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Summarize this content to 100 words There are few moments in British cinema as iconic as Julie Christie’s first appearance in Billy Liar (1963). She hops down from the cab of a lorry in which she has hitched a ride and walks along a nondescript northern high street, swinging her handbag, humming a tune, tapping a railing and skipping over the cracks in the paving stones. (The scene was actually shot just off Tottenham Court Road in London, standing in for Bradford.) She pauses to contemplate her own reflection in the mirrored windows of a branch of C&A, but this is no moment of narcissism: she pulls a stupid face and then smiles. Billy has already told us that Liz, the character Christie plays, is different from the crowd, that she’s “crazy” and “goes wherever she likes”, moving from job to job and city to city. And this opening sequence tells us everything else we need to know about this young woman who stands out so vividly from the workaday reality that surrounds her. The film links Liz’s urban odyssey to images of wrecking balls knocking down the semi-derelict townscape she marches through; both are harbingers of a new age, sweeping away the old certainties in favour of the modern and untried. Liz is not only different from the other girls in the film – characterised as frigid fiancee or hardboiled floozy – but is even one up on its daydreaming hero. She shares Billy’s capacity to inhabit the imagination yet is also a person of action, unafraid to have adventures rather than just to fantasise about them from the safety of a suburban bedroom. No matter that Billy rejects her in the end: almost everyone else fell utterly for Julie Christie. The Times reviewer said she had “that rare quality of obliterating everything else from the screen whenever she moves across.” Andrew Sarris described her as “a poetic apparition professionally known as Julie Christie”. Both recognised a star quality and physical presence rare in British cinema, one that seemed to connect to the desires of those who saw her. As Stephen Frears said as he replayed the scene in his British cinema documentary Typically British, after that Christie was in his dreams forever. More recently the writer John Walsh has described how as an adolescent he spent long afternoons mooching about his local high street, hoping to see a Christie replica wandering by. To no avail, of course, since the artlessness of the image Christie presents – the plain belted jacket, pencil skirt, tousled hair – is transformed by her extraordinary charisma. In Billy Liar Julie Christie set the tone for a new kind of British cinematic glamour that depended not on the trappings of jewels, furs and elaborate coiffure but appeared attainable and classless. In theory all you needed was a handbag and an attitude and you too could look like a star. The reality, though, was less democratic. According to author Willis Hall, the real-life girl on whom the character of Liz is based spent the rest of the 19960s trying to live up to her screen incarnation and falling short. In fact, Christie herself landed the role only after an actress named Topsy Jane fell ill; yet her performance feels so much like a persona-shaping debut that it’s a shock to see her in earlier, more conventional British comedies such as Crooks Anonymous and The Fast Lady (both 1962), on the receiving end of Leslie Phillips’s saucy “hell-o”. Christie was born in 1941 in Assam, India, attending various boarding schools and studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London before corning to public attention as a beautiful genetic clone in the BBC science-fiction serial A for Andromeda (1961). Billy Liar was followed by a brief appearance in John Ford’s Sean O’Casey biopic Young Cassidy (finished by Jack Cardiff, 1965), in which she is photographed in gorgeous colour (a prevision of 1965’s Doctor Zhivago) as the devastatingly sexy Daisy, who persuades the hero away from a riot for some love in the afternoon. Then the starring role in Darling (1965) fixed her in the public imagination as the acme of contemporary femininity and won her the Best Actress Oscar at the age of only 24. The suddenness of her rise to fame made her vulnerable to the full impact of its strangeness. Stardom meant being stared at on the street as though, in her words, she were “Lassie the wonder dog”. “I would cringe if I saw my picture on the cover of a magazine staring out at people who didn’t know me,” she said later. “And if I saw somebody reading about me it would be the most horrible experience, because I knew they’d be reading a fantasy that would be far removed from anything to do with me.” Beneath her discomfort lurked a layer of doubt about what she’d done to deserve such acclaim other than possess a pretty face. “I was so bee-ootiful,” she said in 1995 of her 1960s self. “I looked like somebody who wasn’t anything to do with me. That person on the screen was beautiful and not an awful lot else.” Pauline Kael commented that the young Christie “had the profile of a Cocteau drawing – tawdry – classical – and that seemed enough. Who could expect her to act?” It wasn’t a very encouraging review for an aspirant actor, though Kael would later hail Christie’s performance as the politician’s mistress in Shampoo (1975) as “magical… with a moody ruthlessness I find uncanny.” Darling (the favourite film of both director Sofia Coppola and [ex] Tory leader Michael Howard) anatomises the rise and fall of model and girl-about-town Diana Scott, in a society where, as Dirk Bogarde’s BBC reporter puts it, “a certain flinty integrity has gone, perhaps forever” to be replaced by shallow narcissism and novelty-chasing. Director John Schlesinger suggests the contrast between beguiling surface and ugly reality throughout, opening with a gigantic poster of Diana’s face being pasted over a hoarding for famine relief and later juxtaposing the images of her as “the honeyglow girl” with the unsettling truth of a woman on the brink of breakdown. Diana samples all kinds of activities in pursuit of fulfilment – party-going, modelling, social climbing, shoplifting, acting, foreign travel, illicit sex, Catholicism, primitivism and even marrying into the Italian aristocracy – but nothing satisfies her cravings. Schlesinger and writer Frederic Raphael seem to want to blame her for being so vapid, superficial and impossible to please, but Christie’s charisma turns a silly dilettante into something more complex and sympathetic. This is perhaps a result of her inherent niceness, which as Kenneth Tynan argued is “blazingly evident” even when she’s supposed to be playing a bitch. François Truffaut, who directed her in Fahrenheit 451 (1966), tells a story that suggests this quality is not just an on-screen projection: “Everyone on the set liked Julie – as opposed to her co-partner [Oskar Werner]. She has many friends who often came to watch us shooting and every time she first asked my permission. The last time, I told her it was marvellous to have so many friends, and I added: ‘It’s a funny thing – one never sees any of Oskar’s friends on the set…’ She replied with a sweet smile: ‘That’s because we’re not shooting in Austria.’” Christie’s “sweet smile”, of course, is her trademark expression: not an open-mouthed, toothy grin à la Julia Roberts but a wide smile with closed lips that crinkles her eyes and chin and emphasises her square jaw-line. The smile is radiant and serene and suggests empathy with whoever it’s aimed at. But it’s also almost similar to a ‘being brave’ face, smiling in spite of adversity in a slightly more upbeat version of the British stiff upper lip. Darling’s Diana gave expression to an emergent female identity that could not be contained within the film’s moralising framework and became instead the object of aspiration for young women such as the future author Sara Maitland, for whom Christie was “the symbol of all my yearning adolescent hopes”. Like Liz before her, seducing Billy but telling him “there have been others”, Diana brought something new to British cinema. Unlike the New Wave films – which Christie describes as “all about boys who wanted to be free and to screw lots of women despite this person they were…

#Julie #Christie #honeyglow #girl #Sight #Sound

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