Anomalous to the otherwise social-realist ethos of the British “Free Cinema” movement of the 1950s, “Food for a Blush” is a short, 30-minute film made between 1956 and 1959 by two students at the Chelsea School of Art in London. It was described by one of its makers as “a documentary of worry” filmed between bedsits and bombsites.
While the emergence of teen sub-culture in Britain during the late 1950s has become well-trodden ground for cultural historians, the drab and desolate pre-pop years of the Austerity, as experienced by restless and enquiring youth, are perhaps less documented. “Food for a Blush”, an amateur film made by art students Elizabeth Russell and Nicholas Ferguson, depicts a twilight world in the final years before the youth explosionenabled by Pop. Here are bored young adults searching for a cultural language to call their own—and coming up with a comic-surreal hybrid that anticipates by a decade the arch, retro-Edwardian Pop Dada of the 1960s. Ambiguous, dream-like, existentially disoriented, “Food for a Blush” owes as much to Cocteau as it does to Charlie Chaplin. As Russell observed, it was inspired by the anxiety that underlay “the post-Teddy Boy aimless coffee-bar feel of the King’s Road of 1955.” Drawing on a meeting in the summer of 2009 with its “star”, Michael Bracewell introduces the film, its history and context.
A talk with IFK_Writer in Residence Thomas Meinecke.
Michael Bracewell was born in London in 1958. His new book, “Live for Today: An Experience of Art, 1983—2013” will be published in autumn, 2016.