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Along with Ken Loach (Poor Cow) and Mike Leigh (High Hopes), Alan Clarke was one of Britain's leading television and film producer-directors in the 1970s and '80s, specializing in works of "social realism," i.e., stories that resembled contemporary society and those who helped shape and/or were shaped by it. The Alan Clarke Collection, a six-disc boxed set encompassing most of Clarke's directed efforts is not only an intense introduction to Clarke's concerns with institutional and private violence, but a chance to see phenomenal early performances by the likes of Tim Roth and Gary Oldman. The son of a bricklayer who also spent some time as a laborer before studying acting and directing in Canada, Clarke (who died in 1990) got his start at the BBC in the 1960s. By 1977, he had directed his explosive and controversial television feature, Scum, starring Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast) as a survivor at a corrupt and brutal juvenile prison. Harrowing, claustrophobic, and deeply tragic, Scum was banned by the BBC for graphic brutality (and, quite likely, criticism of the justice system), leading Clarke to remake it with Winstone and the same script as a 1979 theatrical release. Both versions are included in this set, and each is a unique experience. The earlier Scum is a lean, low-budget, relentlessly nightmarish drama while its second take is moodier, slower, and intermittently shocking. Disc 3 contains the 1982 Made in Britain, featuring Roth in a brilliant film debut as a ferociously intelligent skinhead determined to rampage his way into oblivion. Written by David Leland (writer-director of The Land Girls), Made in Britain ingeniously turns Roth's character, Trevor, into a sympathetic if irredeemable monster who rejects every effort to force him into Thatcher-era conformity. Disc 4 includes two of Clarke's most interesting films and, at least in this set, the best evidence of a surrealist streak often noted by his contemporaries. The 1998 The Firm stars Gary Oldman in a dazzling performance as a London realtor, Bex, whose hobby is soccer hooliganism. Surrounded by other middle-class mates with nice cars, homes, and families, Bex is essentially a gang ringleader who exchanges violent hostilities with another gang of even better-dressed, better-spoken London soccer fans. Clarke's images of grown men, with lives of real responsibility, beating each other's brains in is too bizarre to shake off. From the same year is Clarke's short, Elephant, in which a wordless series of vignettes about shootings take on a ritual, almost musical, form. The final disc offers a fine, 1991 documentary about Clarke that helps place his films into a personal and stylistic context.

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BU583004 Alan Clarke DVD Collection $49.95 $39.99