(Alan Clarke, UK, 1987) 62 minutes
Director: Alan Clarke
Producer: Andree Molyneux, David M Thompson
Screenplay: Jim Cartwright
Editor: Bill Wright
Reviews and notes
is my personal favourite of Alan Clarke's films. Adapted from a Jim Cartwright stageplay, it is set on a housing estate meant to be in the north of England but looking more like limbo. Originally scheduled to be made in a BBC studio, the project was hit by a strike and so was shot in County Durham on a housing estate doomed to be demolished. The move obliged Clarke to reconsider his approach - and instead of a filmed play, the finished product became pure cinema.
In Clarke's most epic steadicam shots yet, characters embark on monumental walks through the streets of the estate - a perfect representation of the manic energy possessed by the inhabitants of this blasted landscape. Here are people with almost no decent economic prospects living in a soon-to-be ghost town - yet most have enough spirit to resist becoming ghosts themselves. Even the young couple who plan to starve themselves, unable to visualise a future, make their decision with relish, executing a tender dance of death before the fast begins.
Here Clarke doesnt flip the viewer around from participant to observer - we are always part of the action. And grateful to be there too, because the people are juicy with vitality, expressing themselves in great verbal arias. By the time we follow two women and a pair of brothers to a compulsive drinks-fest in the shell of an abandoned house, we desperately want to believe in the possibilities of their survival. After the quartet have listened transfixed to Otis Redding singing 'Try a Little Tenderness' they move towards one another and begin to chant: "Might escape... somehow a somehow might escape" - and after the credits have rolled away we're left praying they might achieve their dream.
-Howard Schuman, Sight and Sound, September,1998.
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