Absolute Beginners (film)

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Absolute Beginners
Absolute beginners poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Julien Temple
Written by Richard Burridge
Cinematography Oliver Stapleton
Edited by Gerry Hambling
Distributed by Palace Pictures (UK)
Orion Pictures (USA)
Release dates
  • 18 April 1986 (1986-04-18)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £8.4 million[1]
Box office £1.8 million (UK)[2]
$930,211 (USA)

Absolute Beginners is a 1986 British rock musical film adapted from the Colin MacInnes book of the same name about life in late 1950s London. The film was directed by Julien Temple, featured David Bowie and Sade, and Patsy Kensit in one of her first mainstream roles. The film was screened out of competition at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.[3]

Upon its release on 18 April 1986, Absolute Beginners received immense coverage in the British media. At the time, the British film industry was perceived as being on the point of collapse (with the recent failure of the film Revolution). However, the movie was panned by critics and became a box office flop. Some of the criticisms included stylistic anachronisms, such as the mini-skirt and decidedly 1980s music from the likes of The Style Council and Sade, the bowdlerisation of Kensit's character (Crepe Suzette had been depicted as a promiscuous "negrophile" in the book), and the casting of Bowie, who made it a condition of his musical contribution.

The commercial failure of Absolute Beginners and another film released about the same time, The Mission, led to the collapse of Goldcrest, a major British film studio.


The film takes place in 1958, a time in which pop culture is transforming from 1950s jazz and early rock to a new generation on the verge of the 1960s. London is post-World War II, but pre-Beatles/Stones. The storyline incorporates elements of the 1958 Notting Hill race riots.

Young photographer Colin falls in love with aspiring fashion designer Crepe Suzette but she's only interested in her career. Colin tries to win her affections by taking a crack at the big time himself. Meanwhile, racial tensions heat up in Colin's neighbourhood of London.



$2.5 million of the film's budget came from Orion and £2.5 million from Goldcrest.[4]


Absolute Beginners: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released 7 April 1986 (1986-04-07)
Genre Jazz, acid jazz, downtempo, pop, rock
Label Virgin Records
Producer Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley
Singles from Absolute Beginners: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
  1. "Absolute Beginners"
    Released: March 1986

Absolute Beginners: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was concurrently released to promote the film. Aside from the plethora of music from contributing artists, the musical score was composed by Gil Evans. David Bowie's title track, Ray Davies' "Quiet Life" and the Style Council's songs were released as singles. Tracks 11-18 were exclusive to the CD version.

Track listing

  1. "Absolute Beginners" — David Bowie - 8:03
  2. "Killer Blow" — Sade - 4:37
  3. "Have You Ever Had It Blue?" — The Style Council - 5:37
  4. "Quiet Life" — Ray Davies - 2:56
  5. "Va Va Voom" — Gil Evans - 3:26
  6. "That's Motivation" — David Bowie - 4:14
  7. "Having It All" — Eighth Wonder featuring Patsy Kensit - 3:08
  8. "Rodrigo Bay" — Working Week - 3:32
  9. "Selling Out" — Slim Gaillard - 3:36
  10. "Riot City" — Jerry Dammers - 8:29
  11. "Boogie Stop Shuffle (Rough And The Smooth)" — Gil Evans - 3:00
  12. "Ted Ain't Ded" — Tenpole Tudor - 2:35
  13. "Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)" — David Bowie - 3:13
  14. "Napoli" — Clive Langer - 4:08
  15. "Little Cat (You've Never Had It So Good)" — Jonas - 2:19
  16. "Better Git It In Your Soul (The Hot And The Cool)" — Gil Evans - 1:49
  17. "So What? (Lyric Version)" — Smiley Culture - 4:18
  18. "Absolute Beginners (Refrain)" — Gil Evans - 1:41

A double length cassette (Virgin TCVD 2514) was also released that featured four more tracks: B6 and B8-B10.

Track listing:

Side A
  1. "Absolute Beginners", David Bowie (Bowie)
  2. "Killer Blow", Sade (Sade Adu, Simon Booth, Larry Stabbins)
  3. "Have You Ever Had It Blue?", The Style Council (Paul Weller, arranged by David Bedford)
  4. "Quiet Life", Ray Davies (Davies)
  5. "Va Va Voom", Gil Evans (Evans)
  6. "That's Motivation", David Bowie (Bowie)
  7. "Having It All", Eighth Wonder featuring Patsy Kensit (Geoff Beauchamp, Alex Godson, Kensit)
  8. "Rodrigo Bay", Working Week (Booth, Stabbins)
  9. "Selling Out", Slim Gaillard (Gaillard, Tot Taylor, Julien Temple)
  10. "Riot City", Jerry Dammers (Dammers)
Side B
  1. "Boogie Stop Shuffle (Rough And The Smooth)", Gil Evans (Charles Mingus)
  2. "Ted Ain't Ded", Tenpole Tudor (Temple, Edward Tudor-Pole)
  3. "Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)", David Bowie (Franco Migliacci, Domenico Modugno)
  4. "Napoli", Clive Langer (Langer, Temple)
  5. "Little Cat (You've Never Had It So Good)", Jonas (24) (Nick Lowe)
  6. "Absolute Beginners (Slight Refrain)", Gil Evans (Bowie)
  7. "Better Git It In Your Soul (The Hot And The Cool)", Gil Evans (Mingus)
  8. "Landlords And Tenants", Laurel Aitken (Aitken)
  9. "Santa Lucia", Ekow Abban (Abban)
  10. "Cool Napoli", Gil Evans (Langer, Temple)
  11. "So What? (Lyric Version)", Smiley Culture (Culture, Miles Davis)
  12. "Absolute Beginners (Refrain)", Gil Evans (Bowie)


  1. ^ Walker p33
  2. ^ Walker p54
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Absolute Beginners". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  4. ^ "Bad Beginning." Sunday Times [London, England] 15 June 1986: 45. The Sunday Times Digital Archive. Web. 8 Apr. 2014.
  • Walker, Alexander, Icons in the Fire: The Rise and Fall of Practically Everyone in the British Film Industry 1984-2000, Orion Books, 2005

External links[edit]