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PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2016 6:02 am 

Joined: Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:43 am
I'd seen mostly Clarke's plays about violent masculinity. So it was great to see THE FIRM again. Saw both cuts. Actually am happy enough with the original as you don't know exactly what Bexy does to Oboe during the doemstic slashing. Never knew he would go as far as... he did go in the director's cut.

I actually felt this spoiled the film's structure somewhat. It's less shocking how far Yeti goes. And makes Bexy's hilarity at Yeti's gun feeling less genuine in tone. Presentation was brilliant - I'd say better than Network's transfer of Made In Britain which appears to come from a superb print but with digital processing that has blunted and smeared the details ever so slightly. The BFI set offers a very natural and detailed looking presentation.

Great to see Scum, the original banned BBC play, again. Yes the rawness and the youth of the characters helps. But this is not the decisive way to see the film for me. In the theatrical version, the cast's extra maturity, coupled with the increasing running time, leads to less rushed, more nuanced line readings. And, mostly the same actors using the same lines, you would perhaps be better given an extra go...Mick Ford's Archer is vastly superior to Threlfall's. Winstone and John Blundell (Banks) look bigger and harder when they are battering their opponents, usually surprising, blindsiding or attacking them while down. And if they should look more vulnerable, as I'd argue Julian Firth's weak Davis actually is in the theatrical, the theatrical version's cast of screws offer the more intimidating full line up. We don't get the "missus" scene, which probes masculinity further in the BBC version, but we still get Angel forced to dress up as a woman in parallel with the guy off The Bill's wedding upcoming. So with the Alan Clarke set I also bought Odeon's 1979 feature film of Scum.


Never seen Christine, The Road or Contact before and these are astonishing films with high level presentations (though The Road has a few minutes of lesser footage st the end juxtaposed with better). Contact really was pure cinema, without manipulation, without guiding the audience, letting the action unfiold seamlessly. Taking us into routines and repetitions of regimented lifestyles, achieving an almost trance like quality, making the sudden eruptions of action all the more startling. Sean Chapman is extraordinary. It's an enigmatic piece of filmmaking, watching from afar at the increasingly strange actions lf Chapman is he abandons correct procedures to check for car bombs.

Beloved Enemy, accused of being dull, I found to be riveting. The offices and meeting rooms really become a theatre of manipulation, coercion, aggression disguised with euphemisms, paranoia, greed. The deal is the drama. Great walking and talking scenes. Found it truly sinister and would be great viewing with the original TINKER TAILOR... Impressed by the '70s works centred on women, Nina and Diane also.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 13, 2016 9:53 pm 
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I've gotten through the next two and have to admit that the initial charm of Clarke's flavour has worn off already. That said I think the feeling of being old hat has allowed me to appreciate them for the films they are rather than wondering at their seeming uniqueness.

Sovereign's Company is the weakest yet with the underlying political themes and expression of British repression being so generically left that the film comes across as stiff and a little tiresome for most of its runtime. The small act of retaliation that the essay talks about also seems a little too self satisfied in execution as if there's something especially against the grain with the cause of his disgust. All of that said the conclusion and the way it completely implicates the hero is very satisfying in terms of its raw emotions if not necessarily on any other level. It's very exciting and nerve wracking. I gather those last fifteen or so minutes are more typical of Clarke's similar films which makes me excited to see Scum and the like.

Alternatively The Hallelujah Handshake is just as great as everyone is saying with one of the most successfully pulled off flashforward and flashback story structures I've seen in film. Aside from the very complicated attitude towards difference and community the structure is so good it almost comes as a distraction. Likewise while ultimately nothing new the way the film contrasts its Boudu against all the rest is a tactic I haven't really seen tried before. Not only does Clarke allow him to come across as a genuine danger allowing the criticized class to have some inherent rightness to their ways he gives us some pretty healthy insight into the miscreant. Usually these sorts of film allow their stranger to be a cipher throughout, but the script wisely allows us to get to know the thick of David from his workplace, to his past, and most shockingly a small voice over that reveals what is going on behind that blank stare. It's a surprisingly moment that the actor and Clarke present so plainly it becomes a question on why it should be a question that he would have thoughts.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2016 10:20 pm 
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I don't know what happened in '72 and the extras don't really say anything about it, but Clarke seems to jump from a good director with a lot of potential to a great one in the flash of that year. The two long form plays featured in the set from the year take all of the familiar bits from the previous films and shifts things around just enough to make them successful without the qualifications I used before (though Horace's jaunty and repetitious score is rather annoying). The two couldn't be more different in what they do that's great too which only feeds into the sense of this as a landmark year. To Encourage the Others, which gives the only filmed argument against the death penalty I've found at all persuasive, is the more blatantly great film with its daring use of flattened performances and use of time, but I think Horace actually pulls off the more amazing feat. Clarke is forced to distance himself from Horace a little just because his and Minton's minds don't function that way and really neither does most of the audience most likely. Still they, along with Barry Jackson's superb performance, mitigate that distance as much as possible forcing as normal a point of view experience as possible. Most artists would take the observational role with such a character, but instead Horace is really left the storyteller as much as the narrative allows almost normalizing his reality. There's nothing cute or fanciful about this and I just really want to put forth my appreciation of that.

Horace leads to the other thing both of these films do which show how great they are which is the shifting from subtext to text Clarke's identification with mentally, not quite deficient but certainly differentiated, disabled characters to the point where it feels like an obvious thing that it was Clarke who shifted Horace to the lead over the boy. Everyone seems so invested in calling Clarke's interest as outsiders, but more concisely up to this point mental disturbances seems to be the tie. There's a little exception with Susie from Under the Age though the cruel almost Greenaway like portrayal makes me ponder if Clarke saw her as mitigated in the way Derek is in To Encourage the Others. This pair are the first called out as different due to their mental acumen, but the PTSD like symptoms from that first Half Hour story to the friendly kleptomaniac in The Hallelujah Handshakeall exhibit some sort of difference thanks to their mind. This leads to a lot of questions which I assume will get clarified as I go on, but that more than anything else seems to be where Clarke seems determined from for now at least.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2016 11:48 pm 
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knives wrote:
I don't know what happened in '72 and the extras don't really say anything about it, but Clarke seems to jump from a good director with a lot of potential to a great one in the flash of that year.

I don't have any particular insight to offer, but from reading up on Clarke and processing the extras I get the sense that he was always intent on pushing the boundaries of what was permitted on television / by his bosses at the BBC and elsewhere, and I suspect it might just be a case of, the more he became established as a good director, the further he felt he could push. Every successful production emboldened him to go further the next time, and when those productions turned out to be critical successes, or controversial (both being far more important measures of success for a public service broadcaster like the BBC in the 1970s than you'd get with a ratings-driven enterprise nowadays), he'd just go further the next time. I think by the period we're talking about, it might just be more a case of internal and external constraints steadily slipping off Clarke than of any particular change in his ambition. Throughout his career he never really 'settles into' a Clarkean style, but keeps pushing through a range of them. Even in the steadicam period, you can see him trying a variety of approaches of matching the apparatus to the material.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2016 11:55 pm 
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That's an interesting thought and probably true. Certainly even just the bare conception of these films is far more out of the norm than what he started off with and in light of the conceptual daring already on display in the previous two long plays it might just be that he felt safe in '72 to also be aesthetically daring. Any answer wouldn't surprise me.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 18, 2016 11:57 pm 
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Actually, it occurs to me that another factor is quite likely that Clarke began having long-running and complex relationships with specific writers (specifically Minton in this period), and there was an element of egging one another on (and not just artistically!) There's a continuity of creativity and raising of stakes with these teams.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2016 12:05 am 
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And that matching of daring would go well with what I was getting at where the screenplays seemed to jump up before the direction.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:54 pm 
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[Reveal] Spoiler: Penda's Fen
Pardon the supreme ignorance, but why is having Welsh parents treated as such a big thing in Penda's Fen? Is it merely the revelation of the adoption or is there some cultural thing here I am missing?


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 6:37 pm 
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I'm quite surprised that Diane didn't get its own release like Penda's Fen as the disc seems set up just for that and the film is easily one of the most impressive in the set. In many ways it is really out of left field with the last few films having this out of time aura produced by an over specificity to them while every frame of this one breaths a realism engaged with a sort of universal problem of the modern young woman. It's also the first where the comparisons to Loach make sense and seem useful, though I've never seen Loach take this kind of bizarre approach. I'm not sure the words for it, but despite fitting all of the trappings of it this doesn't feel like your typical piece of British realism, and not just because the characters can smile either, and instead almost feels like early Fellini particularly I vitelloni. The scene with the magazine also reminds me a lot of The Virgin Suicides which is just serves to show how atypical this seems in its historical context. Though it makes a bit more sense as Clarke's character which is this quietly hilarious and optimistic thing that all the same exists in this highly emotional, for the audience moreso than the characters I think, realm.

It's interesting to see religion come up again though. From the extras I don't pick up a particularly religious streak in the man or even necessarily knowledge, yet it pops up again and again representing all of these things which are often radically conflicting from film to film yet deeply personal in strikingly similar ways for the characters.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:03 pm 
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Location: Great Falls, Montana
knives wrote:
[Reveal] Spoiler: Penda's Fen
Pardon the supreme ignorance, but why is having Welsh parents treated as such a big thing in Penda's Fen? Is it merely the revelation of the adoption or is there some cultural thing here I am missing?


I assumed that:

[Reveal] Spoiler:
It had something to do with nationalism in my view. That the Welsh were somehow impure or not as great as the "pure" as the Britons. I may be wrong (I'm an American) but that's what it struck me as. This discovery turns Stephen's concept of himself on his head. I apologize if my analysis seems simple minded but that's all I really thought it was.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:15 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm
The same impression fell on me, but likewise it sounds a bit simple, and strange, an answer.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 19, 2017 7:06 pm 
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Scum is a pretty massive leap in quality from the already breathtaking Diane. The opening's anti characterization flattening the individuals beyond distinction, aside from a black inmate, is a nerve racking stylistic leap for Clarke that sustains the rest of the film as characters and plot come into view. My understanding is that later on Clarke would continue this run against characters which is rather exciting. 

The film is still exciting as it becomes one man's story though the characters and events in his peripheral are much more compelling. The vegetarian while surely incapable of sustaining his own film is consistently the most interesting presence disrupting reality in a more heroic way. It almost plays as a joke to Sovereign's Company removing totally the sympathy of that hero and placing it on someone unable to help anyone besides himself. Though the prison gay relationship he develops is handled by Minton and Clarke with a sensitivity and matter of fact fashion that is unique for the period. Even Clarke's other queer characters aren't handled as well or without a fuss.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 13, 2017 8:15 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 13, 2017 7:52 pm
Hello all,

Newcomer to the forum and a fairly newcomer to Alan Clarke after having only seen Made In Britain from the Leland Schools blu ray set.

Had been eyeing this Dissent box set for quite a while after hearing so many great things about Alan Clarkes work in Social Realism a film genre I really like. Having seen a few early Mike Leigh and Ken Loach plays/films and Clarkes Made In Britain I finally pulled the trigger and bought the box set last week.

I am watching in chronological order which I think is the best way to tackle this set and I’ve just this evening finished the six half hour plays, which I have to admit I found very hit and miss.

My favourite of the six has to be The Gentleman Caller great little story with good dialogue and acting especially from George ”Arthur Daley” Cole. The other five though whilst featuring interesting story’s and camerawork (lots of close ups on the two actors faces!) the two hander format got boring real quick and I wonder why this was a chosen format at the time? Budget issues perhaps? Out of the five two hander episodes the strongest for me was probably “Goodnight Albert”

Anyway I’m looking forward to continuing on with the set and have a few more short plays to get through before I hit the feature length productions. George’s room is up next for me!


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