Studio: British Film Institute
Length: 196 mins
Region: Region 0
Released: 22 March 2010
Cat No: BFIVD855
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COI Collection: Volume 2 - Design for Today
A collection of short information films made by the Central Office of Information (COI) throughout the latter half of the 20th century.... Read More
The earliest film in this sprightly second volume from the archives of the Central Office of Information, Designing Women (1947), sees fairy godmother Miss Design outlining a few principles of what to buy to a newly-wed couple, eager to furnish their home. The questions ‘does it work?’, ‘is it well made?’ and ‘is it attractive?’ should be uppermost in their minds, she says, much to the consternation of Joyce Grenfell’s Miss Arty, whose flair for hopelessly unsuitable unfurnishings (‘what we need here is a motif .. something brave new worldy’) clutters the rooms into unusability. 'Why should a teapot look like a cat?, adds Miss Design. Indeed. (Teapots feature quite a lot in this collection.)
Miss Design would certainly approve of many of the objects on display in Designed in Britain, showcasing the best of British design from 1959, from curtains and chairs to paperbacks and flip-top bins, all set to a jaunty jazz soundtrack by Ken Moule (or a more recent one by St. Etienne, who also offer alternative music to Design for Today, a day-long 'city symphony' of a sort, all based around the theme of British design (and which includes a bit of a collector's item in the pioneering Moulton Stowaway bicycle featured). She would also cast a friendly eye on Brief City, an evocative film made at the close of the Festival of Britain, in which The Observer's reporter Patrick O’Donovan tours the South Bank site (described as ‘a gigantic toyshop for adults’) in the company of the director of architecture, Hugh Casson, who introduces and explains the layout and structures and the concepts behind them. It's a rather lovely and strangely moving film, balancing pride with modesty in a way encapsulated by O’Donovan at the end of the film. ‘There were no resounding proud messages here – no-one was taught to hate anything. At a time when nations were becoming more assertive, here was a national exhibition that avoided these emotions and tried to stay rational.’
A handful of programmes from the cinemagazine This Week in Britain take a look at The National Theatre's move to the South Bank, Men's Fashion ('just how liberated is the fashion conscious male of 1973?'), Savile Row tailors adapting to new times and trends and Mary Quant, in which Jean Shrimpton, David Bailey and Quant herself give some perspective on her style. A brace of Peter Greenaway's portraits for Insight programmes look at the designer Terence Conran, and 'inventress' Zandra Rhodes.
Two programmes from The Pacemakers - 'people who stand out from the crowd .. people who are changing Britain today' - features enthusiastic interviewee Sir Basil Spence talking about his first principles of architecture - humanity, quality and scale and how he marries modernity with romance in designing buildings such as the British Embassy in Rome, Sussex University, and the Barracks for the Household Cavalry in Knightsbridge, as well as founders of iconic sixties fashion store Biba, Barbara Hulanicki and Stephen Fitz-Simon, who explain their ethos of the business.
60 Years of Fashion takes an overview of women's fashion from 1897 onwards, through paintings and prints and models wearing the creations of the day, through corsets, elaborate petticoats, fitted combinations, through to 'underclothes reduced to a caress', and culminating in a selection of the terribly now designs of 1960. Finally, those wishing to immerse themselves in 1980s fashion should head straight to A Woman’s Place, a profile of PR consultant Lynne Franks and her fashion industry clients of the day – though what Miss Design would have to say by now is anyone’s guess.