Seventeen-year-old Joanna is cool, stylish, and determined to start a new life as an art student in swinging London. Played with gusto by Genevieve Waite, Joanna indulges in the pleasures of casual sexual encounters, colourful daydreams, and an impromptu trip to Morocco with the wise and debonair Lord Peter Sanderson (wonderfully played by Donald Sutherland). But when Joanna falls in love with Gordon, from Sierra Leone, her life begins to get complicated.
The above is a typical synopsis from what was classified as “Swinging London” these were films generally from the second half of the sixties and included the above Joanna (1968) which was deemed to be the last under this classification. Others included The Knack (1965) Morgan (1966) Blow Up (1966) I’ll Never Forget What’s Is Name (1967) Sebastian (1968) and Up The Junction (1968). These were supposed to reflect the new permissive age along with full employment which meant that every one had a great deal of disposable income, but believe me it was not quite true. A quote from Jeffery Richards book The Revolt of the Young describes the period quite well ‘The sober realism and earnest social comment of the earlier part of the sixties gave way to fantasy, extravaganza and escapism; black and white photography and Northern locations to colour and the lure of the metropolis; Puritanical self discipline to hedonistic self indulgence; plain truthful settings to flamboyant, unrealistic decorativeness. Films became locked in a heady spiral of mounting extravagance, excitement and faddish innovation” What he meant was these films promoted a mindlessly optimistic view of the world rather than a realistic one with London being shown as the center of the universe for fashion, music and youth culture.
Mike Sarne is a British actor and former pop singer who you may remember had a number one hit with a record he recorded with Wendy Richard in 1962 called “Come Outside’, he also directed Joanna. Walter Lassally, who was responsible for the cinematography in the Free Cinema Documentaries Momma Don’t Allow (1955) and We Are The Lambeth Boys (1958) and two of the British New Wave classics A Taste of Honey (1961) and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), certainly makes London look like a very beautiful city with it bright colour’s, constant summer skys and the smell of money. As the synopsis shows this glossy travelogue is all about a rather irritating young girl who moves to metropolis to sample the ‘good life’ and the freedom to get laid, when and by whom she wishes, the loose living and low morals and all the other excesses of the period: women’s emancipation of the sixties? The movie starts in black and white and then bursts in to colour when Joanna appears at the end of the opening credits and ends with typical corny dance routine with the cast and crew lining up along a railway platform, ring a bell Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008)? Filming also took place in Morocco and as with other films of this type does have a dark underbelly. Donald Sutherland’s British accent has got to be heard to be believed but its an interesting piece and does have the great Scott Walker singing his 1967 UK hit Joanna. But what annoys me about these movies is the attitude that you have got to be rich or your nobody which is such a uniquely different attitude from the British New Wave films at the beginning of the decade or films that followed from directors like Nicolas Roeg, Lindsay Anderson or Ken Loach.