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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kitchen Sink Comedy That Still Makes You Laugh
"Billy Liar" was made in 1963 three years after my birth and I can just remember Britian being like this; but it is not just a nostalgia trip. This is a beautifully executed piece of film making works from the opening, when we see a nation's homemakers brought together by the BBC's "Housewife's Choice", to the end when the battered and degected Billy...
Published on November 25, 2001 by Jonathan P. Walters

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting as a time capsule of early-1960s Britain, but weakened by its preachiness and well-worn generational conflict themes
Billy Liar is a 1963 British film that captures the monumentous changes of the era: the sexual revolution and the destruction of England's old town centres in modernisation schemes. In Bradford, Yorkshire young Billy Fisher (Tom Courtenay) is working a soul-crushing job in a funeral home and suffering daily the derision of his elderly parents. His only escape from this...
Published 10 months ago by Christopher Culver


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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Kitchen Sink Comedy That Still Makes You Laugh, November 25, 2001
This review is from: Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
"Billy Liar" was made in 1963 three years after my birth and I can just remember Britian being like this; but it is not just a nostalgia trip. This is a beautifully executed piece of film making works from the opening, when we see a nation's homemakers brought together by the BBC's "Housewife's Choice", to the end when the battered and degected Billy walks up the hill to his parents semi-detached house at the head of his make believe army.
In between we get to witness Billy's fantastic imagination at work vividly brought to life in mock news-reel form and the chaos of his real life as his past mistakes catch up and eventually overwelm him.
The central problem Billy faces is one that most if not all young people experience at some time; the desire to do something great and become important and the feeling that they are being constrained and inhibited by the older generation's lack of vision.
It is not easy to distinguish who is responsible for what. The writers Wallis Hall and Keith Waterhouse obviously deserve a great deal of credit as they also wrote the novel and stage play but John Schlesenger's direction and the superb cast bring the film to life.
Schlesenger came from a BBC television background and the opening sequence as well as the Danny Boon character seem very authentic. Danny Boon, played by Leslie Randall, is the type of British comedian that used to and in some cases still does, present game shows on television in the UK complete with irritating catch phrases and over fimiliarity with middle aged women. Intrestingly Wilfred Pickels, who plays Billy's father, was previously best known for his radio quiz show "Have a Go" but he is now best remembered for his roll here.
The great dicovery of the film has to be Julie Christie who breezes in and sweeps all before her checking her make-up in a C&A mirror (their last store closed in the UK this year) and swinging her handbag as she walks down the street. But it is her scenes with Tom Courtney's Billy where she comes alive. Although the makers regard her as fantacy figure in fact she is the only one who accepts him for what he is and offeres him a means of escape. The fact that he can't quite go through with it tells us so much about the diffidence that is at the centre of Billy's personality.
Criterion have given us an eccellant quality DVD with a superb director and leading actors commentry as well as a BBC documentary that puts the film in it's context of the British Kitchen Sink dramas that started in the late 1950's and echoes of which are still present in films like "The Full Monty" and Billy Elliot. Watch and enjoy.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CINDERELLA, July 22, 2001
By 
Daniel S. "Daniel" (Geneva, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
John Schlesinger's BILLY LIAR has just entered the DVD market thanks to Criterion. A superb widescreen copy, english subtitles, a commentary by John Schlesinger and Julie Christie (not very interesting), a theatrical trailer and a 15 minutes excerpt from a BBC serie about british cinema (very interesting) are offered as bonus features.
Tom Courtenay is William Fisher, a young man with problems. He doesn't like his job as a funeral furnishings employee, he still lives at his parents's home and spends a lot of time lying to his two girlfriends. In order to quit for a while his everyday life, he has created an imaginary world - Ambrosia - that has got some resemblance with the South or Central America bananas republics of the sixties. He is the leader of this country and people adore him. In short, he is an escapist.
BILLY LIAR has been shot partly on location, partly in studio and I often had the feeling to watch two different movies on the screen. Like Billy. The destructions of buildings shown throughout the movie add to the strange impression that a world is collapsing. When Billy meets Liz, played by a terrific Julie Christie, he has the opportunity of his life to give some reality to his dreams because Liz is so real. Let's admire how John Schlesinger, in a french New Wave style, films her strolling in the streets. A great moment of cinema.
Comedy, social study or metaphor on the Cinema, BILLY LIAR can easily be seen at different levels and is, in my opinion, a valuable addition to your library.
A DVD zone Hillary.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, Entertaining, Thoughtful, Cinematic, September 7, 2001
This review is from: Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
I am full of admiration for Schlesinger's film. It stands in a tradition of many great British movies that managed to make something truly cinematic out of stage material (another outstanding example would be David Lean's 1945 'Brief Encounter').
The film follows a young man of 19 by the name of Billy Fisher. In the small Yorkshire town of Stradhoughton (fictional I am sure), Billy copes with the mundanity of everyday life by creating for himself an inner world of fantasy to which he retreats continually. Courtenay is superb as the perpetual liar and daydreamer, and the supporting cast is equally excellent. Denys Coop's photography. Is reminiscent of the French New Wave, particularly the opening scenes which echo the opening of Truffaut's 'Les 400 Coups,' the beautiful scenes of Julie Christie as she skips her way through the streets, and the final shots of Billy's street which have a 'cinema verite' look. The editing, especially in the fantasy sequences, brings a uniquely cinematic dimension to what could have easily been done in a more cliched style.
Schlesinger presents a very moving, and very human, fable. Towards the end, as Billy marches through the empty streets, humming the last post, following the death of his grandmother, there is a real air of pathos. Similarly, we get interesting insights into the character of Billy as, waiting to board the train to London, he clutches two cartons of milk to his chest, a touching maternal symbol. Again, there are clear echoes of the scene in Truffaut's 'Les 400 Coups' in which the young Antoine Doinel steals, having run away from home, steals a bottle of milk from a doorway.
This is not to say that the film is an incredibly sophisticated look into characters and personalities, but it touches upon some very human and profound moments. This is also a tremendously witty film, not losing on iota of the humour and irony of the original book by Keith Waterhouse (and subsequent stage play co-authored by Willis Hall). There are scenes of laugh-out-loud hilarity, and many of Billy's fantasies will strike a chord with many of the more imaginative of us, perhaps making us uncomfortable as we see a reflection of ourselves, albeit on a bigger scale.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars JULIE CHRISTIE!, May 3, 2007
This review is from: Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
"Billy Liar," directed by Oscar winner John Schlesinger (Best Director, 'Midnight Cowboy') is billed as a comedy, but to me is much more of a tragedy with bits of comedy thrown in here and there. Presented by The Criterion Collection, "Billy Liar" is a little treasure of a film that is worth seeing for many reasons, but one big one...JULIE CHRISTIE.

Tom Courtenay gives an absolutely brilliant performance as Billy Fisher, an undertaker's assistant that lives with his parents and has two fiancees. Fisher longs for escape and constantly daydreams of being the leader of a country and of shooting people he doesn't like. He also has a problem with telling the truth and frequently finds himself in jams that he must lie to get out of. This earns him the nickname Billy Liar, but not until much later in the film. Christie plays Liz, a free-spirited woman who has so little screen time but makes a very big impression on the audience.

Any review you read of "Billy Liar" will mention how fantastic Julie Christie is. She's incredibly beautiful, incredibly talented, and steals the show. The movie is about 75% comedy and much of the first 3/4 of it play as a comedy, but I thought the last part of the film had a completely dramatic change of tone...Which, in my opinion, worked for the better. The end is especially tragic. "Billy Liar" is a fantastic film that few people have heard of that definitely needs to be seen by more people, I highly recommend it.

GRADE: A
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Living in Ambrosia, January 27, 2005
This review is from: Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
Sometime the prospect of reality is so burdensome, a retreat into fantasy affords the only opportunity for escape. Indeed, isn't this the domain of the artist? If so, is Billy really a liar? He's created an entire country in his mind called Ambrosia, and in order to provide for its existence he must maintain the fiction that is his "real" life. What is real for Billy? He's engaged to two girls, both of whom are representations of opposite poles of a dreary domestic existence. He's employed by a mortuary, controlled by two men, one who wants to modernize the industry by creating sleek new caskets made out of plastic and the other who longs for the formality and perhaps dignity of a time long since past. Billy lives in a working class town where all the old buildings are gradually being torn down and replaced by modern structures like supermarkets! Should Billy "grow-up" which actually means waking up (something Billy is loath to do) and accept his station in life? And give up Ambrosia!? Enter Liz (the alluring Julie Christie) who strides into town like a breath of fresh air evoking boundless possibilities. She can offer Billy an alternative: to venture out into the unknown. While Billy is brave and daring in his imaginary kingdom, when confronted by the frightening prospect of the unfamiliar and real, will he seize the opportunity or retreat back into Ambrosia?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first cinematic slacker, maybe?, February 9, 2004
This review is from: Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
A surreal comedy set during England’s swinging sixties. Tom Courtney is unbelievably funny as a working class boy unable to leave the safety of his family home and venture out on his own. He creates a fantastic world he retreats to when his daily encounters and unconventional actions get out of hand. Not even Julie Christie can drag him out into reality.
One of the most entertaining films in cinema history, Billy Liar is a universal character that has surely set the bases for many slacker characters in film since then.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first cinematic slacker, maybe?, February 9, 2004
This review is from: Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
A surreal comedy set during England’s swinging sixties. Tom Courtney is unbelievably funny as a working class boy unable to leave the safety of his family home and venture out on his own. He creates a fantastic world he retreats to when his daily encounters and unconventional actions get out of hand. Not even Julie Christie can drag him out into reality.
One of the most entertaining films in cinema history, Billy Liar is a universal character that has surely set the bases for many slacker characters in film since then.
The Criterion version of the DVD offers extras as opposed to the English version.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I have Paid For Billy Liar. And It's Worth It!, May 26, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Billy Liar [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The first time I saw this I thought I was Billy Fisher!
A lovely story that takes you on a emotional journey which leaves you identifying with the characters so much. Real life situations and a young man's fantasy world are superbly worked out by the writer and director.
The Criterion Collection have made an excellent choice to refurbish this British Masterpiece. This is definitley a film worth experiencing.
Anyone who loves this film will understand when I say !Today's the day for big decisions! Treat yourself, buy it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars billy liar, November 22, 2000
This review is from: Billy Liar [VHS] (VHS Tape)
this is my most favourite film of all time, with some very funny and true to life moments. excellent for cheering your spirits on a gloomy or rainy day. absolutley wonderful. from a 42 year old tom courtenay fan xxx
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Visually delightful comedy with a twist�, February 1, 2003
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This review is from: Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
A young dreamer, Billy Fisher, lives a boring life in a small town of England. When he does not have to do anything he dreams of being someone in his fantasy world, Ambrosia. In the real world he has committed some petty misdemeanors and these are now about to catch up with him. In order to stay afloat, Billy has been forced to lie, but the lies have begun to accumulate and could slap him in the face at any moment. Thus, he is patching up his lies with other lies until he is so deep that there is no return. Billy also dreams of being a script writer for a famous comedian in London, but no one really believes him because he has been caught in his lies too many times. One day when an opportunity surfaces where his dream of script writing can become reality, he is put on a crossroads. Will he have the courage to see through it, or will he remain a dreamer? Billy Liar is an exceptionally fascinating story that is depicted with clever thoughtfulness, which leaves the audience with an extraordinary cinematic happening.
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Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection)
Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection) by John Schlesinger (DVD - 2001)
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