Hanif Kureishi's unique world is always fascinating, always challenging: a direct rebuttal to a world in which the "British" are something out of a 1950s time warp (forever white, middle-class, village-dwelling). But he's never been so on-point, so relevant, direct and just plain right as with his script for Stephen Frears' well-made "My Beautiful Laundrette".
Gordon Warnecke plays Omar, a young Pakistani Londoner needing a direction in life in 1980's Britain: time of Thatcher, of aspiration, accumulation. He may be young and good-looking, but he's penniless and without prospects. His failed intellectual father (the great Roshan Seth) delivers him to jaws of the lion, as it were, for the sake of giving him a future. The lion is his uncle (the also great Saeed Jaffrey), rich, successful, an all too literal product of Thatcher's Britain. Omar's world becomes divided between his father, his uncle and his unlikely, erstwhile friend and sometime NF supporter, punk dropout Johnny (an early Daniel Day Lewis).
The world of 'Sarf' London in the 80s is brilliantly depicted from the feel of the streets right down to the fundamental, almost feudal divide between rich and poor. But it's also a very funny film, sharp and romantic. Neither Omar nor Johnny are meant to succeed in this particular world. But both find a way to defy the bounds set by those around them: what might I suppose be considered the ultimate Thatcherite success that is, in defiance of the odds, by hook or crook.
Omar and Johnny become lovers - but it's entirely incidental; it can't be allowed to get in the way of business. Certainly it doesn't make them any more outcast than they were already. London has changed a lot. Johnny's kiss stolen from Omar on a dark street corner is one of the all time sexiest moments I can think of in a film, and I can see from other reviewers that I'm not alone. (Hardly necessary to add that you don't have to be gay to enjoy this film any more than that you have to be a Londoner or British.)
Daniel Day Lewis has since made his way to superstardom; Gordon Warnecke inexplicably languishes in occasional British TV appearances today, as far as I can tell. But both actors are really believable in their roles, both playing complicated, real human characters, driven and held back by multiple forces.
Kureishi tells the searing, unapologetic truth always. With a great eye for character, he knows how to make what people really say, work dramatically. Check out his TV series "The Bhudda of Suburbia", if you can find it. Frears is one of the small handful of great British directors: check out his very funny "The Snapper".
Films like this helped shape my world as a teenager: a Brit classic.
My Beautiful Laundrette
My Beautiful Laundrette
Much of the Pakistani Hussein family has settled in London, striving for the riches promised by Thatcherism. Nasser and his right hand man, Salim, have a number of small businesses and they do whatever they need to make money, even if the activities are illegal. As such, Nasser and his immediate family live more than a comfortable lifestyle, and he flaunts his riches whenever he can. Meanwhile, his brother, alcoholic Ali, once a famous journalist in Pakistan, lives in a seedy flat with his son, Omar. Ali's life in London is not as lucrative in part because of his left leaning politics, which does not mesh with the ideals of Thatcherism. To help his brother, Nasser gives Omar a job doing menial labor. But Omar, with bigger plans, talks Nasser into letting him manage Nasser's run down laundrette. Omar seizes what he sees as an opportunity to make the laundrette a success, and employs an old friend, Johnny - who has been most recently running around with a gang of white punks - to help ...
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July 18, 2015 at 10:07 PM