Directed by Alan Clarke and broadcast on February 10th 1981 for the BBC, in England, as part of the Play For Today series.
Another of Alan Clarke’s work for television. This one was produced at the beginning of the 1980s during the period where Clarke began to be recognised internationally for his work.
The teleplay itself tells the story of a corporation who decide to outsource one of their contracts to the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. As they work with politicians on both sides of the table to keep the story out of the press, they also try to keep the contract amid the negotiations.
It plays out through a barrage of gruelling meetings between the two companies on both sides of the table, and unfortunately it becomes a bit tiresome to get through after a while.
The story that’s being told is being done so quite well by both Clarke through his direction and the list of actors who all play their parts quite well. And while the story is quite interesting I didn’t really feel engaged as I have with much of Clarke’s other works. I think this was in part due to the rigidity of the meetings which make up the entirety of the film.
Having said that, it is a very interesting tale about how greedy capitalist chairpersons of corporations do their best to keep politicians in line in order to secure contracts which will make them lots of money. Doing so even at the expense of a) their workers, and b) the people of countries which their actions ultimately end up effecting. These themes of nuclear obliteration and the capitalist/socialist divide are quite strong throughout the film. Many of the characters profess their capitalist ideas while those on the Russian side try to keep their socialist ideologies intact throughout the negotiations. There’s even a reference to Albert Einstein near the end, quoting that there may be a winner of a third ‘World War’, but there most certainly will not be a fourth.
As the credits suggest the film is based on a book by Canadian author Charles Levinson entitled Vodka-Cola. After a bit of digging, it turns out that Levinson was a trade unionist and spent much of his life fighting against multi-national corporations. Other books he wrote include works on inflation, the pharmaceutical industry, the relation between plastics and cancer, as well as chemical warfare. Fascinating stuff and it doesn’t leave much room to wonder why Clarke chose to work with this particular piece for one of his films.
Directed by Alan Clarke and aired in its home country of the UK on television on June 13th 1967.
A short half hour piece by Alan Clarke done for British television which tells the story of a visit by a man from the social (the welfare office, the dole, etc.) to a man with learning difficulties. The man who lives at home with his brother, has just quit his job the week prior. The film descends into chaos when the older of the two decides to give the man from the social a bit of a scare.
It gets even crazier which is something I most certainly wasn’t expecting but welcomed wholeheartedly especially as it allows the viewer to really look into how Clarke directed the three actors in the piece. All three actors give wonderful performances but the the way in which Clarke’s camera gets up close and personal with the characters and really lets us into the action is something I’m sure was looked at with great regard by Clarke’s peers at that time.
The highlight of the short half hour piece in my opinion is when the older brother heads out to buy a pack of cigarettes (presumably to mock the man from the social, i.e. the man spending the money he gets from the social on a pack of cigarettes – this would be frowned upon by anyone from the upper classes) leaving the younger and mentally-handicapped brother alone with the man from the social. The lack of music, which I’m beginning to think is a trademark for Clarke, really builds up the tension between the two characters and provides a welcomed break from the dialogue-heavy action.
Being one of Clarke’s earlier films, of which I haven’t yet seen that many, it’s interesting to see how his knack for directing still managed to shine through even so early on his career. Many of his other works are indeed much better and more thawed out than this one, but for any fan of Clarke’s it’s definitely a must see.
Directed by Mike Leigh and broadcast on UK television in 1976.
These ’70s British TV dramas are wonderful. Be they comedic or melodramatic, they always portray more realism than any other from the country (and many other countries for that matter). One would think that the titular party would be the main focus of this, but the audience does not in fact even see it. Characters go back and forth from it and we hear its music but we never delve outside of Berverly’s flat (played brilliantly by Alison Steadman).
The teleplay, mostly improvised by Leigh and his actors, is wonderfully written and despite it not ending quite the way I’d have liked (though a typical one for a play of this calibre) the performances are all splendid and match up perfectly to their characters and the things that make each of them tick.
Directed by Ingmar Bergman and released in it’s home country of Sweden for Television in 1984.
After The Rehearsal is the closest I’ll ever get to seeing an Ingmar Bergman play. Much like a play (and I’m sure Bergman or someone else has already made this into a play) the film takes place in one setting, a rehearsal studio. Despite the limited setting Bergman manages to span decades and helping that along are, as per usual, three splendid performances from Bergman regulars Erland Josephson, Lena Olin and Ingrid Thulin. Josephson and Thulin spend a good portion of the film arguing in a flashback while Olin sits, unconsciously aware of the argument (the film flashes back and forth between a younger version of her character and an older version).
While it’s weird to see a Bergman film that doesn’t at least in part touch on religious themes, he does explore many other familiar themes present in most of his films – including family and marriage. The exceptional screenplay is just another in the long line of incredible screenplays from a man who is, undeniably, the greatest writer in the history of cinema.
Directed by Alan Clarke, and broadcast on the BBC in 1987 as part of it’s “Screenplay” series.
Alan Clarke is one of celluloid’s greatest assets. It’s funny because he made a dire amount of theatrical feature films and just over 60 films for television – mainly the BBC and his television work far surpasses his theatrical work even though Scum, The Firm and Made In Britain are all fascinating works that showcase his exquisite talent and masterful directing abilities. You don’t get much better than Road though.
Broadcast on TV in 1987, Road is an adaptation of the famous first play of Jim Cartwright and it shines through unequivocally throughout the 67 minute run time. The characters walk through the streets addressing the camera as if they are on stage but they’re not. In cinema it’s sparsely done but imagine sitting down to watch a serious drama on TV and the characters start talking to you – also good bear in mind this was in 1987, a time in England where the streets were still rife with racism and political opposition among other things.
The musical number that closes this is quite frankly among my favourite musical numbers in the history of celluloid – I say celluloid because it’s hard to say film when it was made for and broadcast first on television.
Regardless, Road is a masterclass of acting and the ever so powerful direction of Clarke. I’m desperate to see everything I can get my hands on by the man now because he’s easily one of my favourite filmmakers of all time.
Directed by Takashi Miike, Imprint was scheduled to debut on television as part of the “Masters Of Horror” series in January of 2006 but due to it’s graphic and disturbing content it was shelved by the TV station it was supposed to air on (“Showtime”) and was finally released on DVD in September of the same year.
Takashi Miike is easily the bravest horror filmmaker working today. He tackles extremely taboo subjects without hesitation, and Imprint is really no different.
It’s typical for Miike’s work but unlike the poor Gozu, he does it right this time. Imprint really is fucked up beyond belief – typical for Miike. Abortion and incest are the two main topics here and Miike delves into both subjects unequivocally and without hesitation as he usually does.
It’s always a pleasure to watch Miike’s stories unfold and this is no different, some of the decisions in the writing are poor but they are worked out in the long haul albeit not the direction I’d have gone with it. Still, another entertaining gorefest from the master of horror.
Directed by Alan Clarke for British television and first broadcast as part of the “Screenplay” series in 1987.
Christine is an incredibly bleak and uncompromising portrayal of a day in the life of a teenage drug addict. Our titular character Christine visits her friends and scores them heroin aswell as scoring it herself.
At 52 minutes it’s an incredible feat for the every day viewer to even sit through this, but as a piece of film it stands out above any other drug drama for it’s realism and it’s incredible cinematography. Clarke films his characters from every angle possible and gets in as much as he can while at the same time letting the actors do as much as they can in the little space they’re given.
The humour in the dialogue takes away from the drug use and not once do any of the characters even mention drugs or the drug in question. Reality does kick in however when Christine asks one of her friends “You alright?” over and over again as they delve deeper into their drugged state.
There’s nothing special about these characters and Clarke emphasises that as well as doing absolutely nothing to say that living a life like this is in any way “good”. As a great filmmaker should, he simply presents the facts as they are.
Obviously staged, it’s ridiculous to say that this isn’t an incredible piece of cinema. All in all Clarke has created another brilliant film, and this one is a really stark depiction of drug use that just… stays with you.
The Decalogue is a 10-film series, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski and broadcast on Polish television in 1989.
Dekalog I: I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me.
While each of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s ten films in the Dekalog series are based on the Roman Catholic interpretation of the Ten Commandments I have to stay that this first film is the best display of religious themes I’ve ever seen. To add to that Kieslowski presents themes of death, mortality and morality to go along with that. The man is obviously a very talented director and he presents a clear and distinct vision with each of his films and this is no different even though it stands at a short 52 minutes, the film still manages to bring out emotions from the viewer. The performance from the young boy here is the stand out of the entire piece but his father does well to bring out his character too. I also liked how the film started at the end and as a result ended with the start – rounded it off very nicely.
Dekalog II: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
While the first film was directly about religion, this one is more about death and, on the opposite spectrum, birth. Our main character is a woman torn between her dying husband and her new lover with who she plans to leave if her husband dies. Our protagonist is also bearing a child but she isn’t sure if she wants to keep it. Throughout this 56 minute piece (longer than the first) we are presented with spellbinding performances from our leading woman and the Doctor taking care of her husband. In addition to this the cinematography is much better than the first – a lone shot of water dripping onto the dying man’s bed is later matched with a handheld shot which follows the water from the ceiling into a dirty pot, a shot which stands out in the entire piece. Not as good as the first piece but a great follow up.
Dekalog III: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
The third part of the Dekalog takes place on Christmas Eve and follows a taxi driver who is torn between spending it with his family and helping an old flame find her missing husband. In conjuction with two other Commandments (You shall not commit adultery and You shall not lie) our taxi driver goes with his old flame to help find her husband but they soon rekindle their love. The score here is the best it’s been so far in the Dekalog – it’s not exactly in every single scene but when it does play a part it’s beautiful and helps you feel the connection between these two characters. There isn’t much in the way of religious themes aside from the day it takes place on, this is a much more character driven piece. It’s also the first film in the series to interweave main characters – the father from the first piece appears very briefly at the beginning. Another great addition to the series, better than the second but I can’t say it’s better than the first.