In the mid 1960’s when Italian and French Avant Garde cinema falls too deep in the crack of self-absorbent intellectualism with Antonioni following Godard-type film of “Blow Up” in 1966 and Godard making another failed cinematic experiment with “Pierrot le fou”, a novel masterpiece comes out of England. Richard Lester an American living in England hands on film experiment late in his life for the first time at age 27 with a sketch comedy short film “The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film” in 1959co-directed with Peter Sellers. He goes back to the basic and moving pictures that was silent films and experiments and learns it as it started. This 11 minutes short film experiment attracts the Beatles at the time who hired Lester to direct their film “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 and after “The Knack…and how to get it” (“The Knack” for short from now on in this article), their second musical film “Help” in the same year of 1965.
Lester innovates and introduces a comedy/farce film style with “The Knack” that will be adapted by most British and American comedy filmmaker in later years. After making a few other alike, e.g. “A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum” in 1966 and “How I won the war” starring John Lennon in 1967, from early 70’s he turns into adventure film making “The Three Musketeers” in 1973, “Juggernaut” and “The Four Musketeers” in 1974 until in early 80’s when he gets into making “Superman II” in 1980, later “Superman III” in 1983, then back to “The Return of Musketeers” in 1989, before his final film, a return to the Beatles with “Get Back” in 1991 filming Paul McCartney’s concert tour of 1989-1990.
Knack and how to invent it
The film is itself a “Knack”, a skill and talent that Lester showed to own it in many of his films from the two films made for the Beatles to a few other innovative comedy like “The Knack” to his later adventure and other genre films. In “The Knack” the avant garde cinema of Godard and Antonioni is mixed well with art of silent filmography, Russian-style camera work, cinematography and editing to create an innovative intellectual farce comedy. Hope and fantasy in exaggeration all the way in between the hours of reality in daily life is depicted from the start to finish. Colin (Michael Crawfors), a bachelor clumsy in the art of attracting women, in jealousy of his friend and housemate, Tolen (Ray Brooks) a womanizer, daydreams in his imagination, a line full of young girls waiting on their staircase for what seems to be fashion models audition to be tempted and used by Tolen upstairs, while he is in despair of having only one.
The film starts with a slab comedy style of silent era like Chaplin’s in the above opening scene and later with the scenes of the people rushing down off a bus , picking up their newspapers and digest books, while Nancy (Rita Tushingham), a young woman off the bus trying to put her luggage in a locker and closes it in the bus station, but the locker’s door keeps opening. This style of farce slab comedy continues when Nancy takes self portrait photos in a photo booth, when another woman with her man getting in and starts undressing behind the curtain and passing on her clothes including her undergarments piece by piece to the man and taking nude photos.
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