Despite their successes with clotted cream and the MacLaren F1, Judge Paul Corupe says that not all things made in Britain are awesome.
Our review of The Alan Clarke Collection, published October 13th, 2004, is also available.
"It's your fucking world, mate, not mine. You can stick it up your arse, I don't want it!" Trevor (Tim Roth)
Originally Broadcast by the BBC as part of a television series about "youth in crisis" called Tales Out of School, UK director Alan Clarke's Made in Britain is one of the iconoclastic director's most uncompromising films. It is a filmic reaction to Margaret Thatcher's conservative reign at the time, and her political philosophy that tried to ignore the violence and racism of the insurgent youth culture.
Facts of the Case
After smashing an East Indian family's windows, neo-Nazi skinhead Trevor (Tim Roth, Reservoir Dogs) is sent to a halfway house. The teenage thug is determined to play by his own rules and he continues to break things, steal cars, huff glue—and in one scene, even defecates on his police files. Trevor's unwavering belief that he must constantly challenge and work to destroy a cruel society he did not make is contested by the social workers at every turn, but it seems the only one that can crack his fanatic anti-social assault is the boy's overworked parole officer.
Clarke's 1982 telefilm Made in Britain plays like something of a prequel to Scum, his fiery indictment of Britain's borstals that became a sensation across the pond for its violence and nasty tone. A performance piece above all else, Made in Britain is entirely The Tom Roth Show—his acting debut nonetheless—but I'll be damned if it doesn't make for an amazing 75 minutes. Any American film would be hard-pressed to match the die-hard punk ethos that the film espouses. That's wholly attributable to Roth, who is unbelievably excellent as the angry skinhead Trevor. If made today, Roth's foul-mouthed and offensively racist performance would have to be relegated to late night cable channels.
Fuelled by opening and closing blasts of punk rock from The Exploited, which heightens Made in Britain's nihilism even further, Clarke takes a stark, cinema vérité approach to the film, infusing it with a distinct documentary feel. Natural lighting and sweeping, Steadicam photography give the film a further, off-the-cuff sense of reality as it follows Trevor's vile spewing of hate and destruction. Part of what Clarke does so well as a filmmaker is to take distinctly unlikable characters and make them charismatic and sympathetic. You can't help but want this completely unsociable, racist thief to turn his life around as he runs through the streets and tunnels screaming "bollocks" and "wankers" at cars and passersby. When Trevor goes entirely out of his way to screw his own future time and time again, all you can do is cringe. He knows he has had a hand in his present situation, but conversations with the halfway house director hint at a thread of underlying truth in the way Trevor challenges the ideas behind Thatcher's social policies.
A telefilm from the 1980s, Made in Britain is presented full frame with a mono soundtrack. Overall, the film looks as good as it should, with a slight level of grain and muted color tones that are really inseparable from Clarke's gritty style. The sound is well-rendered and always clear, although most North American audiences will want to turn on the English subtitles to navigate through some of the accents and British slang terminology that can be confusing. As for extras, the Blue U delivers up a short video interview with Tim Roth taken from the 1980s when Made in Britain was released, while an older, wiser Roth takes the reigns for an acting-centric commentary of the film, which is balanced out by a second track with producer Margaret Matheson and writer David Leland. Both are worth a listen, but ultimately its Matheson and Leland who give the picture a little more context.
A highly underrated title from an unjustly forgotten director, Made In Britain should be on your Clarke shopping list right after Blue Underground's release of Scum.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
• Audio Commentary with Star Tim Roth
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