Thursday, 12 February 2015

Permissive (1970)

Permissive would normally, should normally, be dismissed as little more than tedious dirge. However, it is tedious dirge shot in early 70s London and as such it's a bleakly beautiful time capsule that offers some mild enjoyment.

But it is bad.

Essentially, Permissive tells a similar story to what was at the time a racy bestselling book, Groupie by Jenny Fabian and Johnny Byrne. Or if you're unfamiliar with that, think of Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, but think of it in a seriously grim and depressive mode. That's what Permissive essentially is, from legendary cult and (s)exploitation director Lindsay Shonteff.

The film centres on naive duffel coated ingenue Suzy played with a believable innocent 'just arrived in London' air by the doe eyed Maggie Stride.  She's in the big city to see her friend Fiona (Gay Singleton) who turns out to be the lead groupie to band Forever More, much to Suzy's bemusement. Suzy meets a guy, Pogo (naturally) a hippy alternative preacher type played by Robert D’Aubigny (a real life alt therapist type who later did a rebirthing session with Mike Oldfield no less) and the pair spend a seemingly happy period of time wandering around London living hand to mouth, before Pogo dies in a road accident. Stunned, Suzy descends further into Fiona's scene, eventually gaining lead groupie status herself, both usurping and betraying her friend. 

It's not a well thought out or believable journey; the pitiful, unglamourous sex devoid of any feeling, compassion or romance simply seems a natural thing for these girls to desire, simply because the men willing to oblige play rock music. And bad rock music at that. I enjoy psychedelia and prog myself, but this really is an interminable dirge, and one that is routinely used to break up the 'action' (that's a laugh). Forever More were a real band too, playing themselves. Clearly they didn't care about the PR of them being heartless shits and were just keen for their 15 minutes of fame on celluloid. There must be better deals at the crossroads.

Shonteff is clearly aiming for something a little bit above his usual exploitation here, sure there's plenty of nudity and sex as is natural given the subject of the film, but it's clear he thinks he has a message to say here. Though God knows what that is. In labouring under this misapprehension, he produces something rather pretentious; all wannabe earthy realism which is just as sensationalist, though nowhere near as fun, as the usual sex and violence films he would churn out. He also deploys a supremely irritating editing effect of introducing a character on screen and then via a series of brief snapshot flash forwards introduce that character's end. So when we first see Pogo we see his bloodied corpse in the road, and when we first see Fiona we see a bloody razor on the side of the bath and her dead body floating in the water. It's all rather disorientating and tedious.

Read Groupie instead.

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