1969, UK, directed by Ronald Neame
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie takes the pleasant glow of the Mr. Chips schooldays template - a template updated with some regularity - and subverts it at every turn: the inspirational teacher here is inspiring in all the wrong ways, while her male colleague is busy seducing the pupils of the all-girls' school in 1930s Edinburgh (when they aren't actively being thrown at him by Miss Brodie, eager to remove herself from his radar). The comprehensive dismantling of well-worn clichés is, for the most part, quite bracing, though Miss Brodie's admiration of Mussolini and, later, Franco, is a little overdone; it's an overly knowing wink in the direction of the audience, armed with the benefit of hindsight.
Despite the use of Edinburgh locations, the film occasionally feels rather stagy - and the action, which spans several years, often seems to advance in fits and starts - but it is redeemed by its impeccable cast, particularly Maggie Smith in the lead, who manages the difficult task of humanising a thoroughly disagreeable character without softening her rough, imperious and ultimately tragic edges. Celia Johnson - in a radical turnabout from her most famous role in Brief Encounter - is also excellent as the headmistress, Ms. McKay.