Monday, 13 February 2012

We’ll Take Manhattan. BBC Four

 We’ll Take Manhattan explores the explosive love affair between Sixties supermodel, Jean Shrimpton, and photographer, David Bailey.
Focusing on a wild and unpredictable 1962 Vogue photo shoot in New York, the drama brings to life the story of two young people falling in love, misbehaving and inadvertently defining the style of the Sixties along the way.
Set predominantly in 1962 but also exploring the story of how Bailey and Shrimpton first met, this one-off drama reveals how a young, visionary photographer refused to conform. He insisted on using the unconventional model Jean Shrimpton on an important photo shoot for British Vogue and, over the course of a freezing week in Manhattan, went against the wishes of fashion editor, Lady Clare Rendlesham, and made startling, original photographs.
We’ll Take Manhattan is the story of that wild week, of Bailey and Jean’s love affair, and of how two young people accidentally changed the world for ever.
Jean Shrimpton is played by Karen Gillan, David Bailey by Aneurin Barnard and Lady Clare Rendlesham by Helen McCrory.

A dramatisation of how David Bailey and his girl-next-door muse Jean Shrimpton click-started the 60s had a lot going for it but tried a little too hard
Lucy Mangan in The Guardian, Thursday 26 January 2012

 We'll Take Manhattan (BBC4) told the story of a baby David Bailey and his muse and mistress Jean Shrimpton – still very much the raw prawn herself – jetting off to New York in 1962 to do the rule-shattering Young Idea Goes West photoshoot for Vogue, all battered teddy bears, gritty streetscapes and the extraordinarily ordinary gangly girl next door, that would establish them for ever as icons of the 60s' cultural revolution.

Expectations of Mad Men – or indeed Mad magazine – levels of subtlety and nuance were dispelled in the opening seconds when we were greeted with the informative full-screen captions: "In 1962 no one had heard of the Beatles. No one expected to be famous who was not born rich or titled. And," – I hope you're listening at the back there – "there was no such thing as youth culture."

We then cut to 1960, where a Beatles-less Bailey was taking his consolations where he could find them, which was up the chiffon skirt of a déshabillée debutante while reading an art magazine. Picasso in one hand, penis in the other – some would think he was already living the dream.

But baby Bailey had even bigger ambitions and the rest of the drama was a quick trot through some simplistic but stylish set pieces towards their realisation. Discovery by Vogue. Discovery of Jean. A few years of kicking against the system before his talent was universally recognised and even the old guard came to kneel in awe before him and, as the final caption had it: "David Bailey became the foremost photographer of his generation." If you weren't still listening at the back there by then you would have missed some fine performances – Aneurin Barnard capturing and blending the arrogance and charm of the man in perfect proportions, Karen Gillan managing to portray a naïf (Shrimpton was barely 18 when she started out) in his thrall with enough energy and edge to prevent her from lapsing into ditsiness or dumbwittedness. And there were some funny moments (Bailey, on hearing his brief for the shoot from Vogue fashion editor Lady Clare Rendlesham, pauses and replies: "So, it ain't young, and it ain't got an idea?").

But there wasn't much else. Fine, it wasn't aiming to be Heimat, but did all those terribly posh people heff to be seh fratefully, unremittingly creshing snobs? And it would have been both kinder and simpler to put Barnard in a little fez and bolero and send him capering round the set chattering: "Oim a plucky li'l monkey, oi am" than ask him to deliver some of the speeches he was landed with ("There's a new world where everyone will be applauded and be beautiful not because of who their daddy was but because of who they are!") with a straight face.

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