According to the press notes for Lindsay Anderson’s 1975 drawing room drama, “’In Celebration,’ the film was, to Anderson, the most authentic record of both his work at the Royal Court Theatre and of what he would call the Royal Court style.” Reading this little tidbit, one word stands out: record. For “In Celebration,” while a heartfelt study of Britain’s clash of class systems, as explored through the pinball machinations of three now professional sons bouncing against their still lower-class parents, is really nothing more than a record, a scrapbook snapshot of Anderson’s theater work. Save for a few, basically B-roll street images, this American Film Theatre production of a David Storey play, which stars the exceptional Alan Bates, James Bolam and Brian Cox as the uni-educated sons of a coal miner (played by Bill Owen with an ever-present twinkle in his eye) and his keeping-up-appearances housewife (a vivacious Constance Chapman), Anderson does not expand Storey’s talky drama, never widening his lens beyond the dreary childhood home where the sons return to celebrate their parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. It is a perfect example of the wrong medium for the right project, a recording of poignant drama for posterity rather than out of artistic necessity. “In Celebration” most definitely chafes at being made into a film.
To read the rest of my essay in honor of the “Lindsay Anderson: Revolutionary Romantic” retro at Lincoln Center, visit The House Next Door.