Knack... and How to Get It, The (1965)

The Knack... and How to Get It (1965), directed by Richard Lester.

An easily flustered teacher gets dating advice from his pickup-artist neighbor: "Eat lots of protein and remember women want to be dominated". They both collide with new-in-town Rita Tushingham (A Taste of Honey (1961)) and much chaos and turnabout ensues.

One of those absurd, madcap 1960s London comedies, heavy on the sexual situations this time. The fantasies are exaggerated: lover boy has not just a few girlfriends but long lines of vacant-looking dolly-birds stretching down the stairs and out into the street. They dress alike and each gets a medallion as a prize: "Sign the guest book and limit comments to one word, please".

Endearing Rita almost becomes one of them. Almost, but not quite, which is her triumph. In the final segment she leads a long "cry rape!" comedy skit which would not be done today.

I suppose you have to be in the mood. Exuberance and comic talent can support excess silliness, as in Lester's own A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965).

Steven Soderbergh's book Getting Away With It has many interviews with Lester. For this film they say that in the original play the pickup-artist was more explicitly fascist, everything hateable. They soften him here, make him more of a Beatle, but still bring him low in the end.

Breezy John Barry score. Photographed by David Watkin. Lester said the camera operator was clumsy and they had to do optical zooms on the film itself in some scenes to remove the microphones.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. No subtitles, which I missed. Some of the patter flies by and Lester likes adding acerbic commentary from bystanders.