Originally designed to be part of a feature called Red, White and Zero, a planned reunion of three Free Cinema directors. When Karel Reisz Morgan, A Suitable Case for Treatment turned into a feature, Lindsay Anderson and Tony Richardson were joined by Peter Brook, but their three contributions were never released together, and only Andersons has stood the test of time. Shelagh Delaneys script takes an impassive young girl (Healey) out of her suicidal London office back to her Northern home town, which she views as part of a bizarre bus tour. The film looks forward to Andersons blurring of the fantastic and the naturalistic in If...., and benefits from the poetic eye of the same Czech cameraman, Miroslav Ondricek. Fitting no conventional genre, the offbeat humour often hits the mark as a non-specific satire on British moribundity.
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This review is for Red, White and Zero. It's possible to reconstructthe facts around this film, but the IMDb listing is confusing. LindsayAnderson's The White Bus was briefly and unsuccessfully released withtwo other shorts: a very short film by Peter Brook featuring ZeroMostel in a hurry (The Ride of the Valkyries - lots of franticmugging), and Red and Blue by Tony Richardson. Only Lindsay Anderson'sfilm seems to be readily available. (The others would make goodCriterion extras.)I saw Red, White and Zero on late night Australian television in 1984.The White Bus wasn't seen to best effect on the small screen - ratherself-consciously poetic, but as an Anderson film it will obviously bearreseeing. Red and Blue was fascinating and not very good. TonyRichardson was in love with the Nouvelle Vague, and raided its box oftricks and its composers (Bassiak from Jules and Jim; Duhamel fromGodard's Pierrot le Fou) in an imitation Demy/Moreau vehicle forVanessa Redgrave! She fluted a song in English, and Kevin Brownlowprovided the jumpcuts. (You can hear her singing Bassiak's Bonjour Papaon YouTube).Most weirdly, the sex interests for the romantically-besieged Vanessawere provided by Douglas Fairbanks Jr, William Sylvester (the scientistfrom Kubrick's 2001), and Michael York. The sparks didn't exactly fly.Anyway, after 30 years, it's time to make this available again.
I saw this film for the first time about a week ago. Honestly, I didn'tunderstand most of it. If given the chance to watch it again, I would,mostly to try to figure it out. It gave my husband the creeps.The film is done with high quality and is masterful in setting moods.It runs like a nightmare, though. Situations in it are surreal,otherworldly, loud and then suddenly quiet. It seems to me that "TheWhite Bus" is contrasting male and female roles in the workplace andwhy should it be wrong for women to take on some of the jobs that menare performing. When the Girl first joins the eerie tour, she sits onthe bottom of the bus but soon after moves to the top of it, perhaps asan allegory for rising up in the world, freeing herself from therestraints of roles that placed squarely on each gender. At one point,when the Lord Mayor places his hand on the Girl's knee, it is a sexistgesture and the Girl frees herself by demanding that he remove his handand then moving to the front of the bus.I give it five out of ten, simply because I don't understand it,although the filming of it was high quality work. If put into thecontext of all three of the films for which it was intended to be seen,then perhaps I would understand it better.
This film had a big impact on me. Saw first saw it on BBC2 in the 70's aspart of a Anderson Retro. Originally based on Delaney's book Red, White &Zero it was a three director/stories feature film. Although the other twoparts were never finished. That's why the film doesn't havetitles.The reason why I loved this film was because I grew up in a slum clearancearea of Liverpool. The film's landscape was exactly the same. Everythingdemolished - except for the pubs. I'd never seen anything like it on TVbefore.I recently got another chance to see it and loved it. The story follows agirl who is fed up with working in London. The shot opens with her at adeskwhile the legs of a hanged fellow worker dangle from the celling. SheleavesLondon - tired and fed up - and goes home to Manchester (although parts ofthe film were filmed in Birmigham). She stands at a desolate bus stop inthemiddle of demolished terraces. When along comes the white bus - it's atourguided ride which shows the best of the city. What makes it even morespecial is that the bus is on it's maiden voyage. The Lord Mayor (ArthurLowe) and other dignitaries ride the bus on a tour of factories, librariesand even a civil defence demo. At the end of the tour the girl winds up inasmall cafe watching, inside what look like married couple. Thier love andpassion for the small things in life mesmerises and charms the girl -reminding her what life's all about.For Delaney it's like Charlie Bubbles - dealing with leaving your hometownand looking at the effect it has on you. For Anderson it's yet anotherexample of his cinematic poetry - like If... and Sporting Life. This filmisa very special film by very special people. Oh thank you for makingit.
Cute, whacky and beautifully shot surrealistic short from LindsayAnderson which clearly foreshadows if.... which followed a year later(plus O Lucky Man and Brittania Hospital too). The same cinematographeras on if.... plus the mix of black and white and colour shots. Some key music sound cues from if... feature here for the first timeplus the reading of the proverbs quote "wisdom is the principalthing..." which opens if....There's also a bit of M Hulot's theme from Mon Oncle mixed in thereplus some classic Tati-esque visual humor. I guess Mr Anderson had awhole lot of stuff already brewing that would come flowing out in forcea little later.Criterion definitely missed a trick not including this on the if....DVD/Bluray - a little more relevant than the Oscar winning short aboutthe deaf kids I'd say. All in all a charming, strange and chuckly wayto spend forty minutes.
When I think about The White Bus, I think about how thoughts andambiance spontaneously go on, because they do here just as they do in aperson's mind. When I caught myself, during and after watching it,trying to pigeonhole whether it was supposed to be a hallucination,pure free association or a stream of consciousness, I hearkened back tomy first experience seeing a movie directed by Lindsay Anderson, IfÂ .,which was a more realistic story, yes, but had a dreamlike lack ofreason or cohesion for its stylistic and visual changeovers. Likewise,The White Bus is just a chain of imagery. But what makes it aconsistent piece? Somehow, it is. Because I followed it and enjoyed it.Maybe that goes to show that "invisible style," the avoidance ofindulgent cinematography because a movie exposing itself diverts fromthe story, is not limited to the traditional studio era. The furthestextremities of avant-garde filmmaking can still be engrossing on thatvery level despite being so exuberantly stylized and even seeminglyfragmentary. Regardless, The White Bus, like IfÂ ., is a blurring ofvarious lines.Lindsay Anderson and Shelagh Delaney's The White Bus is a dreamlikefilm about a secretary who takes a bizarre trip, part of which is seton the eponymous means of transportation. The anonymous woman has anapparently monotonous life, which is disrupted by episodic departuresof imagination featuring suicide, recreations of paintings, and slicesof meat that abruptly run blood-red. Flanked by these visions are theminutiae of her real life, particularly as she starts a passage home topop in on her family. She comes across an eclectic assortment ofpeople, an adolescent extremely annoyed that his rugby team lost, ayoung man who proposes marriage, a lord mayor who takes pleasure infeeling her leg, and more as she traverses to sites reaching from acommunity center and a public library to a natural history museum and acivil defense display. Throughout, the girl upholds a pretense ofapathy or disregard, even when proceedings grow fairly unreal, as whenall of her itinerant companions become human dummies in the course ofthe civil defense exercise. Ultimately, she enters a restaurant andeats dinner while the owners stack chairs around her, shrouding herfrom view and grumbling about the boundless movement of work.So we leave having experienced the incessant tide of observation,feelings, mindset and recollections in an uninterrupted, even ramblingmanner of visual soliloquy. But so many transitions and scenes lackoutside motivation, and yet somehow have the characteristics of realexperiences in that they're lucid, significant and seen in theobjective outside world. Is that not hallucination? Could they be realperceptions that are delusional, accurately seen things and peoplegiven extra implications? People are frequently at odds with theirnecessity to be secure with themselves and their suspicions of andresistance to change and self-exposure, intentional or not. There is nolinear premeditation, just spontaneous bounds and connections thatpotentially bring about new individual revelations and values: thesense of overtone and suggestion are a sort of thinking id. That's whatI admire about The White Bus.
An early film, originally meant to be part of a three part set ofadaptations of stories by Shelagh Delaney, which was never finished,which has many of the techniques that Anderson later used in If and Olucky Man. A girl finishes work in an open-plan office of the typethere used to be, walks past the hanging body of another girl (orperhaps her own body- the film could be an after-death fantasy) takes atrain to a Northern town, latches onto a civic tour led by the mayorand has a bag of chips in a cafÃ©. That's the story. What goes with itis Anderson's strange way of looking at what may be reality- when thegirl is going to catch the train a young upper-class man makes a longspeech at her, both declaring his love and arguing for classdistinctions. All the girl says is "Goodbye". Again, there is no way oftelling if the man is a fantasy of the girl's or- if he is "real" inthe film's context- whether he is connected with the girl in any way.In the Northern town the girl gets on/is roped into a tour led by themayor. The mayor- played by Arthur Lowe, one of Anderson's regularactors- is both absurd and dignified, presented dead-pan the macebearer is a sinister character, making gnomic remarks, a messenger ofdeath, perhaps; the passengers include Africans and Indians and theylook round the town- an industrialist's estate left to the town wherehe made his wealth, a girls' school, a museum, a library... In the endthe girl wanders off and sits in a chippie with a bag of chips as theowners clean up around her- a perfect cinematic koan, no longer than itneed be.Afterword, two years later:I forgot some important aspects in my last review, or I saw a differentversion today: the girl says "I'll write", not "Goodbye" to theupper-class young man and i'd forgotten how deliberately the filmslides in and out of different kinds of reality and how much it usesparody and clichÃ©- the mayor's obsession with "mucky books" in thelibrary, the painting of Jesus with a flock of wolves in the artgallery, the tableau of Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe in the park, theindustrial estate depicted as a meaningless mechanical hell with thevisitors walking immune through its perils, the realistic scene ofCivil Defence practise which ends with the whole party turned intoliteral dummies except the girl. Above all, though, I forgot the film'sopening: a different girl on a tour boat going downriver throughLondon, past Parliament, photographed with ritualistic care, past theShell Building, through the City where the girl in the film works,which makes the whole main action even more distanced and derealised.