Billy Liar (1963)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB.5

United Kingdom, 1963.  Vic Films Productions, Waterfall Productions.  Screenplay by , , based on the play by Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall, from the novel by Keith Waterhouse.  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Tom Courtenay plays an undertaker’s assistant who slacks off on the job and spends his entire days in constant daydreams. Sometimes he’s the president of a fictitious country, other times he simply wishes he could knock off the people who drive him crazy, most notably his judgmental family.

Then there’s the case of his having two fiancees, each one completely unaware of the other. In comes breathtaking Julie Christie to provide perspective about his ridiculous immaturity, and maybe give him the chance to grow up and do something with his life.

This fantastic early film by John Schlesinger presents all the impetuousness of youth without avoiding criticism of it, the brilliant screenplay doesn’t condemn Billy for his lack of direction but it doesn’t exactly encourage his kind of behavior either, making for something oddly wise and grown-up for a film so rampantly energetic and modern. Courtenay is magnificent, and Christie lights up the screen with her magic even though she isn’t on for very long.

The Criterion Collection:  #121

Venice Film Festival:  In Competition


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