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Every Day Except Christmas (1957)


Main image of Every Day Except Christmas (1957)
35mm, black and white, 40 mins
DirectorLindsay Anderson
Production Co.Graphic Films
SponsorFord Motor Company
ProducersLeon Clore
 Karel Reisz
PhotographyWalter Lassally

12 hours in the life of Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market.

Show full synopsis

1956 proved to be a crucial year in Lindsay Anderson's career. Not only did he initiate the first Free Cinema screening, but he also wrote one of his most passionate theoretical pieces, "Stand Up! Stand Up!" (Sight and Sound, Autumn 1956), and he started the production of his new film, Every Day Except Christmas.

The new project was made possible because his Free Cinema accomplice Karel Reisz was working for the Ford company. Reisz had accepted the job on condition that he would be allowed to produce a series of non-advertising documentaries. He invited Anderson to make the first film. They started looking for a subject, and when the idea of a film about Covent Garden came up, Anderson spent a few nights following workers around the market.

A very rough treatment was written, but most of the film was improvised on the spot. The material shot over 4 weeks - either through the night or from dawn to lunchtime - was so abundant that Anderson had to persuade the producers to expand the film from the planned 20 minutes to over 40.

Every Day was the centrepiece of the third Free Cinema programme at the National Film Theatre in May 1957. Reviews of the film were almost unanimous in their praise. It went on to win the Grand Prix at the Venice Festival of Shorts and Documentaries later that year. Yet it was Anderson's last direct contribution to the cinema until his first feature, This Sporting Life in 1963.

The film evokes what Anderson has called the 'poetry of everyday life' and has the best lyrical qualities of the wartime films of Anderson's idol Humphrey Jennings. After a rather cynical view of working-class leisure in O Dreamland, Anderson clearly celebrates the virtues and dignity of ordinary people at work. The film makes perfect use of Free Cinema's trademark features: virtuoso cinematography alternating highly poetic moments with candid camera shots, and an imaginative soundtrack using natural sounds, voices and added music. This time though, Anderson added a voice-over commentary as a concession to the sponsor.

Every Day Except Christmas was one of the most ambitious of all Free Cinema films, and remains probably the best representative of the movement in retrospectives around the world today.

Christophe Dupin

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Free Cinema'.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (37:56)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Anderson, Lindsay (1923-1994)
Clore, Leon (1918-1992)
Lassally, Walter (1926-)
Owen, Alun (1925-1994)
Reisz, Karel (1926-2002)
Free Cinema
Free Cinema 3