. . . if you happen to be in Britain, have Film4 and are so inclined.
'Comrades' is a dramatisation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. Of course it's a work of fiction; when was the last time you heard of six activists at a union branch meeting?
As I've only ever seen five minutes of the film - and Kev seems to love the film in the same way that I love Cornish Pasties - I think it's best if he does the sales pitch:
"'Comrades' has been described as one of the lost masterpieces of European cinema. It appeared in 1987 to critical acclaim then disappeared almost as quickly. It hasnt been seen in cinemas or on television for almost twenty years. But tomorrow night (Wed 18th) Film4 will show a very welcome screening of Bill Douglas's epic three hour movie about the Tolpuddle Martyrs. This really is a special event. People have campaigned for many years to have this film returned to the public domain.
For my money Bill Douglas's masterpiece stands alongside the best of Tarkovsky, Bresson and Bergman. Within minutes the viewer is pulled into a story of love and passion, solidarity and bravery. 'Comrades' is not just one-dimensional political polemic either. Far from it. Nor just a historical epic. This is character-driven story-telling of the highest order, definitely, although there are many layers to the film. It fuses and transcends both narrative drama and the avante garde and cries out for further viewings.
In many ways 'Comrades' is an experimental visionary movie as well as a tribute to the cinema that came before cinema. (Watch out for the magic lanternist who appears in many guises.) Interestingly, the famous actors of the day - who Douglas didn't want in the film but was forced to use - were cast as the affluent classes while complete unknowns were cast as the Martyrs and their families.
Director Bill Douglas was a man knew about poverty and struggle. He was raised in abject poverty in Newcraighall, which was then an impoverished mining village on the outskirts of Edinburgh. His autobiographical 'Trilogy' - filmed in a post-war Newcraighall that is now gone - is his only other cinematic output. But what a work! It is by far the finest cinematic achievement to ever come out of Scotland. Even the film scripts of 'Trilogy' are works of literature in their own right.
It is one of those typically Scottish re-occurrences that this intensely creative and single-minded individual had his artistic vision blocked at every twist and turn after 'Trilogy'. Bill Douglas had a purity of aesthetic and a nobility of purpose that few before or since have matched. Perhaps now that 'Trilogy' is out on DVD and 'Comrades' returned to its rightful place in the public domain more people will come to realise just what we lost when Scotland's greatest cinema auteur died at the young age of 41.
If you love cinema try not to miss 'Comrades'. It starts at 11pm on Wed 18th Feb on Film4. And a big thanks to those at Art-Flix for the nod.
OK, so it's not John Thaw in 'Praise Marx and Pass the Ammunition' - a film I only know of by reputation but which I'm desperate to see - but if you have the chance, you should definitely check out 'Comrades'. Maybe, just maybe, it's our 'Matewan' or 'Commune' and where else will you see Lily's dad playing a hero of British Labour Movement history?
PS - Anyone reading this who happens to rip it, bit torrent it and then uploads it onto Pirate Bay or Mininova, I have to inform you that that is illegal activity . . . I think you know what I'm saying.