The Lad Meets the Existentialists: Tony Hancock, The Rebel and Rendezvous in July

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Abstract: Existentialism fell out of academic fashion in the 1970s due, I suspect, to the sense that this philosophy encouraged a crass individualism that could be mobilised to support the introduction of neoliberal economic and political models around the world. Film theory was taking its ideological and neo-Marxist turn around the same time and its roots in Existentialist thought became increasingly embarrassing. At least, that’s part of the hypothesis I am developing in a new project on film and Existentialism. In this talk, I will consider the parodic presentation of Existentialism in Robert Day’s 1961 comedy The Rebel, starring the radio star Tony Hancock (perhaps now best remembered for Hancock’s Half Hour and committing suicide in 1968). I will contrast this discussion with Jacques Becker’s Rendezvous in July (1949) and its presentation of post-war youth culture, jazz, film students and anthropology in post-war Paris. I would like to explore here what we might be able to find of value in Existentialism and to begin to uncover a hidden history of film theory and film-philosophy that might be coming back into style once again.
Period4 Apr 2023
Event titleBritish Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies Conference 2023
Event typeConference
LocationLincoln, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Film-Philosophy
  • Existentialism
  • Cinema
  • Film Studies