmons who also did a Q&A after the showing. Simmons said that he originally intended doing a documentary about London as he couldn’t find a suitable story. He then read a poem about a dead body in the river and the idea grew to make a film about London and its river. The screenplay was only partly written when shooting started. The Dench/ Rodway section was not written when Phelan and Lynn filmed their section.
In the end the film is really three short films combined into one. feature movie. It took 3-4 months to shoot. Judi Dench was not Simmons’ first choice for the role of the young wife/mother but he wouldn’t say who was.
Simmons said that John Barry was his first choice to do the score. He had previously worked with Barry on a couple of commercials. Barry was shown the film and loved it but Simmons had to tell him that there was little money. ‘No problem’ said Barry ‘I’ll get paid by the PRS, as long as you don’t want any royalties’. The interviewer pointed out that 1965 was a good year for Barry (Ipcress, Thunderball, Born Free etc) and that he could probably afford not to take a fee. Barry was definitely on a roll in 1965. Both the interviewer and Simmons agreed that Barry wrote a great score. The score, like the film, is underestimated but it certainly shows how Barry could ‘nail’ a movie so beautifully
Filming was not restricted to the early hours of the morning, sometimes cinematographer Larry Pizer would put black silk stockings over the lens and so there was an absence of black in the print which was consequently shades of grey.
The film played well in Europe and won several awards but had a limited release in the UK due to resistance by Rank. It was never released in US probably because it showed a London that wasn’t swinging.
The film is available on R2 DVD
and the score available at:
as well as other retailers.