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Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection)

4.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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(Jul 10, 2001)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

Tom Courtenay gives a flawlessly nuanced performance as Billy Fisher, the underachieving undertaker's assistant whose constant daydreams and truth-deficient stories earn him the nickname "Billy Liar." Julie Christie is the handbag-swinging charmer whose free spirit just might inspire Billy to finally move out of his parents' house. Deftly veering from gritty realism to flamboyant fantasy, Billy Liar is a dazzling and uproarious classic.

Special Features

  • Excerpts from "Northern Lights," an episode of the BBC series Hollywood U.K.: British Cinema in the Sixties, hosted by Richard Lester

Product Details

  • Actors: Tom Courtenay, Julie Christie, Wilfred Pickles, Mona Washbourne, Ethel Griffies
  • Directors: John Schlesinger
  • Writers: Keith Waterhouse, Willis Hall
  • Producers: Jack Rix, Joseph Janni
  • Format: Anamorphic, Black & White, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: July 10, 2001
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005EBSB
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,289 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Billy Liar (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan P. Walters on November 25, 2001
Format: 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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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Format: 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.
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