The White Bus DVD Review: Gorgeous Photography Makes Up for Tedium of Experimental Film

A minor effort from the director of If..., featuring beautiful photography and sophomoric surrealist satire.
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The White Bus is an odd short feature (or longish short film) by Lindsay Anderson, made in 1967 just before his greatest film, If...  It shares with If... the actor Arthur Lowe and the cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek.  Ondricek's work is the principal reason to see the film.  Like If..., the scenes alternate between black-and-white and color photography, seemingly at random.  But all the images are striking.

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The film is apparently about a young office worker who leaves her dreary job one day and has a series of not particularly exciting adventures aboard a train and a tour bus.  Although allegedly "written" by Shelagh Delaney and based on one of her short stories, The White Bus is really just a series of loosely connected episodes, satirizing British class distinctions in a heavy-handed, occasionally funny way that recalls Anderson's later O Lucky Man! (Patricia Healey, who plays the young woman, was cast in part for her resemblance to Delaney.)

If you blink, you might miss Anthony Hopkins in his film debut - in a singing role, no less, as he briefly performs a Brecht/Weill song on stage.  The dialogue throughout is sparse, with surrealistic visual effects providing most of the "action."  It's rather like a student film in some ways, although both Anderson and Delaney were far past their student days by this time.

The film was part of a trilogy of shorts intended to be released together as Red, White and Zero.  The other two were Tony Richardson's Red and Blue and Peter Brook's Ride of the Valkyrie, neither of which is available on video as far as I can tell.  I found the film somewhat tedious and pointless, but the transfer is decent, the photography is gorgeous, and since it's only 46 minutes, you may want to check it out - a minor experimental work by an important director.  It is part of MGM's Limited Edition Collection.  

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