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28 October 2014

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Close up: your favourite London film...ever

The Long Good FridayYou voted in your droves in our recent film poll and placed The Long Good Friday in top position with twice as many votes as its nearest rival.

BBC London film critic Jason Solomons thinks he knows why...

Our readers and listeners like The Long Good Friday because it gets right to the heart of living in our city. It's about dreams and hate, class and economics, power and greed, violence and pride.

WIN tickets to a FREE screening of The Long Good Friday>>

It catches London as it always seems to be, on the cusp of a new era, pulled between the future and history.

"It's interesting that 25 years after it was made, John MacKenzie's film is coming into its own as a generational landmark..."

It's interesting that 25 years after it was made, John MacKenzie's film is coming into its own as a generational landmark - a film needs that length of time to mark its place in history and acquire the lasting power of a classic.

The Long Good Friday now has the mythical qualities suggested by its title: an almost religious, reverential event as legendary as American gangsters considering the St Valentine's Day massacre (indeed, it was based on Mervyn LeRoy's 1931 Little Caesar, starring Edward G Robinson).

It's got a truly great script (by Barrie Keeffe) full of long good speeches and language that has the ring of authenticity, and, in Harold Shand, little Bob Hoskins creates a monumental, monstrous London figure, one we all know and one we hate and admire in equal measure.

flatness and dereliction

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect is how much the London depicted in the film has changed over time.

Poster detail: The Long Good Friday
In Harold Shand, Bob Hoskins created a monumental, monstrous London figure

There's a shot from the top of the Thistle Hotel at Tower Bridge that shows emptiness, flatness and dereliction all around. Go up there now and it's unrecognisable, such has been the development and hunger for wealth that has sprung up all around, like an urban forest.

The Long Good Friday is as monumental as any London landmark and achieves what the best London films should: a sense of time and place with characters that are precise and yes, timeless.

It's not always pleasant but then, I think, we tend to get the favourite film we deserve.

With its snarling, wild spirit of defiance, it is both glorious and grubby, lying in the gutter while looking at the stars.

BBC London's FREE screening of The Long Good Friday>>

Find more on your favourite London films here>>

This week's new film releases here>>

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