Paul Jones and Jean Shrimpton in PRIVILEGE

privilegeFilm Independent at LACMA
with A Clockwork Orange (1971)

4CED2530-EC2D-456C-89A014D0A9BCF808Privilege (1967) is one of the “youth takes over” pictures from the late 1960s [also see Wild in the Streets (1968)]. As students were storming the barricades worldwide, the threat felt real to nervous adults. Leave it to Hollywood to cash in.

In Privilege, a rock star named Steven Shorter (Paul Jones) begins his rise to power by harnessing the energy of Britain’s youth. Without missing a beat, a caterwauling, shirtless Steven is arrested and beaten by some especially mean bobbies. After being co-opted by the system, he ultimately becomes head of state. Considering that Tony Blair was once in a band on the slow track to stardom called Ugly Rumors, the idea may not be as absurd as it at first seems. There’s an element of fascism in Steven as he becomes the first in the nation to receive a ticker tape parade. Director Peter Watkins [The War Game (1965)], known for a documentary style, is at his best when he gives the film a feeling of immediacy and urgency.

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At the time, Jones was Manfred Mann’s lead vocalist (“Do Wah Diddy,” “Sha La La”). Jean Shrimpton, who plays one of Steven’s handlers, was a top model and style icon but had never acted in a film. Both are effective at portraying the pop star “privilege” they were experiencing in real life. privilege2

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