“Are you still working sir or do you just do the writing now?”
Charlie Bubbles (1967) is the only film the great Albert Finney has ever directed.
Charlie is successful writer; an aging angry young man who – jaded and cynical, drunk and disorderly – living in London. He decides to go home again to revisit his ex-wife and child in the North, where he was born, dragging along his wraith like and waif like secretary, Liza Minnelli.
Charlie roams the frozen wastelands of post WW2 Salford in a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III convertible looking like a fish out of water, unable to find the ‘roots’ that he was once so keen to free himself from.
The ‘false values ‘ of the South are thrown in Bubbles face by old friends although for me the key scene takes place in a swanky Manchester hotel room when an elderly waiter says:
“I used to know your father sir. We’re all very proud of you. Are you still working sir or do you just do the writing now?” Bubbles retorts “No. Just the writing.”
The film’s writer was the splendid Shelagh Delaney who also wrote A Taste of Honey and Lindsay Anderson’s 1967 film The White Bus and indeed Charlie Bubbles straddles the kitchen sink drama of Finney’s classic Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and the more psychedelic British films to come such as Anderson’s If…. (1968).
Charlie Bubbles the film, like Charlie Bubbles the man, is bittersweet and not to everyone’s taste but personally I love it.
Oh, and the names are great too.
Albert Finney – Charlie Bubbles, Colin Blakely – Smokey Pickles, Billie Whitelaw – Lottie Bubbles!