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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
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.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering