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A mirror for England: British movies from austerity to affluence

A mirror for England: British movies from austerity to affluence

Durgnat, Raymond; British Film Institute

Raymond Durgnat's classic study of how the middle-class view of life as expressed in British cinema transformed our understanding of British films and also opened some disturbing new insights into a national character by whose enigmas and contradictions we have so long been fascinated

Paperback, Hardback, Book. English.
2nd ed.
Published Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011
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Available: Newton Park

  • Newton Park – One available in Main Collection 791.430942/DUR

    Barcode Shelfmark Loan type Status
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Statement of responsibility: Raymond Durgnat
Edition statement: with a foreword by Kevin Gough-Yates.
ISBN: 1844574539, 1844574547, 9781844574537, 9781844574544
Intended audience: Specialized.
Note: Previous ed.: London: Faber, 1970.
Note: Published in association with the British Film Institute.
Note: Includes bibliographical references, filmography and index.
Physical Description: xxi, 394 p. : ill., ports. ; 19 cm.
Series: BFI silver
Subject: Motion pictures Great Britain History.; Performing Arts.; British film
Series Title: BFI silver.


  1. Foreword to the 2nd Edition KEVIN GOUGH-YATES
  2. Introduction Where We Come In When is a British Film a British Film? Meaning Cut Meaning Critic: Judge or Accomplice?PART I: THE STATE OF THE NATION The British Constitution Good Irresolutions Trouble at t'MillPART II: CROSS SECTIONS The Nine Lives of Colonel Blimp Pigs in the Middle Journey to the Edges of the Working-Class Odds and BodsPART III: POINTS OF VIEW Left, Right and Centre And so, as the Sun Sets slowly, We Bid Adieu Tunes of Bogey Gangrene-British Style Standing up for Jesus Bloody ForeignersPART IV: OUR GLORIOUS HERITAGE History is Bunk The Impotence of Being Earnest The Doctored DocumentaryPART V: THE AGE OF ACQUIESCENCE System as Stalemate Dance to your Daddy Stresses and Strains My Famous Last Word is my Bond God Bless Captain Vere Hard Conscience and Nonconformity The Glum and the Guilty Laugh and Lie Down Love in a Damp Climate The Lukewarm LifePART VI: ROMANTICS AND MORALISTS Between Two Worlds A Gothic Revival Terence Coloured Shammerteurism Flesh and Fantasy The English Moralists Have Scalpels-Will Travel Suspended Animation Lists References Bibliography FilmographyIndex

Author note

?RAYMOND DURGNAT (1932-2002) was the author of many groundbreaking books about the cinema, among them Films and Feelings (1967), Sexual Alienation in the Cinema (1972), The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Renoir (both 1974), a study of WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1999) in the BFI Film Classics series, and A Long Hard Look at Psycho (2002), a second edition of which has also published in the BFI Silver series.

KEVIN GOUGH-YATES Film historian. He is considered the authority on European film-makers in Britain and has written extensively about them. His published interviews and retrospectives in the early 1970s were the first to bring the work of the British director Michael Powell to wider critical attention.


Raymond Durgnat's classic study of British films from the 1940s to the 1960s, first published in 1970, remains one of the most important books ever written on British cinema. In his introduction, Kevin Gough-Yates writes: 'Even now, it astounds by its courage and its audacity; if you think you have an 'original' approach to a filmor a director's work and check it against A Mirror for England, you generally discover that Raymond Durgnat had said it already.' Durgnat himself said about the book that 'the main point was arranging a kind of rendezvous between thinking about movies and thinking, not so much about sociology, as about the experiences that people are having all the time.'

Durgnat used Mirror to assert the validity of British cinema against its dismissal by the critics of Cahiers du cinéma and Sight and Sound. His analysis takes in classics such as In Which We Serve (1942), A Matter of Life and Death (1946) and The Blue Lamp (1949), alongside 'B' films and popular genres such as Hammer horror. Durgnat makes a cogent and compelling case for the success of British films in reflecting British predicaments, moods and myths, at the same time as providing some disturbing new insights into a national character by whose enigmas and contradictions we continue to be perplexed and fascinated.