If you look hard (it’s on YouTube), you can almost see the auteur’s fingerprints on the seamless corporate product: here’s a brooding Loachian hero who becomes increasingly distant and irritated as his girlfriend drags him around the shops for shoes and dresses.
Perhaps he’s wondering how he’s going to pay for this spending spree? Perhaps he’s feeling alienated by a capitalist system that encourages unsustainable consumption? Perhaps he just really wants a Big Mac?
The revelation that Loach once shilled for McDonald’s – back before his career resurgence of the 1990s – is one of the funnier moments in Louise Osmond’s documentary Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach. Loach himself doesn’t find it funny at all. He regards it as a ‘betrayal’ that still stings him today.
In the context of the rest of the documentary, this makes sense. Integrity and authenticity are the guiding principals of Loach’s filmmaking. His dramas exude a documentary-level realism that is achieved by casting actors who share similarities – of background, class, personal history – with the characters they play. ‘It’s not about acting,' these actors say, ‘he actually makes you believe that you are that person.’
But who is Ken Loach, actually? He’s memorably described by one of his university friends as ‘slender, sylph-like, apparently self-effacing, nimble, brisk’, and by others who know him as ‘quiet, private, driven’, and even as ‘a very conservative, quiet gentleman.’ Appearing in Versus as a talking head, he shifts, shuffles, mumbles, ums and ahs, and offers little. It’s very charming and totally opaque.
But he does let his guard down long enough to savagely jab an old enemy, accusing him of ‘cowardice’ (clearly holding a grudge after almost 30 years), and the actor Gabriel Byrne describes Loach using an extraordinary metaphor: if Ken were a medieval jouster, says Byrne, he would stand over his felled opponents and take his time deciding which vital artery to slice.
It’s hard to square this with the discovery that Loach has a secret passion for big flamboyant musicals. The subject of Versus remains an enigma, but the film itself does a decent job of showing how much of an enigma he is.
In keeping with that progressive spirit, Sunday June 5 sees Versus screen in 43 cinemas in the UK and Ireland on a ‘pay what you can’ basis. It’s a landmark moment in distribution history: the first time that such a method has been used in British and Irish cinemas.
For a full list of participating cinemas click here.
|What||Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
03 Jun 16 – 31 Jul 16, Event times vary
|Website||Click here to visit the film's website|