Friday, November 22, 2013
The Rebel (1961) (US title: Call Me Genius) is a satirical comedy film. Starring the British comedian Tony Hancock, it was written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson. The film was made by Associated British Picture Corporation and distributed by Warner-Pathé (ABPC's distribution arm).
Hancock plays a downtrodden London office clerk who gives up his office job to pursue full-time his vocation as an artist. Single mindedly, and with an enthusiasm far exceeding any artistic talent (his 'art' has a 'childlike' quality - to put it mildly), he sets to work on his masterpiece Aphrodite at the Waterhole, moving to Paris where he expects his genius will be appreciated. While his 'ideas' and persona gain acceptance (indeed plaudits) among the "beat" set, legitimate art critics, like Sir Charles Broward, (George Sanders) scoff at his work. He manages to achieve success, however, when the work of his former roommate, a genuinely talented painter, becomes confused with his own. The confusion is eventually resolved after a series of art exhibitions, and he returns, down but not out, to London, where he pursues his 'art' in defiance of whatever others may think of it.
The film consists of many scenes parodying modern art and poetry. The scene showing Hancock splashing paint onto a canvas and riding a bike over it, is quite reminiscent of Jackson Pollock's technique. The childlike paintings parody the naive style.
The film explores existentialist themes by mocking Parisian intellectual society and portraying the pretensions of the English middle class. Galton and Simpson had previously satirised pseudo-intellectuals in the Hancock's Half Hour radio episode "The Poetry Society", in which Hancock attempts to imitate the style of the pretentious poets and fails, and is infuriated when his idiot friend Bill does the same and wins their untrammeled approval.
In 2002, the 'London Institute of Pataphysics' organised an exhibition based around the recreation of all the art works seen the film and presented the exhibition as if it were a retrospective of a real unknown artist called Anthony Hancock.