Skip to content
Black Jack – 1979 Loach
- Black Jack is a decade after Ken Loach’s landmark Kes (1969). This has some connections to realism, but it is a period film (set in the mid-18th century) and shot on grainy 16mm (Kes is 35mm). Loach is so tied to sociopolitical cinema in the contemporary era— it just takes a second to recognize Loach here in costume.
- Loach’s titular character, Black Jack (played by the towering Jean Franval), is really secondary to the Tolly character (young Stephen Hirst). Like Kes, Tolly seems to be a genuinely good soul—a child trapped in a pretty ugly world. Tolly is an orphan (halfway between Dickens and neorealism here). Black Jack is contemned to die before the opening titles conclude. Tolly is tasked with watching Black Jack’s casket—and he, and us, are thrust into an engaging Huck Finn-like yarn that turns into a very cute little romance between Tolly and Belle (Louise Cooper). Loach doesn’t quite earn the about face from the Black Jack character at the conclusion of the story but it does make for an agreeable and engrossing narrative.
- Outcasts are the characters in the ensemble, a boy thief, an elixir salesman—and there is a clear class/wealth divide- but it is a stretch to call these characters Loach’s working class.
- Content and character are the reasons for Black Jack landing in the archives. Loach’s style is quiet, if not invisible.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1979