Documentary Serviceable As Intro To Great,Neglected Brit Director
The title credit reads "Director Alan Clarke," and this made for TV program runs 53 minutes, so it is feature length, not a short. About 20 people who worked with the recently deceased Clarke are interviewed, he himself is seen in several clips, and writer David Leland who worked with him serves as host/narrator. Still photos are used to document the early part of Clarke's life, before he started directing for stage, television, and later film. Certain episodes are focused on: the 1962 Craig/Bentley murder case in which many felt an injustice had been done with the disproportionate sentencing of two young criminals; it was turned into a 1972 TV play, "To Encourage The Others." Also, ironically for the BBC which produced this documentary,another episode that is dwelt on is the network's refusing to air the 1977 drama "Scum." As a result, Clarke and the writer Roy Mintun had to go to the trouble of shooting an entirely separate theatrical version, released in 1979, to get their points across about the harshness and failure of the British reformatory system for boys, the borstals. Footage in several scenes of Clarke directing the basketball court scene from "Scum," in which a racially charged contest becomes a violent melee, is precious. We also see one of his cinematographers being questioned about Clarke's increasing use of the Steadicam, beginning with "Made In Britain" in 1982. This hand-held camera weighing about 55 pounds was often transported by the lenser for as long as 6 minutes, when Clarke wanted a fluid movement that wouldn't look jittery (like the older style of hand-held) and which could get in closer to the actors than a tracking shot on rails. Producer Mark Shivas stresses how Clarke encouraged the viewer to "watch within the frame," rather than having things drawn to one's attention. Another producer David Rose mentions how Clarke's comparatively "tranquil" style contrasted with other TV shows of the time which were "hustling and bustling" and vying for an American kind of pace. After watching this documentary and seeing only 6 of Clarke's features,out of some 60, I am convinced that he was a great director of the social realist school, comparable to the more well known Mike Leigh and Ken Loach. It is possible that with further viewing of his harder to see TV shows, he will be revealed to have been an even greater artist.
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