Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Brassed Off

(UK, 1996)

The finest experience of my high school life was being in the Nederland High School Band, the Golden Pride of the Golden Triangle …

… that would be Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange, Texas. Nederland is right in the middle of that triangle, and as I write this, the whole area is still mostly underwater from Hurricane Harvey. It’s not only Houston that is drowning, and in fact some of the worst damage is to other towns. I’m so sorry for my hometown, and hope they can recover soon …

… okay, back to the movie.

Offhand, I can’t recall another movie about bands. Our band was brass and woodwinds, this one is all brass, but it’s really the same. The amazing thing, to an American, is that the group in question is the Grimethorpe Colliery Band, who actually did all the music we hear. A colliery is a coal mine, and it seems that at one time most of the pits in Britain had a brass band. And they were good! The sometimes quite difficult music we hear is played impeccably, by men who went down in the pits five days a week. Until Margaret Bloody Thatcher closed most of them down.

Of course, you have to be of two minds here. No one wants to see people lose their jobs, especially if they aren’t trained for anything else. But we really do have to move away from coal. There is no such thing as “clean coal,” no matter what President Shit-For-Brains told the miners in West Virginia. And you will not be getting your jobs back, so thanks for the votes, you foolish suckers!

If you don’t love brass band music as much as I do, you may not like this nearly as much as I did. But I don’t think you have to be an old band man like me. It’s a great story, about how these men get one last moment of glory in the Albert Hall, (playing the William Tell Overture!) before the town dies. This band goes on, and maybe others do. I wish them well.

It stars Tara Fitzgerald as a flugelhorn player who wants to join up, a young Ewan McGregor, and Pete Postlethwaite in a grand performance as the bandmaster who cherishes his band more than life itself.