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Review of the Film "Brassed Off" .... long(ish)
This review may be of most interest to non-UK residents who have been
wondering what this film is all about (but anyone else can of course read it
and comment as appropriate).
Overall I thought it was a good film (a view shared by others on and ouh
the brass-band internet list). The story is set in Yorkshire in the
fictitious village of Grimley which is a coal mining community attached to
the National Coal Board's Grimley Colliery. The Colliery supports the
village brass band - a championship band. Female star of the film is Tara
Fitzgerald who plays the flugel-playing grand-daughter (Gloria Mullins) of a
stalwart of the band. Gloria is temporarily working in Grimley as a
Surveyor whose task it is to conduct a feasibility study of whether or not
the pit (colliery) should be closed. She keeps her reason for being in
Grimley a secret for as long as possible although it turns out she is
actually on the side of the miners, the pit being financially viable and
there being plenty of coal to be mined for years to come. The band is of
course in danger of collapse if the colliery closes and one element of the
story is the band's fight for survival in its own right - something that is
in fact achieved when they first qualify for then win the Nationals Contest
at the Royal Albert Hall. A further * twist* to the tale is that when Gloria
was a schoolgirl living in Grimley she had a brief fling with a chap who
turns out to be a horn player in the Grimley Band and their romance is
rekindled - that is until the men in the band find out that Gloria is
working for pit management! Despite Gloria's report to the pit management,
which incidentally is never read by them (the decision to close the pit
having been taken some 2 years earlier) the pit closes but the band lives
on, as I've already indicated above. The film therefore has many political
connotations, not least the statement right at the end when the statistics
of how many mines were closed in this country between the Miner's Strike of
1984 and the present day.
The music soundtrack of "Brassed Off" is provided by Grimethorpe Colliery
Band (indeed some of their principals and Jim Shepherd - of James Shepherd
Versatile Brass fame - are featured on camera actually in the Grimley Band
as well), and both the music repertoire and recording quality are equally
excellent, though I have read a comment on this list to the effect that the
microphones were a little too close. However, Gloria's efforts as a flugel
soloist are not at all convincing. She plays the solo "Mon Amour" from
"Concerto D'Aranjeuz" by Rodrigeuz. We see many close ups of her valve work
which unfortunately is not very natural looking to us experienced brass
players in the audience. One further criticism of the film is the blatant
lack of research which as been done concerning how the brass band contest
scene operates in the UK, but the makers of the film do defend this (in the
credits at the end of the film) by stating that the story and characters
contained therein are all fictional.
(i) the conductor of the band would never wear a band uniform - and
certainly not at a contest.
(ii) instruments should/probably would not be normally be carried from home
to rehearsal minus their cases.
(iii) a regional qualifying contest at any level (let alone Championship)
would never be held outdoors. Anybody know where this was scene was filmed
by the way? Looked like Roman Baths/Amphitheatre to me - supposed to be in
Halifax of course.
(iv) testpieces for contests would never be the likes of "Florentiner
March", "Clog Dance", "Colonel Bogey", "Floral Dance" etc. etc. and in
particular the Championship Test Piece would certainly not be "own choice",
Grimley Band playing "Overture William Tell", but I guess the music had to
be known to the majority of the audience at large, not just the brass
banders among us. Wonder if the music's being released as a compilation CD?
Would be a good one to have I think.
(v) It is debatable if an all-male band such as Grimley (which is so like
the real-life Grimethorpe) would permit a stranger to sit in and play at
their rehearsal and when that stranger is a lady, beautiful as she may be,
and with historical connections with the band such as Gloria Mullins had
........ I don't think so.
(vi) Contest registration - no mention was made of going through any proper
channels to register Gloria as a member of Grimley Band in order for her to
be permitted to play at the Nationals Qualifying & Finals Contests. Even if
it had been, the timespan from when Gloria first appeared at Grimley's band
room and the first contest was no more than a few weeks - the final being
held as quickly as two weeks later in London. Totally unrealistic timescales.
I suppose some of the above comments is simply "nit--picking" but I really
do think the researchers could/should have done their homework a bit more
thoroughly - if only to convince the brass banding fraternity patronising
the film as part of a cinema audience up & down this country (they must have
known the film would have great appeal to the thousands of brass playing
Hope this is a fair appraisal of the film which you are more than welcome to
comment on as I say.
Greetings from London.
The Crystal Palace Band
P.S. For the record, I went to see "Brassed Off" at a cinema in Wimbledon
of all places. Doubt if there were many folk in that audience who knew
anything about the life & culture of banding in or out of a mining community!!
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