A Day In The Life – Four Portraits of Post-War Britain, John Krish, 92 mins (U)
My Afternoons With Marguerite, Jean Becker, 82 mins (15)

These superb documentaries manage to invoke nostalgia, even for misery

This week's best film is, in fact, four films.

Compiled for the BFI's Boom Britain season, A Day In The Life – Four Portraits of Post-War Britain is a quartet of fascinating black-and-white documentaries, all written and directed by John Krish, and all of them immeasurably moving, funny, or both. Their resonance is all the more amazing when you learn that they were shot as promotional films. The Elephant Will Never Forget (1953) was commissioned by British Transport to commemorate the trams which were being banished from London's roads (and it's such a powerful requiem that it earnt Krish the sack). They Took Us to the Sea (1961) was an NSPCC fund-raising tool, showing a gaggle of Birmingham children on a day-trip to Weston-super-Mare. Our School (1962) was a National Union of Teachers plug for the brave new world of secondary moderns. And, last but not least, I Think They Call Him John (1964) was a Samaritans tear-jerker, depicting a widowed pensioner's empty Sunday.

In short, each film was calculated to have a specific effect on a contemporary audience, and yet it's easy to feel that Krish was making them to be watched now, 50 years on, because he wanted us to see exactly what British life was like in the Fifties and Sixties. The voice-overs may lecture us on grand social themes – charity, education, community – but Krish lets his camera linger on all sorts of small domestic details, as if he knew that the sight of an old man cooking sausages or a child drinking a glass of milk in a café would be just as arresting to denizens of the far-flung future.

Today, for all the poverty and loneliness they include, the Four Portraits are likely to make us nostalgic for the polite, pre-ironic era when there weren't empty Red Bull cans on pavements. But that nostalgic tinge isn't just overlaid by the viewer: it's hard-wired into the films themselves. Krish is keenly aware that the times are a-changing, and while he celebrates the space-age cleanliness of Our School, he keeps an eye on what's being swept away by the march of progress. No wonder A Day In The Life is so poignant. We're not just getting nostalgia, we're getting nostalgia squared.

In My Afternoons With Marguerite, Gérard Depardieu's oafish odd-job man is renowned around town for his stupidity, but when an old woman starts reading him excerpts from her favourite novels at lunchtimes, he regains his self-respect. What's notable about the film is the assurance and precision of Gisèle Casadesus, a 96-year-old actress who's been in the business since the 1930s. But, Casadesus aside, it's all too mild and cosy to get very excited about, set as it is in a leafy historic ville where the sun always shines. Depardieu may be a lumbering simpleton, but that doesn't stop him having a shapely blonde girlfriend half his age.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber receives his annual dose of Harry Potter

Also Showing: 14/11/2010

Skyline (92 mins, 15)

This sub-Cloverfield alien-invasion schlock has some impressively disgusting monsters, but the dreadful script and charmless acting make it truly walk-outable, Brittany Daniel not withstanding.

You Again (105 mins, U)

Kristen Bell revisits her home town to find that her brother is marrying the former prom queen who made her life hell at school. The film gets off to a jaunty start, before defaulting to song and dance routines, and shots of people falling over.

Brilliantlove (101 mins, 18)

A bohemian couple called, er, Manchester and Noon live a carefree life of sex and shoplifting until Manchester sells their intimate photos to an art dealer. The numerous bedroom scenes may be convincing, but nothing else is.

Aftershock (135 mins, 15)

One of China's most successful ever films, this soapy saga charts the repercussions of 1976's Tangshan earthquake on a family for decades afterwards.

Fezeka's Voice (78 mins, PG)

Heart-warming documentary about a school choir from a South African township preparing for a trip to Britain.

Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape