Day 309: ‘A Boy and a Bird Called Kes’ 2018

Day 309
Saturday 5 May, 2018   3.23am
‘A Boy and a Bird Called Kes’    2018

Top 100 Films Ever Made –
This film is #235 in the 2012 BFI Critics Poll and #75 in the Directors Poll.

Words fail me with this film experience but it cost me about AUD$70 to have it [1]. This film is one of the toughest little nuts I have ever come across. The level of realism is beyond anything I’ve seen before. There is no camera. There is no director. There are no actors. It comes across without artifice. It’s an invisible documentary-crew filming real-life without the real people being aware they’re being watched and recorded.

Of course, it isn’t, actually. It’s planned. It has people behind the camera, and retakes, and there’s probably a reel of bloopers that has the actors and crew cracking-up. But it doesn’t appear that way, because Ken Loach is a genius, and he has everything flow with such stark sincerity I never felt like I was watching a film. I, always, was caught up in being a fly on the wall watching real-life happen in front of me.

“This is like no other film I’ve seen”, is a phrase that could well summarize this experience that has been unravelling around, and on top of, me, in varied and unlikely ways for over ten months – to be exact, forty-four weeks and a day. It is particularly true of the films I’ve never seen prior to July 1, 2017 of which ‘Kes’ is one.

– Philip Powers, May 2018

It is a genuine and brutally honest film in its portrayal of life. The story is simple. It’s a straightforward film about a 15 or 16-year old boy who has a tough home life, a tough school life and he experiences one thing after another going wrong for him. Nothing goes right, to any degree, until he comes across an eyass. He gives it love and affection in a way that he would personally have no memory of ever receiving himself. It’s a life of bullies. Bullies at home. Bullies at school. At work. In the street. In one’s own bed. He has no sense of freedom and that unconscious desire to be self-sufficient and self-aware, with the ability to give himself the right of self-determination, is mirrored in the relationship with the falcon. But, in this relationship, Billy is firm and strict and, more importantly, loving. He sets similar boundaries for Kes as he has experienced himself, but he gives the bird love and treats its life – its being – gently and tenderly.

Kes (1969) is an amazing film. Wonderful, terrible, brilliant, awful and troubling.
– Philip Powers, May 2018

[1] To get the Criterion version of this film, I had to buy it online and have it shipped to a United States address, to a work colleague of my wife, who then posted it to me. Getting hold of important films is a nightmare of dark turns and back alleys.

The above article written by Philip Powers is protected by copyright and under Fair Use, 10% of it may be quoted or reproduced, if properly credited, in another work. It may not be reproduced in its entirety in any form without the written consent of the author. The author can be contacted at © 2018