Jamie and Tommy are separated by the death of their grandmother; Jamie with another relative and Tommy to a welfare home. Now Jamie is all alone and his life is not at all happy taken over by silence, rejection and violence.

Also Known As: Ceux de chez moi, My Ain Folk

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  • frida-jonsson
    frida jonsson

    ‘My Ain Folk’ is the second of three autobiographical films written and directed by Bill Douglas, recounting his childhood and adolescence. In all three films, the protagonist — ostensibly Bill Douglas’s alter ego — is cried Jamie. The name change warns us that some fictionalisation is in the works, but we’re never told precisely at which points in the story, nor how extensively. The most famous case of this sort of substitution would be the example of Francois Truffaut and his cinematic alter ego Antoine Doinel. I suspect that Jamie conforms more closely to Bill Douglas’s life than Doinel to Truffaut’s.SPOILERS AHEAD. Cleverly yet bitterly, this movie opens with displays of triumph. We see a collie (a Scottish breed) standing atop a mountain above a glorious vista of landscape, in full colour. This quickly turns out to be a Lassie movie being screened in Jamie’s local cinema, a tuppenny fleapit in a coal-mining town. From here out, the rest of the film is in monochrome. From collie to colliery in one painful reel change.I found the first instalment in this trilogy, ‘My Childhood’, so utterly realistic as to be a painful experience. ‘My Ain Folk’, by contrast, felt slightly more like something Dickens invented for one of his novels. ‘My Childhood’ bleakly but expertly limned the utter desperation and grinding poverty of Jamie and his half-brother Tommy, raised by their elderly ‘gran’ while their mother languishes in a mental institution. Very realistic and compelling. Here in ‘My Ain Folk’, up pops some tosh about a necklace which Jamie’s mother has hidden, which apparently has enough value that someone else wants to find it. Pull the other one! Although I’m more than a decade younger than Douglas, I came from a background very similar (in Perthshire and a Glasgow council estate) and I know damned well that people this poor never have any heirlooms. Any object that can stave off hunger for a couple of hours is sold, bartered or pawned.Throughout this bleak trilogy, Douglas uses apples symbolically: they seem to represent prized treasures which are highly desirable in this impoverished landscape. In ‘My Ain Folk’, there’s a close-up of a large dish containing only one small Bramley apple and a set mousetrap. This felt to me like the sort of art-house image which director Douglas normally avoided … but it turned out that there was a legitimate reason for placing the trap next to the apple.During one shot of Jamie standing astride the local railway line, we hear on the soundtrack an offscreen train coming steadily nearer and louder, yet Jamie shows no inclination to get off the sleepers. (In the previous instalment, he actually lay down with his head on the rails!) Suddenly the train comes hurtling into the frame … on a different track we hadn’t noticed before. This one shot reminded me of several Buster Keaton films.Elsewhere in this movie, the soundtrack cuts out entirely. I started to put this down to alienation or some other symbolism, but apparently Douglas just had grotty film recording.After the death of Jamie’s gran, the film ends with a slight note of triumph: we see a Highland band marching downhill (another symbol?) while piping ‘Scotland the Brave’.In all three instalments of this trilogy, Douglas wrings astonishing performances from a (mostly) non-professional cast, and gets full benefit from the cinema-verite settings. I found the first instalment of this bleak trilogy (‘My Childhood’) deeply depressing yet moving, partly because some of it resembled my own experiences. I found ‘My Ain Folk’ equally depressing yet less cathartic. I’ll rate this downer 6 out of 10, mostly in recognition of Douglas’s skill rather than his depressing choice of subject matter.

  • rakhel-paparoidames
    rakhel paparoidames

    Bill Douglas directs “My Childhood”, “My Ain Folk” and “My Way Home”, a trilogy of films which charter the life of Jaime (Stephen Archibald), a young boy living in 1940s Scotland. Based on the director’s own experiences, the series watches as Jaime is subjected to a series of misfortunes and abuses, most of which take place in the small mining village of Newcraighall.The trilogy is structured as a series of loosely repeated cycles, Jaime struggling to cope with parents, grandparents, surrogate parents, half-brothers and surrogate brothers. While Jaime remains locked in limbo, adults come and go, either dying, committing suicide, abandoning him or being consigned to mental wards. Douglas fancied himself as a class conscious artist, a “socialist realist”, but unlike most neorealist works, which sanctify the poor and downtrodden, his trilogy pushes past canned sorrow and proletariat piety and instead tries to tap into a kind of nauseating self-hate. Everyone here is cauldron of seething resent, long resigned to a life of dishing out and receiving emotional and physical abuse. Meanwhile, Jaime begins to plot his escape.And so Jaime hitches a ride on a coal train, befriends a German POW and falls in love with the idea of becoming an artist. This is where the trilogy gets problematic. It is not only that Douglas has a narrow view of the working classes, but that in tracing Jaime’s rise out of the slums (via his meeting the educated middle class, the elite upper class and the development of a love for art) the trilogy begins to exhibit a somewhat snobbish attitude and dismissive stance toward whence Jaime came.”My Childhood” and “My Ain Folk” are the best films of the trilogy. “My Way Home’s” narrative has been criticised for its “confusing” structure and Douglas’ refusal to explain major plot points, but such an initially jarring approach works well upon re-watches. The trilogy ends powerfully with the sound of what seems to be gunfire and explosions played over the glorious image of a tree, the juxtaposition epitomising the twin poles of Jaime’s uncertain future. “My Ain Folk” opens spectacularly with the glorious, triumphant image (taken from “Lassie”?) of a dog scaling a majestic mountain. This image – the allure of cinema and the hope of escape – then snap-cuts to grim, black-and-white Scotland.The trilogy’s narrative, which focuses solely on suffering townsfolk, is as depressing as Douglas’ aesthetic. Shot in black-and-white, the series stresses doom and gloom. Respite is infrequent. Douglas uses long periods of silence, slow camera work (and much locked down, static shots) and moments of eerie, discordant sounds, to create a unique aesthetic. The trilogy’s disturbing tone – autobiography meets creep-show horror – strongly resembles Lynch’s “Eraserhead”.The film represents another link in the spreading chain that is neorealism. Very loosely speaking, neorealism began in Italy in the 40s, spread to France (cinema-verite) in the 50s, to Britain in the late 50s and 60s (“Kitchen sink”), to the United States in the 60s and 70s, Scotland in the 70s and Iran in the 70s and 80s. The style is a delayed reaction to the socio-political-economic situations in these respective countries.Douglas’ filmography is revered in Scotland, Wales and Britain, but none of his films were widely distributed or have been widely seen. Because of this, they’ve developed a somewhat overinflated reputation.8/10 – Makes a good companion piece to Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy (“Song of the Little Road”, “The Unvanquished”, “The World of Apu”) and Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series (“400 Blows”, “Stollen Kisses”, “Bed and Board”, “Love on the Run”), all autobiographical films chartering the transition of young boys into adulthood. Worth one viewing.

  • mr-henry-ross
    mr henry ross

    All right, not much votes for that sublime oddity of a film. I saw it by chance, together with the other “episodes” of Bill Douglas’ autobiopic – if I may use that word. It is quite unique. No other piece of cinema ever reached that utter sadness, ever showed those quietly shivering landscapes – except may be Dreyer’s Vampyr, and possibly Straub / Huillet at their least boring. Dreyer ? Straub ? Huillet ? Yes, but you sometimes have those spectral moments, those white explosions in more mainstream, more meaty movies such as Them (just think of the beginning in the desert) or Kiss me deadly. Or, say, The Misfits, the garrulousness of which is (for me) redeemed by Monroe’s silent dance around a tree in the sparkling white night.When I hear Mr van Sant babbling about the cinema of reality and other fake highbrow concepts, I think of Bill Douglas who, 30 years before Mr van Sant, triggered the question with far more talent. Couldn’t Criterion do the world a favor and have these three films issued on DVD ?