There’s a glow of nostalgia and sadness around this heartfelt, if
patched together, documentary tribute to HandMade Films. It has new
interviews with many of the surviving players, but also disconcertingly
cobbles together quite a bit of old archive material.
HandMade was the buccaneeringly brilliant but relatively short-lived
indie Brit production company founded on an extraordinary impulse by
George Harrison, in partnership with his business manager Denis O’Brien.
His initial desire was to bail out the Monty Python team when EMI Films
got cold feet about funding Life of Brian in 1979. HandMade went on to
make or distribute The Long Good Friday, Time Bandits, A Private
Function, Mona Lisa, Withnail & I – and a good few other films that have
sunk into oblivion.
How George Harrison – and a very naughty boy – saved British cinema
Their secret weapon was George. He really did have the power simply to
greenlight things that he liked, and he had the star power to get big
names involved and to convince the banks to put up money. There was a
sublime harmony between his trust and the restless talent of the people
that he admired – like the Pythons. But in this he entered into a good
cop/bad cop relationship with the hard-faced bean-counter O’Brien, on
whom tough decisions could always be blamed and who was heartily
disliked by many, including Bruce Robinson (writer-director of Withail &
I) and Alan Bennett (writer of A Private Function). Harrison, sadly,
died in 2001 and his final illness coincided with a financial dispute
with O’Brien – who is still with us, but did not take part in the film.
Maybe he could have told us more about the mysterious world of the
It isn’t clear exactly what the long-term significance of HandMade Films
was, precisely, but it was a period of creativity that bears comparison
with Ealing Studios’ heyday.
90 minutes long - 12 chapters