MORRIS: A LIFE WITH BELLS ON

30/03/2011 23:00.

morris-a-life-with-bells-on-mar-31stTo conclude the season, we bring you this mockumentary about morris dancing. A low budget film which was nearly overlooked for distribution, it was only released when it achieved cult status via the Internet. Director Lucy Akhurst and writer Charles Thomas Oldham approach their subject with obvious affection and knowledge, which makes this a film that will appeal to both morris dancing aficionados and casual observers alike. The names of the dancers alone hint at the eccentricity of such an English tradition! (Cert 12A)
Dir: Lucy Akhurst 101 mins UK 2009

Programme Notes

Thursday March 31st 2011

ABINGDON ARTS FESTIVAL SPECIAL SCREENING
MORRIS: A LIFE WITH BELLS ON

Britain 2009 101 minutes Cert 12A

An irreverent look at morris dancing in the 21st century, tonight’s film charts the endeavours of one Derecq Twist, self-proclaimed advocate of new Extreme Morris, to overcome hundreds of years of entrenched tradition and resistance to change by the Morris Circle, and to drag this most English of country pastimes into contemporary purview.

Shot in faux-documentary style (cinematographer Roger Chapman is a well known documentary film maker), Morris is an open-hearted labour of love by Charles Thomas Oldham and Lucy Akhurst which, despite its thorough sending up of the many odd-ball characters who share this niche, richly bucolic hobby, has been well (often rapturously) received wherever it’s been shown. The film was shunned on its release by mainstream distributors but has since become a word-of-mouth hit on the British folk scene, playing in village halls across the south and west to packed audiences of a certain age and particular musical persuasion.

An eclectic cast works well throughout, especially Dominique Pinon (a Jean-Pierre Jeunet regular) as a substitute dancer in Derecq’s morris side, with notable supporting turns from Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Harriet Walter and Naomi Harris.

Characterised by some reviewers as perhaps following in the footsteps of the Crufts send-up Best in Show (2000, Christopher Guest) and by others as a rather more subtle Spinal Tap of the folk world (1984, Rob Reiner), it’s probably best to let the film speak for itself and for you to decide!
Acknowledgements: Tom René, Movie Muser; Yusuf Javed, Eye for Film

“If there’s space in cinemas for a lairy Nick Love, then surely there’s room for films like Morris, too”
Xan Brooks, The Guardian

Comments

“Great film”

“Excellent film!”

“A riot!”

“We West Country folk enjoyed that!”

“What a joy – just pass the hankies and draw the line …”

“Great fun – an excellent end to the season”

“A good film to end the season with”

“Extremely silly but great fun!”

“What an unusual film!”

“Had tons of charm and was downright amusing. Definitely a contender for the best British comedy in years.”

“Remarkably crafted – a fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous. [The film] achieved a near impossible balance!”

“Preposterous idea consummately executed”

“Very good casting”

“Enjoyed the film; feel-good and funny. Found the second half, in America, a bit too far-fetched. Thanks for opening up [your screening] to guests.”

“Morris – more important then life or death. Captured perfectly the claustrophobic, ritualistic character of male bonding activities.”

“Very enjoyable but 20mins too long”

“Slightly too long but a great ‘twist’ on an old theme. Reminded me of Mornington Crescent in terms of its academic traditions.”

“Derivative but fun”

“Fun, though a bit thin at times”

“Good but not great. I much preferred a similar film, Crackerjack (2002), telling the humorous story of an attempt to update a traditional, stuffy Australian lawn green bowls club!”

“Made by grown-up kids for grown-up kids!”

“I found this film overacted, [just] for the sake of a laugh and overrated.”

“I don’t understand what is supposed to be so funny about a cod Mummerset accent!”

“Will this film put Wimborne on the international map?”

Scores

A:34, B:13, C:3, D:0, E:0 to give 91%