"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

The Curious World of Frinton-on-Sea

Part 1 embedded, Part 2 here.

Total running time: approx 40 mins

This documentary is an absolute gem, in the tradition of Errol Morris it finds the profound in the utterly banal, without resorting to postmodern sneering. The subject is a sleepy English seaside town, one of those places where uptight, keeping up appearances, Edwardian sensibilities hang by a thread, appropriately enough at the nation’s edge. This is a culture that was satirized in Dad’s army as being obsolete 40 years ago and which Orwell railed against even earlier in Keep the Aspadistra Flying, but it still lives in Frinton on Sea.

This calcified culture that has only recently begun to emerge in America, where middle class people, or to paraphrase Evelyn Waugh, ‘upper lower middle class’ people emulate the veneer of respectability displayed by the public face of the powerful, without enjoying the private debauchery. Its a sick joke that is played by the rich on the modest, the world over, where ordinary people suffer humdrum in exchange for a caricature of dignity.

When people talk about the hypocrisy of suburbia, as if the few people who are secretly sleeping around and snorting coke after church on Sunday are proof of endemic problems, they miss the point. Where I have encountered it, this Janus like culture seems to be the norm in the upper echelons of society, from the Hamptons to Hampshire, whereas in places like Frinton-on-Sea there are many people who actually live the lives that the Victorians pretended to. Its a raw deal.

Here, a BBC team pokes back at the ‘twitching net curtains’ of exburbia, to examine the traumatic impact of the decision to automate the town’s railroad crossing and the resulting local outcry. The result is a small socio-anthropological masterpiece.


5 comments on “The Curious World of Frinton-on-Sea

  1. Paul says:

    Great little doc. Reminds me of “Plagues and Pleasures in the Salton Sea”

    And here’s another look at the Salton Sea:

  2. Conal says:

    A fascinating picture of a traditonal English life, lived in fear and conservatism. It is rather tragic to see the way in which most of the people in the film seem to want to do something new but just cannot take the risk.

  3. Lloyd says:

    Wonderful. This will be all of us, should we live that long. A documentary crew could go to any retirement community in the developed world and found similar characters. Lonely old people with nothing but time and regrets. The amazing thing is, as guarded as these people are, they can’t quite keep their secrets.

  4. dustin keeler says:

    THank you for being smart enough to realize what a genius documentary this is. It is very reminiscent of Earl Morris Vermont, but all British. The most entertaining thing about the film is the notion that nobody seemed to actually live there on purpose.

  5. Jonathan says:

Comments are closed.