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Good Times, Wonderful Times

Good Times, Wonderful Times(1966)


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teaser Good Times, Wonderful Times (1966)

The title of this landmark documentary is certainly ironic, as the "good times" reflected upon are represented by footage of the Warsaw ghetto, Nazi concentration camps, Hitler Youth, the siege of Stalingrad, and other war atrocities. The footage is interspersed in scenes of a contemporary posh cocktail party in London at which the guests discuss religion, politics, and war. "Good times," indeed.

Although not a familiar name to most general audiences today, producer-director Lionel Rogosin was an important cinematic presence from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. Influenced by Italian neo-realism and the documentary work of Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North, 1922; Man of Aran, 1934), Rogosin dedicated his career to issues of war, imperialism, racism and other social concerns. Good Times, Wonderful Times was released at the height of the Vietnam War, and its use of rare archival footage made a powerful anti-war statement. Rogosin was not very successful in his native U.S. By the time he made this picture, he had emigrated to London, but when the documentary was distributed by his company, Impact Films, it was shown to an estimated one million students on college campuses, and Rogosin was able to claim with pride that he influenced many young people to join the growing resistance to the war.

The picture was made with the support of Tadeus Makarczynski and James Vaughan, who spent two years with Rogosin collecting the materials from war archives in twelve countries around the world despite great difficulties and financial pressures. The making of the film is documented in a short made by his son, Michael Rogosin, Man's Peril (2008), which contains footage of philosopher-social critic-pacifist Bertrand Russell. The dialogue between Rogosin and Russell shows the deep concerns and progressive political thinking that united the two men and serves as a testament to Rogosin's importance as a political and humanist filmmaker. The short also spotlights Rogosin's supreme knack for getting non-actors to improvise the banal and careless chatter of the party scene around which Good Times, Wonderful Times is structured.

Prominent among the party guests is Molly Parkin, the Welsh-born painter, novelist, and journalist whose daring exploits and unconventional life made her a British celebrity in the 1960s and an icon of "Swinging London."

The influence of Rogosin's work--both his cinematic style and his distribution-exhibition methods--extended beyond the documentary field to impact the New American Cinema movement of such filmmakers as Jonas and Adolfus Mekas, Shirley Clarke, Robert Downey, Sr., and John Cassavetes, who called Rogosin "probably the greatest documentary filmmaker in the world."

Rogosin's crew on this production included some people well-connected to British cinema, including cinematographer Manny Wynn, who shot the Dave Clark Five romp Having a Wild Weekend (1965) and worked on Tom Jones (1963), and veteran sound recorder Stephen Dalby, who started his career in the late 1930s and supervised the sound for such notable films as The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), A Hard Day's Night (1964), and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974).

Director: Lionel Rogosin
Cinematography: Emil Knebel, Manny Wynn
Sound: Stephen Dalby
Cast: Molly Parkin (Herself)

by Rob Nixon

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