Film

Director Spotlight: Ken Loach: Kes

On the occasion of his newest film, IFC's The Angels' Share, Statuesque highlights some of iconic UK director Ken Loach's best and brightest contributions to cinema. Today Statuesque takes a look at one of the cornerstones of Loach's cannon.


Kes

Director: Ken Loach
Cast: David Bradley, Freddie Fletcher, Lynne Perrie, Colin Welland, Brian Glover
Studio: United Artist
Release Date: 1970-03-27

Based on the 1968 novel, A Kestrel for a Knave, Kes is perhaps Ken Loach’s most universally beloved movie. Set in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, the film centers on the young Billy Casper (David Bradley), a 15 year old living with his mother (Lynne Perrie) and half-brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher). A misfit at home and in school, Billy spends his days wandering along the yellowing countryside where he dreams of a life that doesn't include him going "down the pit", like the rest of the men in the mining town.

One day, Billy finds a falcon's next and takes home a small kestrel he names Kes. He steals a book from the village library and soon seems to master the art of falconry, which lead him to finally get some praise out of his teachers and peers. Then just as his life seems to be finding a purpose, things go wrong, leading to one of the most heartbreaking finales in any movie ever made. Said ending isn't difficult to guess even if you've never seen the movie, given that it follows - perhaps it even invented - a structure for movies about kids and their life-changing pets.

Kes was only Loach's second feature film and in it you can already see him developing a specific vision. Other than the fact that the score sometimes gives away the movie's decade of origin, everything else in Kes feels rather timeless. Despite the fact that the movie could've indulged in stressing out how miserable these people in this town are, Loach never underestimates his characters and allows them to become real people in front of our eyes. He doesn't judge, instead he seems just as amazed as us to realize that such beauty can even exist in the middle of this poverty. ‬ ‪ ‬

He lets Bradley get used to the camera and soon, he becomes just as wonderful to watch as the bird. Both become objects of such carefree beauty, that we feel as if we're intruding in their most private moments. The British Film Institute named ‪Kes, "One of the Movies to Watch Before You're 14", and with reason, since the film so expertly captures the pains and surprises of growing up. The film's influence can now be tracked to works like ‬ ‪Billy Elliot and even ‬ ‪E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial and it's not a surprise to realize that it was also Krzysztof Kieślowski's favorite film. There is such wisdom and sad beauty in ‬ ‪Kes that after watching it, we can't help but feel like we too lived it, some of its scenes haunting our very own childhood memories forever.‬


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.

Music

Landowner's 'Consultant' Is OCD-Post-Punk With Obsessive Precision

Landowner's Consultant has all the energy of a punk-rock record but none of the distorted power chords.

Film

NYFF: 'American Utopia' Sets a Glorious Tone for Our Difficult Times

Spike Lee's crisp concert film of David Byrne's Broadway show, American Utopia, embraces the hopes and anxieties of the present moment.

Music

South Africa's Phelimuncasi Thrill with Their Gqom Beats on '2013-2019'

A new Phelimuncasi anthology from Nyege Nyege Tapes introduces listeners to gqom and the dancefloors of Durban, South Africa.

Music

Wolf Parade's 'Apologies to the Queen Mary' Turns 15

Wolf Parade's debut, Apologies to the Queen Mary, is an indie rock classic. It's a testament to how creative, vital, and exciting the indie rock scene felt in the 2000s.

Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.