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POOR COW (1967, USA) – 8/10

 

ONva typical British kitchen sink drama is also the first full-length film made by one of the greatest English filmmakers of all time, Ken Loach. It was a time when he still signed as Kenneth Loach, and after “Orphan Cow” his probably best and most famous film “Kes” followed. But about that film on another occasion, and at the end of the sixties the young Loach presented himself as a modern and up-to-date author who previously trained directing television series. This time he filmed a fragmentary drama about the life of an 18-year-old girl who tells herself that she got pregnant at 18 and married the first bastard she came across.

That girl is Joy (Carol White who Roger Ebert wrote looked like Julie Christie’s twin sister, but the sister who doesn’t really know how to act) and really she’s not lying because her husband Tom really is a real badass. Not only does he mentally and physically abuse his young and beautiful wife, but he is a criminal, a thief who will soon end up in prison for four years. Joy comes from a large family and her mother is a drunkard, and it won’t take long for her to suffer for her husband and settle down with Tom’s friend and fellow gang member Dave (Terence Stamp). And while Tom was the typical primitive raw material, Dave is gentle and good to her and son Johnny. But the problem is that he is also a criminal, apparently not overly successful, so he will also end up in prison.

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Meanwhile, Tom will be released from prison, and although Joy has vowed to be faithful to Dave and wait for him to get out of prison, it will not be like that. She will first get a job as a waitress in a typical English pub of that era, and soon she will get close to a colleague there who is engaged in modeling and prostitution, and Joy will soon follow her path. Loach’s film based on Nell Dunn’s novel of the same name from 1967 could also be called a drama about a woman who makes one wrong decision after another and doesn’t even realize that her life is completely out of control and going in a direction she wouldn’t want.

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And although Loach was just honing his talent and style here, it is quite obvious what topics he is interested in. The lives and destinies of average Britons, mostly those from the lower social strata. The lives of marginals whose paths seem to be marked by their place of birth and who can’t seem to get out of that mushroom no matter how hard they try. It is interesting how Loach shot the film practically without any script and that he forced the actors to improvise, he even gave different instructions to the characters in the same scene so that they really seemed confused and were spontaneous when necessary. While it was one of the first important roles for the young Stamp, his colleague Carol White had already entered a critical phase. Although she was considered one of the most talented British actresses during the sixties, she soon fell into drug and alcohol problems, which led to her death at the age of 48.

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