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Alan Clarke

Alan Clarke

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Alan Clarke
    Book Description:

    The British television director Alan Clarke is associated primarily with the visceral social realism of his banned borstal play 'Scum' and his football hooligan study 'The Firm', but this book uncovers the poetic and wide-ranging career beneath his violent stereotype, for instance the mythic fantasy 'Penda's Fen' and the radical terrorist short 'Elephant'. Using much original research, this book details Clarke's early theatre career, his development within the 'studio system' of provocative television play strands of the 1960s and 1970s, and his increasingly personal work in the 1980s, which made him one of Britain's greatest auteur directors. In its detailed analysis of many productions, this book raises crucial issues for students and lecturers in television and film studies, including aesthetics, authorship, censorship, the convergence of film and television, drama-documentary form, narrative and realism. As the first full-length study of a television director, this book attends to techniques of television direction and proposes new methodologies in its querying of the critical neglect of directors in what is often described as a writer's medium.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-438-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. General editors’ preface
    (pp. viii-viii)
    Sarah Cardwell and Jonathan Bignell
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    This book, a critical study of the work of Alan Clarke, is the first Television Series title about a director. It combines a broadly chronological study of Clarke’s dominant themes and approaches with an awareness of various contexts: the institutional contexts in which he worked, critical debates on television form, and the methodological problems which arise when attributing authorship to a television director.

    Chapter 1 covers Clarke’s background, his early theatre work, and several television plays from his first,Shelter(1967), through to case studies of the drama-documentaryTo Encourage the Others(1972) and the fantasyPenda’s Fen(1974). This...

  6. 1 The director in television’s ‘studio system’
    (pp. 10-56)

    In this chapter I explore Alan Clarke’s personal and professional origins, and his emergence as a director in a writer’s medium. I begin with a sketch of his background and early theatre work, comparing these with the backgrounds of others of his generation in order to establish the social contexts which shaped Clarke’s thematic concerns and the television landscape around him. I then trace his developing technique by looking at several of the plays which he made for ITV in the 1960s and the BBC in the early 1970s. The chapter’s focus is on questioning the extent to which the...

  7. 2 Realism and censorship in the 1970s
    (pp. 57-97)

    In the previous chapter I sought elements of personal style exercised by a director working within collaborative institutional processes, reading his signatures within pieces whose writers had a predominant authorial investment or whose conditions of production restricted the critical construction of the director as unifying figure. To continue Clarke’s analogy between single drama and classic Hollywood, this put me in a similar position to early auteur critics as they compared directors working within the studio system, seeking evidence of individuality whilst accepting that, as Andrew Sarris (1968: 36) put it, ‘All directors, and not just in Hollywood, are imprisoned by...

  8. 3 Form and narrative in the 1980s
    (pp. 98-151)

    In this chapter I discuss Clarke’s work in the 1980s, addressing his themes and approaches and the ideological ramifications of his style and experimentation with narrative. The first section covers various productions in the period betweenBeloved EnemyandRoad, the second section looks at his plays on terrorism and Northern Ireland,Psy-Warriors, ContactandElephant, and the third section focuses on his final production,The Firm. Throughout, I draw attention to the way that Clarke dissected the political climate of the 1980s, particularly the discourses of Thatcherism. Indeed, as John Hill (1999: xi) argued of British cinema, given the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 152-157)

    Alan Clarke died on 24 July 1990. Many of his collaborators and admirers have argued that the radical single play died with him. Although welcoming the afterlife provided for Clarke’s work in cinema seasons, David Thomson (2002) lamented: ‘if only the season was playing where it ought to be, and where it is most needed – on the television screen’. In his introduction to the tribute repeat broadcast ofRoad, David Leland argued that this ‘fine example of the uniqueness of British television’ was part of ‘a vanishing species’, which was ‘under threat from government policy of abandoning public service...

  10. Appendix: television programmes directed by Alan Clarke
    (pp. 158-176)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-190)
  12. Index
    (pp. 191-197)