Author Topic: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)  (Read 2926 times)

Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« on: July 13, 2016, 10:09:05 AM »
I can't find a thread for this here, but having just finished this gargantuan box set I think it's a safe bet to say that Clarke is one of the greatest British directors of all time in any medium. This box set rights several wrongs - it makes his work, most of which has been seen only in bootlegs for many years, available in HD transfers and corrects that terribly misplaced image of a 'bovver boy' director by placing it within a number of previously unavailable films about women's lives and his ongoing fascination with institutionalised or marginalised existences.

Newly rediscovered films that particularly stood out from this set were The Hallelujah Handshake, Diane, A Follower for Emily, Sovereign's Company, Penda's Fen, Psy-Warriors and Beloved Enemy. The late masterpieces (Contact, Christine, The Firm etc) look as amazing as ever. Surely someone else here is working their way through this?

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2016, 10:37:53 AM »
Can't wait to see a proper edition of Penda's Fen. I love Clarke, such an interesting and unique director.

Haven't picked up the box set yet though. Bit expensive for me right now.

A Car With No Doors

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Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2016, 10:38:37 AM »
I don't yet have the money for this set, but fuck me if Penda's Fen isn't an utterly fantastic piece of work. A strange mixture of Olde Englishe yearning and Anger-esque homoeroticism but it works perfectly despite it not seeming to be Clarke's usual forte. It looks great on the Blu-Ray too, much better than the ancient VHS rip (though that goes without saying).

[spoiler]The ending of that, with the two old people burning the photograph on the hill, seems to be a perfect encapsulation of my childhood nightmares about being "erased" from existence. Uncanny that.[/spoiler] 


Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2016, 10:42:00 AM »
I remember reading David Rudkin (Penda's Fen screenwriter) saying that Clarke asked him, "How many fucking books am I going to have to read for this?" to which Rudkin replied, "Just one. The script." So amazing that these two worked together and wonderful that it not only turned out so well, but became some of their best work respectively.

edit: got Rudkin's name wrong
« Last Edit: July 13, 2016, 11:22:05 AM by marquis_de_sad »

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2016, 10:48:59 AM »
I watched Beloved Enemy not that long ago. It was pretty good. Some nice performances. Something about it didn't quite click with me though. It was strangely cool and detached for Clarke. Maybe the message — politics corrupted by business — fails to even raise an eyebrow anymore.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2016, 11:11:41 AM »
Yeah - Beloved Enemy is hardly headline news now but it was shockingly prescient in 1981. Apparently the suggestion of a satellite defence system was considered a laughably SF concept at time of broadcast! I love the crisp unity of space and place - a single business deal with massive ramifications. The back-of-the-car conversation at the end is devastating.

I think Clarke got even more cool and detached after that, to be honest. You can't get much more detached than Elephant or Christine.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2016, 11:20:57 AM »
The back-of-the-car conversation at the end is devastating.

Yeah that's the highlight. It's on youtube, but I feel it works better as part of a whole. The performances are really great in that scene.

I think Clarke got even more cool and detached after that, to be honest. You can't get much more detached than Elephant or Christine.

A good point. I feel that Elephant is more brutal though. It's somehow both slow and relentless.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2016, 11:39:20 AM »
The BFI have put up a short video illustrating Clarke's innovative use of Steadicam. They spend far too much time talking about Gus Van Sant's rubbish rip-off homage, Elephant.

hermitical

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Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2016, 07:25:27 PM »
If you like Penda's Fen The Edge is Where The Centre Is might be worth a look, it's a small press collection of essays. I've got the first edition but the second edition is still available from Text und Tone and is an expanded version of the first edition.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2016, 07:45:56 PM »
Oh wow, that book looks fantastic - in fact that press produces loads of great looking stuff. Cheers for the heads-up.

It was only on the second viewing of Penda's Fen that I fully appreciated it - the first time I was expecting more of a Ghost Story for Christmas/Robin Redbreast vibe and didn't quite take to it. But viewed on its own terms - which it has to be, as it's utterly unique - and in blu-ray quality, it's a profound political/psychosexual masterpiece. I reckon Ben Wheatley might have seen it.

The set also has a director's cut of The Firm with all the stuff the BBC cut reinstated and some other scenes excised to streamline the story. It's - and I didn't think this was possible - even more brutal than the broadcast version.

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Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2016, 08:25:42 PM »
I reckon Ben Wheatley might have seen it.

He has - we chatted about it - THUNK!

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2016, 11:37:29 PM »
I hope this drops massively in price if only so I can watch Horace, I loved the tv series based on it as a kid in the 80s but always believed the original play had been long since wiped.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2016, 09:44:42 AM »
I hope this drops massively in price if only so I can watch Horace, I loved the tv series based on it as a kid in the 80s but always believed the original play had been long since wiped.

The set is available in two parts, at the (marginally) cheaper price of £49 each, if that helps. Penda's Fen has a separate stand-alone release, as does the longer version of The Firm.

I almost fell over when I heard that Horace had a spin-off TV series! It did not seem like it had spin-off potential, put it that way...

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2016, 07:49:22 PM »
I'm still trying to devour this box, and with the exception of 'Baal' and 'Beloved Enemy', I've loved what I've seen so far. Contact and Road are stunning. Just stunning. Other favourites include Diane, The Hallelujah Handshake, Stars of the Roller Disco, Funny Farm and Under The Age. Even the Half Hour Stories are wonderfully engaging, and really made me yearn for more one-act, two-character plays on telly. This is a monumentally excellent box set.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2016, 11:31:30 PM »
The set is available in two parts, at the (marginally) cheaper price of £49 each, if that helps. Penda's Fen has a separate stand-alone release, as does the longer version of The Firm.

I almost fell over when I heard that Horace had a spin-off TV series! It did not seem like it had spin-off potential, put it that way...

It only lasted for one series, there were complaints about it mocking the mentally challenged and it was dropped, same thing happened with Mrs Merton and Malcolm a decade or so later. There is a full episode from the series on youtube  https://youtu.be/92zKj56nuJY and having just watched it for the first time in almost 35 years I'm not sure what to think other than God isn't Horace just like Matt Smiths version of the Doctor in places?

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2016, 08:06:08 AM »
There is a full episode from the series on youtube

Wow - well that's very odd. Even odder is the fact that a) it was seemingly commissioned over 10 years after the original play and b) Barry Jackson doesn't seem to have aged a day. Not hard to see why that hasn't received a DVD release.

An unfortunate side effect of watching the Clarke box set is that it makes all contemporary TV look dull and safe. It's a pretty savage indictment of how cautious the BBC have become in recent years.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2018, 08:43:10 PM »
watched Road today. absolutely brilliant. might have to pick up this boxset. definitely one of my 10 favourite British directors for sure. television has so much wasted potential.

magval

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Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2018, 09:07:11 PM »
It seems to go up and down in price. For ages, it's £110 everywhere, but recently it's been floating closer to £70. Might bite soon myself.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2018, 10:12:13 PM »
It's a great box set and not at all what I expected. A very varied selection on the whole and mostly great. I mopped up with the other work that's available and it's just a shame the Green Beize Vampire isn't a BBC effort to be icing on the package. Road, Penda's Fen, Horace, the half hour plays...

I've since done the same with all of Mike Leigh's output, which, while also great, doesn't have the same level of variety as this. I never quite knew what was next with Clarke, whereas Leigh mainly builds upon his previous ideas (albeit as the writer too).

magval

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Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2019, 09:52:49 PM »
Finally bought this (for £45!) a while back from Zavvi and have decided not to be beholden to it like I used to be with these comprehensive things. There's bound to be some stuff in it that just won't appeal to me, so I'm not committing to watching all of it.

So then, what should I look out for? I've seen Scum, Elephant and The Firm many times. What to prioritise, and what to avoid?

magval

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Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #20 on: January 03, 2019, 12:53:46 PM »
Is the edit button gone?

Anyway, watched Christine (didn't get it, still don't after watching the extras and reading about it in the liner notes) and Road (which is fucking excellent in a way that makes me feel inarticulate, because I don't know how to describe why it's excellent).

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #21 on: January 03, 2019, 01:59:17 PM »
So then, what should I look out for? I've seen Scum, Elephant and The Firm many times. What to prioritise, and what to avoid?

Watch Penda's Fen.

magval

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Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #22 on: January 03, 2019, 07:47:53 PM »
I will surely boss. Working up to it.

Contact and Roller State Disco, tonight. Even when things are horrible and tense (Contact, Elephant), Clarke's sense of quiet lulls me into a very real state of comfort. It's the pace, that glacial pace with the occasional horrid happening. It's just lovely. Maybe I'm a psychopath.

Roller State was trying, though. Too obvious, and a bit daft. Not one of the dystopias worth revisiting.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #23 on: January 06, 2019, 01:57:57 PM »
Contact is still the one for me. It still packs a punch, especially since even in modern day 'war is hell' films, the psychological effects are still glossed over when compared to this film.

Christine was a great film, but I don't really want to watch it again.  It felt even more unrelenting and bleak than Elephant.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2019, 02:28:16 PM »
I've got the Disruption set and will get Dissent shortly. Here's my feelings on what I've seen so far

- Beloved Enemy. Very good talky cold war analogue, feels relevant now what with the British as idiot status-obsessed cannon fodder to greater powers.
- Road. Amazing bit of agit-prop theatre. Lesley Sharp's monologue/soliloquy probably my favourite....thing...ever....on telly?
- Contact. Outstanding and underrated atmospheric bit of work. Superb long takes and some of the best set pieces I've seen.
- Christine. Powerful but hard to watch. Feel that there's a deeper meaning that I'm not quite there with.
- Elephant. Honestly can't believe this was broadcast. So so good.
- The Firm. A little more traditional and narrative focused but does more in an hour than most Netflix series can manage. Charles Lawson's east end accent is very convincing isn't it!

Going in on Psy-Warriors next.

Would love the weekly TV play to come back. What a lot of these episodes are saying to me is that you can't quite do as much with a progressive or nuanced message if it doesn't come in a progressive or nuanced form. Clarke's one the best 5/10 directors this island has ever produced, so maybe you wouldn't get this kind of quality all the time. But it would bring a lot of new voices to broadcasting and I bet you could turn in a few good episodes for half the cost of a series.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2019, 01:44:46 PM »
Psy-Warriors is really good. Intense and unnerving, the stark sets and harsh lighting and switching between a kind of Proscenium view (as in the theatre) to a more traditional televisual style (30 degree rule etc) helps subtly underpin the themes of advanced interrogation techniques being used to break people. Offering you hope and comfort and then distancing you and violating your expectations, that kind of thing.

Dissent came in the mail yesterday. I might now start from the beginning so I can watch the documentary about Clarke in order (for those who don't have it, rather annoying the the documentary is split into 12 parts, one per disc). Less familiar with some of these outside the big hitters (ie. Penda's Fen, Scum) but can't wait.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #26 on: January 20, 2019, 04:16:37 PM »
watched Penda's Fen and Diane this weekend. Outstanding. Penda probably the best one-off TV things ever. Diane so subtle and heartbreaking. I think late 80s Clarke would have cut it off after the reveal as act 2 is a little weaker (though still good) but it was good to watch a drama about someone damaged who does find some kind of hope, however abstract.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #27 on: January 20, 2019, 08:15:06 PM »
Baal was interesting and Bowie was good in it but not Clarke's strongest (still fine). The Hallelujah Handshake is a very provocative one but not in a 'social issues' sense, more 'here's a certain kind of person that you can't put your finger on'. I really enjoyed this.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #28 on: February 02, 2019, 12:37:39 PM »
Horace (1972) was interesting, about the coming together of an intellectually-disabled man and delinquent kid. Very sweet and melancholy but fewer of the directorial hallmarks. The character of Horace was revived in 1982 for a Yorkshire TV sitcom that is a precursor of sorts to Derek, although not awful and cloying like that is, though it is broader than the Clarke version.

Re: Alan Clarke: Dissent and Disruption (BFI Box Set)
« Reply #29 on: March 06, 2019, 05:32:11 PM »
A few more watched

George's Room - two-hander play with no real Clarke style as such, but it neatly shows where he came from and is an entertaining enough 25 minutes.

Under The Age - similar thing stylistically (all in one room style play) but much more affecting material clearly closer to Clarke's heart, two rough lads turn up in a gay bar to get out of the rain and there's a weird energy between one guy and the transvestite barkeep that redoubles when two women come in. strange and uncharitable to everyone in the cast.

To Encourage The Others - a big leap forward, channelling a bit of Oshima here as it flips mode between drama, courtroom, and coldly analytical documentary. think this must be his first major work (though not seen some stuff before it) and even though it is basically didactic about its politics, it does it with such a great handle on style. had some strange thoughts here - is the middle courtroom section trying to lull you into boredom just like it might have done if you were on the real jury, making you overlook the unprofessional manner the courtroom was being conducted with?

Scum - the original one. Never seen before, can see why it's a classic without the whole debate about its taboo nature. I've worked in a youth nick and it felt very real to me. Threlfall steals this from Winstone, but it's the way Clarke has with enclosure and tension that thrills.

went off-box for Made In Britain, which is also incredible. BEST BRITISH DIRECTOR.