Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Knack ...and How to Get It

The Knack... and How to Get It; comedy, UK, 1965; D: Richard Lester, S: Michael Crawford, Ray Brooks, Rita Cushingham, Donal Donnelly

London. Schoolteacher Colin is annoyed that his friend, Tolen, gets to sleep with so many girls, while he is always single. Colin thus asks Tolen to help him out find a girl, but Tolen agrees only on the condition that Colin rents his house for him and his friend, Tom, so that they could bring girls there. One day, a young girl, Nancy, arrives to London in search for the catholic school for girls, but Tolen quickly starts hitting on her and brings her out with his motorcycle to show her the city, while Colin and Tom run after him, fearing he will break Nancy's heart. In the park, Nancy teaches Tolen a lesson by shouting "rape", which causes him to panic. They all return to the house, while Colin and Nancy fall in love.

One of the first British films that spoke up about the life of the 'swinging sixties' as well as the increasing sexual revolution of that time, albeit in a very conservative manner (not a single intercourse scene is shown), "The Knack... and How to Get It" still seems equally as a quirky and witty today as it was back then, and even more harmless and benign than some remembered it. 'Sandwiched' between two films he directed with the Beatles, "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!", director Richard Lester crafts "Knack" in very similar stylistic mode, playing with jump cuts, cinematic techniques (reverse flow of time in some shots) and spontaneous movements and gestures of the characters, reflecting their 'youth spirit', to such an extent that one could easily imagine Lennon, Harrison or Ringo playing the roles of the wacky three heroes, whereas all three films show a unique movement for the British cinema - they are all a comedy version of the French New Wave movement that was big during that time. The sequence where the heroes are pushing their bed on wheels through the streets of London, even stopping during a traffic jam, is a surreal sight, whereas the best joke is the sequence where Nancy decides to teach Tolen a lesson in the park, and thus - even though he didn't even touch her - shouts "Rape!", which causes a quietly hilarious series of jump cuts that show Tolen, Colin and Tom being further and further away in each of the three cuts, almost like a cartoon "backing off". Unfortunately, "Knack" looks a lot like "Six styles in search for a story": it is very chaotic, disorganized, without a plot or a conclusion, with episodic gags unraveling in a manner that the movie could theoretically end at any moment, anyway. A small gem here is Rita Cushingham as Nancy, who probably gave the role of a lifetime thanks to her irresistible charm and allure.


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