The Redcoats have landed in Ann Arbor.

Patti Behler
Patti Behler
(Courtesy of Universal and Miramax)
Patti Behler

Every Monday in March, the Michigan Theater is screening movies from its British Invasion Film Series. The program is intended to be a celebration of classic and contemporary cinema from across the pond.

The series kicked off March 3 with the heist classic “The Italian Job” (1969) and continued this week with the romantic comedy “Love Actually” (2003). Monday will see the screening of “The Importance of Being Earnest” (1952), widely considered the best-filmed version of Oscar Wilde’s classic play.

“How to Get Ahead in Advertising” (1989), a cult satire about a frustrated ad executive who literally grows a second head, will follow, and the series concludes on March 31 with “Trainspotting” (1996), a dark comedy dealing with the bonds of friendship formed over drug addiction.

Unlike past Michigan Theater film series, like the fall’s Stanley Kubrick retrospective, the British Invasion doesn’t seem to have a specific audience in mind. Since every selection comes from a different genre and time period, it’s unlikely the casual filmgoer will be interested in all of them. Then again, events like these aren’t usually geared toward the passive types, but are designed for true film enthusiasts.

It’s difficult to classify someone as a fan of “British film” because the term implies that all movies made in Great Britain share similar characteristics. Few people claim to be fans of “American film” – that would put “Transformers” on the same plane as “No Country for Old Men,” with no distinction of quality or genre. A film’s country of origin should not act as a substitute for its genre. This becomes immediately obvious when observing the variety of films on display at the Michigan Theater.

It’s easy to overlook the influence British film has had on American cinema. After all, it hasn’t made as much of an impact on the medium as the original British Invasion did on American music in the 1960s. Even so, England essentially birthed many of the film conventions we now associate with Hollywood. The framework for the modern action movie came from “The Italian Job” and the James Bond series, with their breakneck car chases and invincible catchphrase-spouting heroes. Characteristically British comedies like “How to Get Ahead in Advertising” and the Monty Python films have always been huge sources of inspiration for American comedies.

Like it or not, even today’s box-office-clogging absurdist spoofs like “Meet the Spartans” may have at least partial roots in British film.

The British Invasion doesn’t just apply to purely British-made movies, though. Nowadays, many British actors and directors journey to America to find work in Hollywood productions – and their reputations follow. Sometimes the mere presence of a Brit is all that’s needed to add a sense of prestige. Last month at the Oscars, English actor Tilda Swinton (“Michael Clayton”) took home the gold for Best Supporting Actress, and joining her on the list of acting nominees were fellow Brits Julie Christie (Best Actress, “Away From Her”) and Tom Wilkinson (Best Supporting Actor, “Michael Clayton”).

British film has been a mainstay of the world’s cinema a long time, and its influence is only more apparent today. The British Invasion Film Series should be required viewing for anyone who limits their cross-cultural understanding to marathons of “Shaun of the Dead.”

The British Invasion Film Series
Through Mar. 31

At the Michigan Theater

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