“The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film” (1959)
Seldom does an inaugural short effort display as assiduously prescient a blueprint of the emergent talent of a major artist as does the Richard Lester-directed “The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film” (That is if indeed Lester can be reliably regarded as a major artist.), a brief but potent bit of surrealist whimsy that bridges the evolutionary gap between the radio antics of The Goon Show and the television (and later film incarnations) of the Monty Python troupe. However, it is in the early announcement of what will become the repetitive thematic imperatives which define the artistic voice in the Lester filmography that the film merits continued fascination and amusement.
Shot on the quick in a public park on two weekend afternoons, from the outset, the film appears randomly incidental and without comprehensive purpose, yet is a cleverly surreal observational spoofing of the British fondness for leisure activity. Eschewing the traditional form of linear sketch comedy, “The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film” is comprised of a series of disconnected persons each engaged in errands of immediately uncomplimentary purpose, yet the structure of the film is such that there is created an elliptical overlap which although each activity is independent of the others, frustrates the completion of each individual task. The nature of the comedy is engagingly absurdist in nature; with simple tasks made wholly improbable by a minute twist of logic: a charwoman scrubbing a grassy field; a violinist using a telescope to read the sheet music and then traveling by bicycle to turn the page; a portraitist whose subject’s face is helpfully mapped with a paint-by-numbers schematic.
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