The films are also called “Angry Young Man” films, because many of them concern themselves with just such a character, but I find that my favorites are more complicated than this, they’re not always about men, and the central character is not simply angry, but has a conflicted attitude to their home and the humdrum life they find themselves stuck in. One such man is Billy Liar, played with pathos and comic genius by Tom Courtney. This film has an extraordinary balance of darkness and light. Billy works in a funeral parlor, and he woos one of his many girlfriends in a cemetery. His parents needle him to grow up and take responsibility. He dreams of someday escaping to London, preferably in the company of Julie Christie. But the truth is that Billy escapes his dreary reality every day: he has a world in his head, a country called Ambrosia, where he is a hero, or several heroes. Billy’s goal in life is to be a script writer, and through his fantasies, he writes a script for himself, for his life, that helps him to transcend the weighty worries of his real-life. When he’s offered a chance at a actual grand gesture, a genuine adventure, he decides not to take it, and the ending of the film is suffused with a melancholy sense of failure, but once again Billy’s imagination saves him. Billy Liar is a comedy, but it’s a complex one, with layer upon layer of questions about life and society buried deep in each scene. Billy’s world is far from perfect, but seen through his eyes, it’s beautiful and funny and touching. The ending is bittersweet and complicated, just like life. I think Billy has made happiness for himself, and to me that means he’s not a failure at all.
Stay tune for further installments of Claire’s favorite Kitchen Sink films at an Ordinary near you!It’s been too hot to cook, so we’re having lots of salad. But when a salad is your meal, you want it to be hearty, you want it to have nuts and cheese and then you want to try to use up all of your vegetables from the farm, so you add roasted beets and carrots, and then you treated yourself to some special hard goat’s cheese from Spain and some special hard sheep’s cheese from the Basque region, and you want to shave some of that on there as well. And you end up with this big beautiful tangle of greens and everything but the kitchen sink!
Here’s The Decemberists with Billy Liar.
3 or 4 small carrots, peeled and diced into 1/3 inch cubes
2 or 3 small beets, golden or purple, peeled and diced into 1/3 inch cubes
olive oil to coat
a few fresh sage leaves and a pinch of fresh rosemary
4 or 5 crisp romaine leaves, torn or chopped
a large handful clean baby arugula leaves
lots of freshly ground pepper
small handful each pecans and pine nuts, lightly toasted
shaved hard goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 425. Combine the diced beets, carrots, sage and rosemary. Toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat everything (maybe 1 tablespoon?). Spread in a single layer on a baking tray, and roast until golden and crispy on the edges. This should take 15 to 20 minutes depending on the size of your dice. Stir the veg from time to time to ensure even browning. If you have a toaster oven you can avoid heating up the whole kitchen and roast or even toast them in there. When they’re nice and crispy, set them aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl combine the romaine and the arugula. Drizzle a little olive oil over, and sprinkle on some sea salt. Toss lightly. Shake a little balsamic on and grate lots of pepper on, and then toss again. Top with the beets and carrots, the nuts and shavings of a hard goat or sheep’s cheese. Toss lightly, and serve.
Thanks for opening the door to another kind of Kitchen Sink besides the one that I stare into every morning and night.