Privilege (1967)

There was a time in my life when I worried that movies would bore me. That, eventually, I’d have read about everything and seen everything and there’d be no surprises left, ever. And what a sad day that would be. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to the realization that this is just about virtually impossible; this is something I don’t have to worry about at all. There is such an amazing wealth of stuff out there that I want to watch; I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to watch all the stuff I own before I die. That being said, the one worry that remains, in traces, is that all of the good and interesting movies would have been consumed by a certain age. Then, a movie like Privilege comes along and I realize I probably don’t have to worry about that, either.

Steven Shorter, the brooding artist

Steven Shorter, the brooding artist

I’d never heard of Privilege. Despite the fact that I watch a lot of movies, I’m no encyclopedia; I leave that up to my better half, who had of course known about this movie and picked it for a Sunday afternoon’s viewing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: going into a movie totally cold, having no knowledge of it, is definitely the best. Good or bad, you’ll probably find yourself saying: “what the hell did I just get myself into?”

Unfinished portrait

Unfinished portrait

Privilege is almost a mockumentary, but not quite. It tells the story of Steven Shorter (Paul Jones), a British pop singer of unimaginable proportions. Your grandma and your neighbor’s kid both adore him. They throw parades in his name. He’s bigger than anything anyone could possibly imagine. And he’s also completely at the mercy of his managers: they choose what he wears, what he sings, what lifestyle he endorses, who he hangs out with. They’ve hired an artist, Vanessa (Jean Shrimpton) to paint his portrait, but it’s the darndest thing: she just can’t seem to finish it. She can’t get a read on who Steven Shorter really is.

They're laying it on pretty thick, eh?

They’re laying it on pretty thick, eh?

That’s probably because, increasingly, Steven Shorter doesn’t know who he is. Things seem to be getting out of control, and his management team has decided it’s time for Shorter to quit the quasi-rebel act and… say yes to the Church? Seems unlikely, but whoever’s pulling the strings knows Shorter’s fans don’t think twice about embracing whatever it is he’s selling. When Stephen tries to reject the proposition, things get rather nasty…



Um, wow. This is a pretty scathing critique of corporate pop music and fandom and I loved it. Shorter’s incredible stardom is an obvious (and cynical) nod to Beatlemania, but Paul Jones wasn’t a complete stranger to rock stardom himself, being the frontman for Manfred Mann before going solo just before this movie was put out. It is shocking, surprising and awesome and I highly recommend it!


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