Anthology Film Archives

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: THE FILMS OF ALAN CLARKE

August 4 – August 20

Filmmaker Alan Clarke is acknowledged within the UK as one of the finest British directors of the last half century, but – no doubt thanks to the fact that the vast majority of his films were made for television – his work is more talked about than seen here in the U.S. His place in international film culture is secure if only because of the influence of his controversial 1989 work, ELEPHANT, which gave both its name and strong elements of its visual style and subject matter to Gus Van Sant’s Columbine school shooting-inspired 2003 feature. But as bold and remarkable as ELEPHANT is, it in no way encapsulates Clarke’s genius. This retrospective, which takes advantage of the heroic efforts of the British Film Institute to re-master and re-introduce the entirety of Clarke’s work for the BBC (some 23 surviving programs), represents an unprecedented opportunity for NYC audiences to experience the dizzying range and unwavering quality of Clarke’s films.

Clarke directed three theatrical features, including the sublime RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO (1986) and a big-screen version of his censored TV film, SCUM (1979), but most of his work was made for the small screen, predominantly for the BBC. Exemplifying the rich tradition of challenging, socially engaged, and sometimes frankly provocative television programming in the UK (so much of it unknown abroad), Clarke worked alongside peers such as Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, and Stephen Frears, who called Clarke “the best of us.” A working-class filmmaker who portrayed the working class, Clarke matched social realism with cinematic sophistication, and launched or furthered the careers of many of the best actors of the day: Ray Winstone in the borstal drama SCUM, Tim Roth as a sneering skinhead in MADE IN BRITAIN, Gary Oldman as a football hooligan in THE FIRM, and even David Bowie in Clarke’s radical adaptation of Brecht’s BAAL. Encompassing masterpieces of both naturalistic drama and avant-garde experimentation (BAAL and ELEPHANT, among others), Clarke’s body of work shows a filmmaker capable of remarkable feats of cinematic expression, but determined to match style with subject matter, and never to flex his cinematic muscles at the expense of each film’s social or psychological elements.

Presented with generous support from the BFI, Beau Willimon, and Jessica R. Felrice. Special thanks to Molly Clarke; Sam Dunn, Phil Roberts & Ben Stoddart (BFI); Chris Chouinard (Park Circus); AFN Clarke; Carolina Fernandez, Tom Flynn & Vicky Mitchell (BBC); Jonathan Hertzberg (Kino Lorber); and Jake Perlin & Aliza Ma (Metrograph).



With the exception of RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO and the theatrical version of SCUM, all the screenings in this series will be free of charge!

CONTACT is screened courtesy of AFN Clarke, the author of the book “Contact,” which formed the basis for the film; the book is available for sale on Amazon.

Upcoming Screenings

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