Funny Cow (UK, 2017)

Bad old days

Maxine Peake is the key to the success of Funny Cow as she can embody working class characters with authenticity even if hearing her spouting racist jokes is uncomfortable. As Peake’s politically sound I’m sure she struggled to speak them but this was the state of the UK in the 1970s. Apparently partly based on Marti Caine, Tony Pitts’ script (he also plays the brutal Bob, Funny Cow’s husband) obliquely traces the rise of a female comedian. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what the film was about but did enjoy it.

Maybe Pitts was offering a bleak portrait of working class northern England during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Unfortunately I remember it and it is not a time to revisit with affection which the film recognises. The supporting cast is strong; Alun Armstrong’s ‘zombie’ comedian (he’s died on stage many times) is particularly good though I didn’t find Paddy Considine’s aesthete convincing; it was nice, however, to see a middle class character shown to be a pretentious wanker.

Some of it was apparently shot around the corner from where I live (which I didn’t notice)! I did recognise Saltaire made shabby though. The movie has primarily been distributed in the north; I’m not aware that there are any films set in the south that we don’t get to see up here. That harks back to the ‘30s were Gracie Fields audience was primarily northern and suggests that the default culture in English is ‘southern’ (no doubt with a London bias). The north was fashionable as part of the ‘new wave’ films of the early sixities: ‘it’s grim up north’ narratives hit a chord because of their difference and maybe also because of their perceived authenticity. Funny Cow continues the ‘it’s’ grim’ tradition just as did the successful (and brilliant) TV series Happy Valley(2014-). As long as this image discourages southerners from coming up and spoiling our countryside then that’s fine… (joke)

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One Response

  1. It’s playing here in Bristol – and at the Showcase not just the arthouse cinemas.

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