Peter Watkins‘ Privilege (’67) is an enervated but semi-fascinating faux-documentary about the British government exploiting the worship of a pop star (played by Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones) in order to manipulate his fans into a state of conformity. The film was buried by Universal stateside and is pretty much forgotten today. I’d never seen it before catching it this morning on YouTube. The futuristic tone is nervy and “provocative” and the film was certainly influential (at least as far as Stanley Kubrick‘s A Clockwork Orange was concerned, according to Watkins). It’s also a bit tedious. But costar/supermodel Jean Shrimpton (now the 71 year-old owner of the Abbey Hotel in Cornwall) was ravishing.
“Nowhere does the film admit any inherent social or cultural resilience in the human race, not even to the point of acknowledging that in show business, which is the setting of the story, teenage taste still has an odd way of favoring professionalism, artistry and certain qualities of warmth and vitality and humor. Privilege is, indeed, a dispirited view of us and our future, and a strange first film — alternatively arresting and ridiculous — for Peter Watkins.” — The Financial Times.
“Pop goes the Watkins…misanthropy is one thing, monotony another; and watching Privilege is rather like watching a man repeatedly laboring to raise a heavy hammer, whirling it round his head, and bringing it crashing down on his own hand.” — London Spectator.