Tuesday, March 1, 2016
The Films of British Director Alan Clarke
Clarke, who died in 1990 at age 54, spent much of his career doing made-for-TV movies. But unlike the U.S. tradition of safe, formulaic stories neatly told in 90 minutes or two hours, Clarke’s work was experimental, sometimes raw, and occasionally baffling unless you caught on to his meaning.
The best example of the later is “Elephant” from 1989. This 39-minute film is a series of long-long takes of killers searching out, walking toward, and shooting their victims. After a while, the subject, the set-ups, and even the Steadicam filming technique become predictable and numbing. Clarke made the film to comment on the numbing effect the daily news of violence in Northern Ireland was having on the public.
Many of his films commented on current events.
“Made In Britain” is a 76-minute film from 1982 in which a young Tim Roth plays a rage-filled teenage skinhead.
“The Firm” is a 70-minute film from 1989 with Gary Oldman as the leader of gang of football hooligans.
“Contact,” a 67-minute film from 1985, is an oddly quiet piece about a squad of British soldiers on duty in Northern Ireland.
“Scum” is both a 78-minute TV movie from 1977 and a 1979 remake as a 98-minute feature film about a young teen in an English borstal (a tough juvenile detention center).
Each of these films are interesting, disturbing and compelling and prove that Alan Clarke was a major talent.
More about Clarke can be found on the IMDb.
A 5-disc DVD set includes “Elephant,” “Made in Britain,” “The Firm,” and both versions of “Scum.”
Some of Clarke’s work can be found on YouTube.
(For more overlooked films please visit Todd Mason's blog.)