From Profumo to Performance: New Perspectives on 1960s British Cinema

  • Steven F Roberts (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference


Presented Paper: 'Tall Tales and Long Lampshades: Widescreen Style in Spy Films after The Ipcress File (1965)' Paper abstract: The sixties saw several changes in widescreen style due to technological innovation, co-productions and countercultural activity. Notable British examples include epics (Lawrence of Arabia [1962], Zulu [1964], 2001: A Space Odyssey [1968]), adaptions of English classics (Sons and Lovers [1960], The Innocents [1961], Oliver! [1968]), and the transgressive work of Losey (The Damned [1963]) and Furie (The Ipcress File [1965]). Ipcress is remembered for introducing an understated, 'unBondian' attitude to spy cinema and sparking the career of working class icon, Michael Caine. It is also an artistic achievement - no.59 on the BFI's 'Best British Films' list - which epitomises the decade's baroque compositions and accelerated camera, cutting and zooms. Due to extensive recognition but little actual research into the film's production and style, I examine widescreen cinematography, production design and storytelling in Ipcress and the spy films it influenced. Techniques incorporate the magnification of everyday objects to distort reality or lend dialogue absurd humour, and deep shots using the Italian Techniscope format to suggest constant surveillance. Later examples will range from Il Conformista (1970) to (somewhat ironically) Casino Royale (2006). Through a combined production history and textual analysis, I defend Ipcress against the criticism that it is an 'over-stylised' film by first defining, then describing the function and legacy of this style. The symposium: This one-day symposium, titled 'From Profumo to Performance: New Perspectives on 1960s British Cinema', was a companion event to the London conference, ‘British Cinema in the 1960s: Histories and Legacies’, held at the BFI Southbank on 6-7 September. The focus of the York symposium showcased a wide variety of the latest cutting-edge academic research on all aspects of 1960s British cinema. The London conference took as its starting point ideas about how we construct histories of the era’s cinema and how we might better understand its legacies.
Period1 Sep 2017
Event typeConference
LocationYork, United Kingdom