Synopsis by Mark Deming
After directing several extraordinary documentaries for the BBC, including the award-winning The War Game and Culloden, Peter Watkins made his first dramatic feature with this flawed but striking film about Steven Shorter (Paul Jones), a pop singer in a future society where entertainment is controlled by a totalitarian government. Shorter's music and image are used to channel the impulses of rebellious youth; in one concert sequence, the crowd watches him sing a plaintive plea for love and understanding while locked in a cage surrounded by police officers armed with clubs. While Shorter is remarkably popular, he's also living a life created for him by the government, which Steven knows is a sham. When Shorter's handlers decide to revamp his image into that of an obedient, religious boy, he rebels, to his peril. Model Jean Shrimpton made her film debut here as an artist commissioned to paint a portrait of Shorter. Privilege later became something of a cult film; one of the film's admirers was rock poet Patti Smith, who recorded one of "Steven Shorter"'s songs, "Set Me Free," on her 1978 album Easter.
idol, stars [celebrities], superstar, welfare [govt. aid], church, director, freedom, image [picture], performer, rock, rock-music, rock-star, social-commentary, songwriter, time, youth