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Morriss: A life with bells on

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News from the Morris Dance Discussion List:



Dear Follower of Morris




Thanks in no small part to you, we have a deal with the

Picturehouse/City Screen chain of cinemas to give Morris a national

release from the 27th September 2009.


The film will open on the following screens on that Sunday, so save the

date and let's make the 27th of September into St Morris Day!


The Little Theatre, Bath

Exeter Picturehouse

Harbour Lights Picturehouse, Southampton

Regal Picturehouse, Henley-on-Thames

Cinema City, Norwich

Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford

Stratford on Avon Picturehouse

City Screen, York

The Cameo, Edinburgh

Belmont, Aberdeen

The Screen at Oxted

The Screen at Reigate

The Screen at Winchester

The Ritz Cinema, Belper


Other dates and venues will be added, but I wanted to let you know the

good news straight away!


We could not have got this far without your help. We at Twist Films

have been humbled by the support you have given us. Your emails,

letters and comments on the petition have given us hope and laughter in

our darkest moments. Your belief in the film has strengthened ours.


I would like to end with a comment from the petition:


"We will fight them on the Village Green.

We will fight them at the Villlage Fete.

We will fight them in the Village Pub.

And we will NEVER surrender!"


Thank you. This dance is for you.




Twist Films



Twist Films Morris Ltd 2009

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I have finally seen the film. We got ahold of a DVD of "Morris: A Life with Bells On" and I rejiggered my laptop to be able to play it in the USA (and display it on the big-screen TV) and invited my whole morris team over to watch it just this past Wednesday. I was disappointed.


For one thing, there's no real morris dancing in it, just made-up stuff done by actors who obviously are not morris dancers.


Given the title, I was surprised that it is never clearly shown that the dancers wear bells. They are small and quiet and never shown close-up, although in one scene the protagonist is shown tuning his bells with a tuning fork.


There is no musician, only the film's musical sound track (do characters in movies hear the sound track?! :blink: ). In some scenes, a source of recorded music is part of the action. In another, the sun is low on the horizon, with long shadows cast behind the dancers, who are seen from the front. Not only do we not see a musician, but if there were one, we would see his shadow, which is also absent.


As strange a picture of British morris dancing as it presents, it presents an even stranger one of American morris dancing, which, in the film's conceit, consists of a single California team ("California" in several senses of the word) that has had little exposure to traditional morris dancing.

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David Barnert's comments are all entirely valid. If he was disappointed it is possibly an example of the difference between American and British humour.


I was however surprised at the absence of a live musician, which is absolutely fundamental to morris - I don't I've ever seen a side perform to recorded music. However I wonder if this is one of the many shortcuts imposed by the film's tight budget - perhaps union restrictions meant it was impossible, or unaffordable, for a musician to appear on-screen. Off-screen, several well-known folk musicians can be heard playing on the soundtrack.

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My big disappointment with the film is that it really isn't that funny, and I just can't see anyone outside England getting the Eric Cantona quotation.


No real dances, no real dancers and no musicians. Oh, and no real jokes.



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I watched it just a few days ago (for the second time - I saw it at the cinema when it came out), and think it's great. It does seem odd that there's no musicians... but then it's not actually a real documentary. It is utterly true to life, in spirit if not in details, of the frankly ridiculous (but strangely endearing!) way that big bearded men prance around with handkerchiefs and bells and take themselves and their art extremely seriously. I can see why it wouldn't appeal to many people who actually do that, or to the general population who don't have any connection at all to it, but there's a fairly big bunch of people in the middle... perhaps like me, who have friends who do that sort of thing, but prefer to keep their handkerchiefs firmly on their noses.

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The lack of musician was due to union difficulties and associated costs. They had the offer of excellent Morris musicians (and at no cost), but couldn't use them or afford to train up union musos. It was low budget.


The decision to not do real Morris was deliberate as it would have been a distraction. It wasn't about Morris per se, but people.


The humour has much west country English, there are jokes that are very local, and very dance specific, and maybe it's not a big surprise that it didn't travel. The California bit was very clear to us, it wasn't intended to reflect on US Morris, still less portray it.


There was a lot of discussion and chat when (and before) it came out, and it was made clear that you shouldn't expect a film about the Morris. That clearly got lost over time. The actors did learn some real Morris and apparently weren't bad,


Much of it was made within a few miles of me, and we met Chas Oldham and Lucy and had the chance to chat with them. A lot of these questions came up. I saw it at performances, where we danced before the show, and it got a lot of laughs from non-morris people.


But not to everyone's taste, obviously

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...no real jokes.

I'm not sure that I understand this comment. The film is stuffed full of jokes - though of course personal tastes will determine whether or not you find them funny.


My big disappointment with the film is that it really isn't that funny, and I just can't see anyone outside England getting the Eric Cantona quotation.

Judging from the 15 or so people that were in my living room in upstate New York, I'd say you have a point.

Which is fair enough - but was this film made to appeal to New Yorkers? Obviously it's nice if people from other cultures enjoy a film made for a UK audience, but if you were writing it to appeal internationally it would have to be a very different film using far more obvious humour. The fact that this film doesn't do that is for me part of the appeal.


That said, I know several people your side of the pond who do get the humour and rate it highly. YMMV

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I've just seen it again and probably laughed even more the second time - like those other great English eccentrics Wallace & Gromit, there's all sorts of details and subtleties that you miss the first time round.


If, however, you expect a serious archival documentary, you'll be sadly disappointed!


And thanks to malcolmbebb for clearing up the musicians' issue, I had wondered about that aspect of the film myself (as a fully paid-up member of the Morris Musicians Union) seeing as how Paul Sartin, Saul Rose and others were heard but not seen.

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seeing as how Paul Sartin, Saul Rose and others were heard but not seen.


I saw the film in Hexham cinema, where most of the audience was made up of Hexham Morris and their supporters. The atmosphere was amazing, but the biggest cheer was at the end when Saul Rose's name appeared in the credits. Saul was in the audience.

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I suppose it's been around long enough that this isn't a spoiler.


Dorchester is the county town of Dorset, it's Hardy's Casterbridge, it's a small historic pleasant country market town. If Dorchester had an airport, it would be a small affair with a couple of flying clubs and a wooden hut for a terminal - but it doesn't - and "Dorchester International Airport" is so pretentious that it's always good for a grin from the locals.


Torquay is a smallish but popular seaside resort. It enjoys a mild winter climate and drew a great many comments when it planted palm trees along its main seafront roads (some while ago). It was in the news again for appointing a warden to patrol the beach and discourage topless sunbathing. Female, anyway. But I think the warden was a bloke. If you know that then the reference to Torquay is good for another chuckle.


Wimborne Folk Festival is for real, the filming is live, it does have a few foreign acts most years so could properly be described as International (and long overdue too, I say!). :D We was there - it's five miles from my house. My head appears twice in the film, once for about 200 milliseconds and once for about 300... and my daughter's arm and hat are in it, too! :P

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