Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

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MaxCastle
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#776 Post by MaxCastle » Sat Jul 02, 2016 3:56 am

Werewolf by Night wrote:By the way, I notice these programs have irregular running times: just over an hour here, just under 90 minutes there. What were programming blocks like on the BBC in the 70s? Did they fill the extra time before the top or bottom of the hour with news or short films, or did programs start at irregular times?
Irregular times. The two weekday evening news broadcasts on BBC1 were at fixed times, but otherwise all bets were off.

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kidc85
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#777 Post by kidc85 » Sat Jul 02, 2016 5:07 am

feihong wrote:As a side note, does anyone know if the BFI player presents its titles in hi-def, or in standard? I can't get an answer from them.
It depends. You can tell if it's an HD presentation because there will be a little tag in the bottom-right hand corner indicating it. With Clarke the only films in HD are MADE IN BRITAIN and RS&BT. Don't bank on actually being able to stream in HD though.

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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#778 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jul 02, 2016 5:15 am

Werewolf by Night wrote:By the way, I notice these programs have irregular running times: just over an hour here, just under 90 minutes there. What were programming blocks like on the BBC in the 70s? Did they fill the extra time before the top or bottom of the hour with news or short films, or did programs start at irregular times?
Because the BBC wasn't driven by regular advertising breaks, they had much greater flexibility. Play for Today would start at the same time every week (most likely at about 9.25pm after the nine o'clock news), but it would run as long as it needed to.

I suspect there's a big cultural difference here in that US telly is based upon the concept of "the hour", which has never been true in the UK. Just have a look at today's BBC1 listings, with things starting at 22:15 and 23:35.

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RossyG
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#779 Post by RossyG » Sat Jul 02, 2016 5:31 am

It was the arrival of Michael Grade in the mid-80s that turned the wonderfully quirky BBC schedules into school timetables.

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MichaelB
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#780 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jul 02, 2016 5:46 am

By way of illustration, here's the Radio Times listing for December 17, 1970, which featured The Hallelujah Handshake.

Werewolf by Night

Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#781 Post by Werewolf by Night » Sat Jul 02, 2016 12:11 pm

Thank you. And no morning programming at all? A very different model from the US (which was inherited from radio programming) indeed.

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feihong
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#782 Post by feihong » Sat Jul 02, 2016 12:16 pm

kidc85 wrote:
feihong wrote:As a side note, does anyone know if the BFI player presents its titles in hi-def, or in standard? I can't get an answer from them.
It depends. You can tell if it's an HD presentation because there will be a little tag in the bottom-right hand corner indicating it. With Clarke the only films in HD are MADE IN BRITAIN and RS&BT. Don't bank on actually being able to stream in HD though.
Thanks for the information! It's much appreciated.

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MichaelB
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#783 Post by MichaelB » Sat Jul 02, 2016 12:44 pm

Werewolf by Night wrote:Thank you. And no morning programming at all? A very different model from the US (which was inherited from radio programming) indeed.
Not until the 1980s. 1983, to be precise.

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antnield
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#784 Post by antnield » Sun Jul 03, 2016 11:40 am

Uncut on Baal.

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AidanKing
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#785 Post by AidanKing » Mon Jul 04, 2016 5:43 am

Another article from Film Comment, this time mainly about the influence of Brecht on Clarke (and his contemporaries at the BBC).

dda1996a
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#786 Post by dda1996a » Mon Jul 04, 2016 7:48 am

Why did most sites stop with their reviews of the box? Digitalfix haven't uploaded a new one in over a week

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MichaelB
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#787 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jul 04, 2016 1:01 pm

dda1996a wrote:Why did most sites stop with their reviews of the box? Digitalfix haven't uploaded a new one in over a week
Most sites are staffed by volunteers with day jobs and family lives. I'm sure they'll get around to it eventually.

UPDATE: Speaking of which...

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MichaelB
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#788 Post by MichaelB » Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:40 am

The Digital Fix survey reaches Psy-Warriors and Baal.

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tenia
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#789 Post by tenia » Thu Jul 07, 2016 6:06 am

MichaelB wrote:Most sites are staffed by volunteers with day jobs and family lives.
I can confirm that. I'd love to do reviews for the set, but I'm already overloaded so it would mean cherry picking the few movies I'll watch, leaving 70% of the set unreviewed and readers wondering "is the rest going to be reviewed ?"
I already got the case with the French Rohmer set.

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kidc85
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#790 Post by kidc85 » Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:32 pm

George's Room

A Half-Hour Story, I'm not quite clear on exactly why this was chosen above the others? Is it considered the best, the most representative, etc? I'm not very sure as to how novel or daring it was at the time, but it certainly now feels very archetypal. Including this, the past three BBC plays I've seen all share this set up. A repressed homebody finds their life interrupted in more ways than one by a visitor is the plot of this play, Bennett's A Visit From Mrs Prothero and Potter's Brimstone And Treacle.

I felt particularly ambivalent to the charming disruption of the male visitor, which is probably the point. Although the horror of the woman's late husband was plain, I wonder whether the visitor's pushy and paternalistic attempt at liberation was just delivering her into another form of misogynistic control. Potter's devils feel just around the corner.

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swo17
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#791 Post by swo17 » Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:55 pm

See discussion starting here

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kidc85
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#792 Post by kidc85 » Thu Jul 07, 2016 3:43 pm

Huh, funny story. Thanks for the link.

Werewolf by Night

Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#793 Post by Werewolf by Night » Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:05 pm

As excellent as Diane and Funny Farm are, Scum (made the same year, 1977, as those titles) is a giant leap forward for Clarke in terms of his visual and narrative styles and techniques. I've got to get ahold of the books on Clarke to see if there is something that can explain it. Was it the change of producer? Was he working with a crew more adept at executing his vision? Even from the very first shot, it's clear that it's the work of a great filmmaker.

Now that I've made it about halfway through the set, I have to take a breather. I know that there are works later in the set that are the equal or better of Scum, but it took a lot out of me (even though I've seen it before) and I need some escapist entertainment right now.

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zedz
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#794 Post by zedz » Thu Jul 07, 2016 5:04 pm

swo17 wrote:See discussion starting here
I was intrigued to hear in Moffat's interview that the original, lost version of George's Room was some kind of montage experiment, with more than 200 cuts crammed into about 25 minutes. If so, that makes the surviving version very different indeed.

The Half Hour Stories are very standard, though generally high-quality, low-budget British TV plays, but you can see Clarke already trying to do formally interesting things within the extreme constraints of the format. Stella might be the best example, with its eccentric pseudo-deep-focus compositions and Dragnet Girl-style ultra-low tracking shots. Those embellishments don't exactly serve the material, which, like all the other Half Hour Stories, is two people talking on a single set, and don't signify much more than a fidgety director. The real strengths of this early work lie with the scripts and the performances the director elicits, which are uniformly excellent.

The Last Train through Harecastle Tunnel is a half-step on from this material. It's a much more ambitious work, but it still boils down to a series of two- or three-hander conversational scenes, in the course of which each character (and most notably our trainspotting protagonist) reveals themselves to be more complex than we'd first assumed. It's kind of a basic gimmick / structure, but it's nevertheless an enjoyable ride, and it's notable that this schematic generosity even extends to the stock office antagonists of the framing scenes, whose weekends didn't conform to their own stereotypical expectations after all.

Sovereign's Company is the first full-blooded Clarke film in the set, and it's really a proto-Scum, in which an officer's training corps is run along pretty much the same lines as a borstal. But once again, Clarke and writer Don Shaw are atypically generous in their characterization. Each cadet has contrasting and complicated motivations and reactions; the powers that be are sympathetic to this and pragmatic in their decisions. However awful we might think the institution, it's not depicted as malevolent. The big, central scene presents a very interesting play on our sympathies for the protagonist. There's a stupid, ugly 'raid' / brawl that everybody in the company is coerced to take part in, and Cantfield slips away from it, but not on the basis of any principle, but from sheer sweaty, shaking cowardice. It's the kind of thing that normally is intended to make a character repellent, but here it's complicated by empathy (obviously the boy is temperamentally unsuited to this career, and it's monstrous that he's been railroaded into it), objective rationality (the brawl is an ugly debacle, and we don't want the protagonist to be involved in it), immediate anxiety (the repercussions will be horrible for him if the other boys find out), and a more global, long-term anxiety (if he manages to become an officer, he'll likely be a dangerous liability in the field, putting the lives of others at risk). And that complex of reactions in turn puts us into the shoes of various other characters within the film.

The Hallelujah Handshake has already been spoken about at length, and I'll just join in the praise for this rich, unassuming character study of a small community. There are lots of interesting things going on with the structure and form as well, with flash forwards, inner monologues and so forth, and the rug of our preconceptions is continually pulled out from under us. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other film in which the members of a church (or similar group) respond to an external challenge in a variety of ways as individuals. At best you might end up with two sparring factions.

I also watched Clarke's 1972 episode of The Edwardians, Horatio Bottomley. It's an odd little film, in which we follow rather repetitive vignettes in the long life of a high-profile con artist (financier / editor / Member of Parliament). The film presses the restart button multiple times as Bottomley slips from scam to scam, recycling old cons and old rhetoric, punctuated by triumphant court appearances and basic interstitial animations to mark the passage of time. It, frankly, becomes a bit of a slog before the strategic need for all those repetitions becomes apparent in the final scenes, and particularly the very last one. In a very strange way, the structure of this film kind of anticipates Elephant. It's a subject that I can imagine fitting Orson Welles like a glove.

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kidc85
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#795 Post by kidc85 » Fri Jul 08, 2016 11:56 am

zedz wrote:I was intrigued to hear in Moffat's interview that the original, lost version of George's Room was some kind of montage experiment, with more than 200 cuts crammed into about 25 minutes.
Really? I was surprised by the amount of cuts in the colour version, to think that was the watered down version is a bit mind-boggling.
The Half Hour Stories are very standard
Only other one I've seen is The Gentleman Caller which is fine but another visitor disrupts drama. I suppose it's a flip on the format, in that it's the occupants who are the active disrupters but the effect is much the same to me.
The Hallelujah Handshake [...] the rug of our preconceptions is continually pulled out from under us. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other film in which the members of a church (or similar group) respond to an external challenge in a variety of ways as individuals. At best you might end up with two sparring factions.
Another another visitor disrupts drama, but I agree this is something special. I've rewritten this post a half dozen times because I've made assumptions that I shouldn't. There are no real answers to anything, we know Henry is a thief and a liar but we do not know he is a danger to others. It's not clear whether the vicar made the right judgement call about Henry's personality, and even if we knew that he did, it still doesn't mean that the vicar ultimately made the right judgement call about what to do. As you said - even Christianity (represented through the congregation and the other priest) doesn't know what the right thing to do is. What the heck do you do about a man like Henry? The drama and the way it was explored felt incredibly real, too respectful of the complexities to bow to any supposed idea that an audience needs to have answers and everything tied up neatly.

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kidc85
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#796 Post by kidc85 » Fri Jul 08, 2016 4:07 pm

Network are having a 50% sale. This includes Tales Out of School on blu-ray for under £9, along with collections of Jack Rosenthal, Dennis Potter and Armchair Theatre/Plays For Britain.

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zedz
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#797 Post by zedz » Fri Jul 08, 2016 5:17 pm

kidc85 wrote:Network are having a 50% sale. This includes Tales Out of School on blu-ray for under £9, along with collections of Jack Rosenthal, Dennis Potter and Armchair Theatre/Plays For Britain.
And that Plays for Britain set includes another non-BBC Clarke film.

I watched To Encourage the Others last night and it was rivetting. For the most part, it looks like a Very Special Episode of Crown Court (cheers to any forum members that understand that reference), but there's a scrupulousness and (I presume) authenticity that makes everything much murkier and messier than most other crusading films would countenance. Although it's clear that there was a miscarriage of justice, there's no over-dramatic 'gotcha!' moments, just a steady sequence of missed opportunities, twists of bias and smug institutional complacency. (While the jury is considering the verdict, the narrator gives us a brief summary of crucial evidence that didn't make it to trial, and arguments that were overlooked or disallowed). It's a very famous case, and I was shocked that the celebrated ambiguity of "Let him have it, Chris" was never even raised at trial. That seems like a huge oversight, but it's absolutely understandable, as Bentley's defence rested on a) not knowing that Craig had a gun; and b) denying having said the words at all. The film's handwringing is put forth in the most sober way possible, and largely confined to the coda, and it's all the more persuasive for that.

Oh! And Alan Clarke comes up with one of the signature innovations of The Thin Blue Line (the visual presentation of contradictory testimony - though Clarke uses quasi-animated stills) a decade and a half ahead of schedule.

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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#798 Post by AidanKing » Mon Jul 11, 2016 5:53 am

zedz wrote:I watched To Encourage the Others last night and it was rivetting. For the most part, it looks like a Very Special Episode of Crown Court.
I wonder what a jury composed of members of the general public would have decided on the case if it had been an episode of Crown Court, which I seem to remember only ever getting to see if I was off sick from school.

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zedz
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#799 Post by zedz » Mon Jul 11, 2016 7:54 pm

AidanKing wrote:
zedz wrote:I watched To Encourage the Others last night and it was rivetting. For the most part, it looks like a Very Special Episode of Crown Court.
I wonder what a jury composed of members of the general public would have decided on the case if it had been an episode of Crown Court, which I seem to remember only ever getting to see if I was off sick from school.
Same here, for the latter. And you had to be sick for several days in a row to actually see any case to fruition!

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RobertB
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Re: Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC

#800 Post by RobertB » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:06 pm

I have been watching the set more or less chronologically, reaching Danton's Death (saving “To Encourage the Others”, and “Diane” for later). Parallel viewing for the first half has been “Ken Loach at the BBC” chronologically. In the late 60s Loach seems to have been at his height artistically. After that he gets less interesting unless you want to analyse the UK labour movement in the 20th century. Alan Clarke does the opposite. He gets better. So a few quick thoughts about some of the films:

“Sovereign's Company” is the first one where I recognise Clarke as a film maker. Was it just a question of maturing, or did something happen to make him change his approach? The story doesn't strike me as better than “The Last Train through H”, but it’s presented with much more efficiency.

“Penda's Fen” was a fun surprise. Need to re-watch that soon. The rise of a new liberated English people (or something). Feels as a response of sorts to The Wicker Man. Younger and more hopeful. And by now a gay theme is getting obvious.

Mentally handicapped is another marginalized group that catches Clarke's attention. “Funny Farm” is excellent I think. Shame it’s done on video. I was almost shocked in the second half when the camera started following the nurse from behind! I know that camera style from the later Clarke films I have seen. Also by then it has stopped being about the patients, and it’s concentrating on the thoughts of the nurse.

“Danton's Death” has much more the feeling of theatre. I'm not a big fan of theatre (I let friends take me to plays a couple of times a year), but this worked for me. Maybe it’s the large amount of close ups. It allows the actors to relax the style of acting and be a bit more natural. The style is similar to the television series “I Claudius”, somewhere in between theatre and naturalistic. I find it lets me concentrate on the text, and it is a good text! More realistic acting would be stupid when so much is based on monologues.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the box, but I'm not rushing it. It’s worth taking some time and having a few breaks in between the attacks on old fashioned England. It’s a shame Clark didn't live longer. I'm sure he would have had a lot to contribute today.

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