Film ID:
YFA 3297

TELLING TALES

1978

Visitor Tabs

Description

Fiction feature that exposes the manipulative nature of traditional filmmaking and examines class and gender relations through the interactions of a working class and an upper middle class couple.

There is a BBFC certificate signed by President Lord Harlech on the front of the print marked 'a,' but prints a and ? are otherwise the same.

Titles:
Yorkshire Arts Association presents
TELLING TALES
a film by Richard Woolley
with: Bridget Ashburn, Stephen Trafford, Patricia Donovan, James Woolley
also: Ian Masters, Ben Mousden, Erica Burke, Stephen Richards

In their quiet, large and fancy house, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby (James Woolley and Patricia Donovan) have their lunch prepared by their houseworker, Sheila Jones (Bridget Ashburn). Bored with her husband, Mrs. Willoughby asks for a divorce but reneges when she learns that, even if she convinces the courts that he is having an affair with Ingrid Roberts, he might not have any money to support her unless he completes a business deal involving Ingrid's husband, Paul. But the workers at Paul Roberts' company, including Sheila's husband, Bill (Stephen Trafford), are preparing to strike.

At her own home, like at the Willoughbys', Sheila is constantly engaged in housework, and her space in the kitchen is distanced from her relaxing husband's place at the table by the roaring sounds of an airplane, which always accompany the camera's pans across the wall between the two locations in their noisy flat. Sheila's arguments with Bill directly parallel Mrs. Willoughby's criticisms of her own husband, and both women complain of boredom and of men who do nothing but read newspapers and fill their mouths with food and drink. Both husbands attempt to keep their wives in their place by quoting the old fashioned values of their respective mothers.

Sheila's dissatisfaction increases when she learns that Bill and his striking union have neither sympathy nor patience with their female colleagues' insistence that the union fight for equal pay. Directly addressing the television, Sheila tells the heart-wrenching story the women's union representative, Barbara Morgan, a single mother who has suffered from the sexual inequities reinforced both in her workplace and by her success-spoiled and abusive former husband. Although Bill ultimately agrees to support the uncompromising and persistent women workers demands, the Willoughbys invite him to tea and attempt to undermine his determination to strike. Bill stubbornly withstands Mr. Willoughby's appeals to his misogyny and business sense, but he is more vulnerable to Mrs. Willoughby, who, now willing to give up the divorce for the prospect of moving from Yorkshire to London after the successful business deal, tugs at his heartstrings by telling him the story of his employer's terminally ill wife.

The body of the film is black and white and dominated by long takes. The camera privileges the wealthy characters and their possessions, and it often adopts the implicit point of view of the lower class characters, who observe their employers through windows and doors and whose own dialogue and actions often occur only as off-screen sounds.

The story of Paul and Ingrid Roberts (suspiciously, also portrayed by James Woolley and Patricia Donovan), which Mrs. Willoughby tells at intervals throughout the film, appears as a colour, ABBA scored romantic tearjerker about a lonely man who lives with his cat and whose successful career is no substitute for the love of a good woman. He goes to visit his mother in the country, revels in the vibrant sights he sees - a babbling brook, trees and sheep by the roadside, a hot air balloon - and falls in love with Ingrid. After an excruciatingly sappy holiday montage at the seaside, Ingrid tragically contracts leukaemia, and the couple are devastated by prospect of her unavoidable demise. The manipulative artificiality inherent in this sample of conventional filmmaking is punctuated not only by its dissimilarity to the candid, black and white realism of the unromantic world of the rest of the film but also by the story's appearance on Sheila and Bill's television set. In the TV version, the plot and images of the story are the same, but the characters are called David and Erica, and Sheila must compete with the announcer's advertisement for the film as she tells the equally moving but never visualised working class story of Barbara Morgan.

Ending Titles:
Camera: Russell Murray
Assistant: David Carr-Brown
Sound: Moya Burns
Lighting: Alfred Bower
Dubbing Mixer: Keith Hardy (Yorkshire Film Company)
Production Assistant: Simon Miller
Production Supervisor: Jim Pearce
Written and Directed by: Richard Woolley
With Thanks To: Dennis Burke, Erica Burke, Jenny Carter, Graham Day, Graham Frost, Su Maddock, Marilyn Milgrom, John Murray, Beryl Redshaw
Telling Tales was the first feature film financed by the Yorkshire Arts Association. It was shown at several festivals and aired on Channel 4 in 1982.