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Nice Time (1957)


Main image of Nice Time (1957)
16mm, black and white, 17 mins
DirectorsAlain Tanner
 Claude Goretta
Production CompanyBFI Experimental Film Fund
ScriptClaude Goretta
 Alain Tanner
PhotographyJohn Fletcher

Impressions of Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday night in 1957.

Show full synopsis

In September 1956, two young Swiss film enthusiasts, Claude Goretta and Alain Tanner applied for a grant from the British Film Institute to finance a film about London's Piccadilly on Saturday night. Both in their mid-twenties, they were working at the BFI, where they had met Lindsay Anderson and the other Free Cinema members, as well film critics like Derek Prouse and John Berger, who offered encouragement and support.

At the BFI they also discovered the work of film-makers like Jean Vigo, a major influence. But it was the success of the first two Free Cinema programmes a few months earlier which convinced them to try their luck and make their own Free Cinema-style short.

With a £240 grant from the BFI Experimental Film Fund, they began shooting in the Piccadilly Circus area over 25 Saturday nights, with an unpaid crew of just the two directors and John Fletcher as cameraman/sound recordist. They filmed more than 6,000 feet of footage, which took four months to edit. The main challenge was the sophisticated soundtrack.

A distinctive feature of Nice Time was the complex relationship between the images and the soundtrack which, in typical Free Cinema fashion, was recorded separately. Nice Time's imaginative approach to sound and quick cutting recalled Vigo's A Propos de Nice (1930) as well as Lindsay Anderson's O Dreamland (1953).

In 17 minutes and 190 shots, the two directors captured the hopes and disappointments of mid-1950s crowds - real crowds - in search of amusement and escape in what was considered London's entertainment centre, with its Eros statue and giant neon signs.

Christophe Dupin

*This film is included in the BFI DVD compilation 'Free Cinema'. A short excerpt from this film can also be viewed via the BFI's YouTube channel.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (17:32)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
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Rocking Horse, The (1962)
Free Cinema
Free Cinema 3