DVD Round-up 28 April 2011: Lunch Hour and Joanna

The BFI Flipside returns this month with two more near-forgotten British titles which deserve to be exhumed from the vaults.

This time around we have 1962’s Lunch Hour and 1968’s Joanna, two films which look at attitudes to sex and equality from very different standpoints.

Director James Hill’s version of John Mortimer’s play introduces us to a girl (Shirley Ann Field) and her married boyfriend (Robert Stephens) as they continue their affair within the confines of a run down London hotel.

Entering the room in the opening moments, the story then flashes back to the start of their dalliance, as she begins working at his factory. As they become more intimate and he decides to create an elaborate story with which he can fool the hotel’s owner, the girl starts to wonder what sort of person she really is: is she the kind of woman who goes to seedy hotels in her lunch bread with married men?

The straightforward nature of the film gains a new energy around the halfway point, as the girl’s dreams and paranoia start to take hold and the story veers off in a new direction.

Although Lunch Hour’s stage origins are apparent, Hill coaxes an impressive performance from his leads, Field particularly strong as the girl who predicts a future of drudgery after the excitement of the affair wears off.

Shot in near real time of just over an hour, this is a welcome addition to the Flipside range.

Mike Sarne’s Joanna, starring Genevieve Waite as the titular character, also employs touches of fantasy as our heroine careers headlong through the late 1960s and finds herself in a world which is at odds with her own needs.

At just 17, Joanna is still learning about life when we meet her, her middle class upbringing sheltering her from the complications of the big bad world. Meeting a few oddballs and players along the way, including the oddly-accented Lord Sanderson (Donald Sutherland) and the charming Gordon (Calvin Lockhart), Joanna realises that her view of the universe may be at odds with those around her, as her mind adds a new spin to events.

Though Joanna makes more use of fantasy sequences than Lunch Hour, the lead character enjoying elaborate dance routines while the latter film sticks to the mundanity of a council house in the grim north of England, both films use the method to their advantage.

Thankfully the fantasy doesn’t completely overwhelm these films, the performances of Lesley Ann Field and Genevieve Waite strong enough to give modern viewers glimpses of life in the 1960s that have been overshadowed by better known films of the era.

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