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Food for a Blush (1959)


Main image of Food for a Blush (1959)
16mm, 30 min, black & white
DirectorElizabeth Russell
PhotographyAllan Forbes
EditorJack Gold
 Michael Tuchner

Cast: Nicholas Ferguson, Elizabeth Russell

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A surreal journey through bohemian Chelsea in the mid-1950s.

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Food for a Blush (or Food for a Blluuusssshhhhh!, as the on-screen title suggests), shot in 1955 but not completed until 1959, is the least typical of the films that screened in the three British Free Cinema programmes between 1955 and 1959. If it shares with the other Free Cinema titles a feeling for the 'street', it is less in the documentary mode than in the freewheeling experimental sensibility otherwise all but unseen in British cinema between the 1930s and the 1960s. The film stars director Russell herself as the 'vegetable love' of Nicholas Ferguson. No sooner are they married than she is jilted and he resumes the life of a sexually predatory man about town. She continues to love him through the camera, fasinated with his every gesture, until the two are reunited - before he is drawn astray once more by a contract with a documentary film unit.

Loosely edited and with little narrative, scenes share Chelsea as a setting, and a cast of characters drawn from Russell's friends in the area, when Chelsea was an artists' haven but not yet 'swinging'. The film endures in its witty and off-the-wall visual gags: from her window, Russell throws sheets to her beau with no knots to connect them; a troupe bowler-hatted men push her into the Thames; young men in cafes each intently flatten their own bowls of brown sugar. Even the BFI's contribution of £24 to the film's completion is verbally acknowledged by a crocodile.

But beyond the surreal jokes, one can sense the filmmaker's underlying anxiety about what she called "the post teddy-boy-aimless-coffee-bar feel of the King's Road of 1955". She even defined Food for a Blush as a "documentary of worry", to some extent "about the somehow disappointing feel of being twenty in 1955".

Danny Birchall

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

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Video Clips
Complete film (28:31)
Free Cinema
Free Cinema 6