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Private Road (5 stars)

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Private Road

(15) 89min
(BFI)

Barney Platts-Mills’ 1971 film is undoubtedly one of the great lost British masterpieces of the 1970s. Platts-Mills was a filmmaker whose previous cult film Bronco Bullfrog had taken a knife to the frothy London set cinema of the 1960s and examined the struggles of the disenfranchised working class East-enders. With Private Road, Platt-Mills turns his gaze to middle-class youth as they elope from suburban Surrey to rural Scotland. When handsome writer Peter (Bruce Robinson who would go on to write and direct Withnail & I) shacks up with sugar-sweet receptionist Ann (Susan Penhaligon), sex and hedonism are mirrored by the realities of rural living, all to the dismay of Ann’s well-to-do parents. Soon, however, they are forced to make some serious choices.

On this film’s initial release, Platts-Mills was forced to hire a cinema in order to get his film shown only to then witness the effective disappearance of it for almost 40 years. This wistful, wilful and strange film now looks like a template for the new British realist cinema of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. It’s an absolute peach ripe for discovery. The extras are fantastic: this dual-format two-disc set includes two of Platt-Mills never-before-seen early short films and an illustrated booklet with newly commissioned essays and reviews.

Private Road (1971)

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