So I posted recently about films for aspiring local councillors. As the prospective councillor for Box & Colerne the DVD cupboard is a little bare if I'm looking for inspiration. As a hack I’m spoilt for choice. As a trade union member it gets a lot more interesting.
It isn’t just that there are more films than you think which feature union issues and people in a positive way. It is also that there are some great films which have harsh things to say about organised labour – but they are such great films you’ve got to watch them.
On The Waterfront is stunning. The acting, of course, but the cinematography in particular. It’s also one long apology for stool pigeons. After all, that is what director Elia Kazan, screenwriter Budd Schulberg and actor Lee J Cobb were, having given evidence to HUAC.
Similarly Blue Collar is a brilliant depiction of working in a car plant. The union there is run by the mob.
Movies such as Matewan are specifically about union issues and while this John Sayles film is very good it’s a little polemical. You kind of feel it’s being put on for your education more than your entertainment. On this side of the Atlantic, Comrades, directed by Bill Douglas about the Tolpuddle Martyrs, is very good. Ken Loach's best work looking at union issues has been on television with programmes such as The Big Flame, Days of Hope, The Rank and File and The Price of Coal.
But I really like Wall Street. Everybody remembers Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko with his ‘greed is good’ mantra. However there are two people tussling for the soul of share dealer Bud, played by Charlie Sheen. Apart from Gekko there is his (literally) old man, Martin Sheen. He is a union official at an aircraft manufacturing firm. Sheen Snr’s job isn’t laid on thick. Being a union member is as natural as breathing. Really he’s just trying to look out for his boy who wants to fly too close to the sun. That’s an ancient story.