The Running, Jumping And Standing Still Film Review

Image for The Running, Jumping And Standing Still Film

A manic procession of surreal events, involving a charwoman who cleans a field with a scrubbing brush, a man who runs around a tree stump to play a phonograph record and a violinist who reads his score by telescope and has to mount a bicycle to turn the pages on his music stand.


Richard Lester had the happy knack of impressing important people. He began his career in live television in the United States, which he later claimed was the finest school ever invented for surrealism, as freak incidents like the appearance of a gaggle of periwigged 18th-century characters within a Nazi POW camp were always likely to happen.

Indeed, it was exactly this brand of eccentricity that Lester sought to bring to British television in 1956. Aping the crackpot comedy patented by The Goons,  The Dick Lester Show was a largely ad-libbed affair that proved to be a spectacular failure. However, it so amused Peter Sellers that he invited Lester to direct a string of Goon spin-offs - A Show Called Fred, Idiot's Weekly and Son of Fred (all 1956) - that also convinced Spike Milligan that Lester was on their comic wavelength.  

In between his Goon assignments, Lester began directing commercials, which not only taught him visual economy, but also gave him plenty of latitude for experimentation. And it was this preoccupation with the madcap, the avant-garde and the precise that manifested itself in this 11 minutes of mayhem.  

Shot over two Sundays with Sellers's 16mm Bolex camera for just £70 (a fiver of which went on the hire of the field), The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film was a homage to both classic slapstick clowning and the silent Impressionism that René Clair and Luis Buñuel had attempted in the late 1920s.  

 Sellers, Milligan, Leo McKern, David Lodge, Graham Stark and Mario Fabrizi threw themselves into a project (often literally) that was initially only devised as a kind of wacky home movie. However, it wound up landing an Oscar nomination and so impressing The Beatles that they insisted on Lester directing  A Hard Day's Night (1964), whose `Can't Buy Me Love' sequence reprised the delirious exuberance of this midget gem.

Sublime slapstick surrealism from Richard Lester and two Goons.