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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 6:07 pm 

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I'm enjoying reading his stupid posts but surely it's not a big deal enough to keep quoting him? I mean it's a great box set isn't it?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:13 pm 
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swo17 wrote:
But his story is so convincing:

Alan Clarke wrote:
I have a bunch of friends who work at the BFI. I meet up with them on a weekly basis and they tell me how it's selling.

"Oh my God, Roger! It's nearly three o'clock! Forget about the colour timing on those Flipside discs, we've got to get across town to meet with the fake Alan Clarke so we can update him on the latest sales figures for the real Alan Clarke box set!!"


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:15 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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Maybe he goes to the same gym as the janitor of the BFI offices


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 10, 2016 7:24 pm 
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thirtyframesasecond wrote:
My highlight was "Rossellini is not as famous as Alan Clarke, trust me"

Yes, that made me laugh! Funny to think that a British TV director whose works have mostly not been broadcast out of the UK would be more famous than Roberto Rossellini is hilarious. Man is living in his own little world.

"Stars of the Roller State Disco" - the documentary makes no mention of the movie and reviews on Cineoutsider and Digital Fix are lukewarm but I loved it. The camerawork was phenomenal, the retro future of the 1980s was tacky in a good way. Too bad it's considered one of the "minor" works.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2016 2:16 am 
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manicsounds wrote:
"Stars of the Roller State Disco" - the documentary makes no mention of the movie and reviews on Cineoutsider and Digital Fix are lukewarm but I loved it. The camerawork was phenomenal, the retro future of the 1980s was tacky in a good way. Too bad it's considered one of the "minor" works.


Thanks for the feedback ! That's one of the movies I was considering to give a shot in priority but haven't done it yet.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2016 2:50 am 
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domino harvey wrote:
Maybe he goes to the same gym as the janitor of the BFI offices


I love the "bunch of friends" claim, as though quantity would automatically trump quality.

But the bottom line is that if none of the friends is Ben Stoddart or Sam Dunn, the info will most likely be second-hand and unreliable. I worked at the BFI for nearly a decade and couldn't tell you the sales figures for projects that I actually worked on, never mind anything else, because they simply didn't fall within my remit.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:35 pm 
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I will third the suggestion of Stars of the Roller State Disco as an under-appreciated highlight of this set. It's possible some viewers will not buy the premise or setting, but I love science fiction and this is a smart and relevant use of the genre. Sort of a dystopian They Shoot Horses, Don't They? I too was disappointed that this wasn't discussed at all in the Clarke Doc; its exclusion is puzzling.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 11:03 am 
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swo17 wrote:
I noticed a brief audio dropout on my copy 1:45:15 into Love Girl and the Innocent. Is anyone else experiencing the same thing? I suppose it could be down to the source.


I can verify my copy has the same issue. It sounds like a source issue to me as a similar, shorter drop out occurs slightly after this as well.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 16, 2016 10:50 pm 
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After festival disruption, I'm back to making my way through this wonderful set:

Funny Farm - Somewhat standard issue for Clarke at a very ambitious time of his career, between Diane and Scum, but strong enough, and given that he was extremely unhappy with the BBC's meddling in the film, you have to assume that the released version was somewhat less than what he was aiming for. Given that his complaints were about the drastic shortening of the film, and that the film itself deals heavily in ritualistic / compulsive routines and repetitions, one can imagine that the much longer version would have had even more repetitions, which could well have pushed it into avant garde territory and placed it in the continuum that stretches from Horatio Bottomley to Elephant.

Fast Hands - made for Thames Television and available in the Plays for Britain DVD set, this is an interesting but minor work about a novice boxer who gets a big chance and suffers brain damage in the match. It's a strong enough subject, but at under 50 minutes it doesn't get much space to develop the character and complications that distinguish so much of Clarke's takes on social issues. Late in the film, there's an extremely clunky - and very rare for Clarke - scene in which the boxer's brother delivers a soapbox speech carefully prepared by the writer (Roy Minton) and stuffed awkwardly into the actor's mouth. It's a very revealing moment in terms of what's missing from so many of Clarke's other films.

Scum - The cinema version is slicker in several respects, but Scum isn't a film I see for its slickness, so I definitely prefer the original, and the age of the actors is absolutely crucial to how the film works. In the TV version they're just kids, and in the film they're just not. They're being abused on screen by adults, and that's a dynamic you can't fake. (More precisely, you might be able to get away with one or two carefully cast, gifted adult actors playing children - Janine Duvitsky gets away with it for part of Diane - but I've never seen anybody successfully create the same frisson en masse.)

Bukovsky - A genuine lost film (even on the commentary track, the participants are still assuming that parts of the soundtrack are unrecoverable), and an outlier in the set. It's a solid but standard documentary portrait, mostly of interest because the subject informs Nina, which followed, and for the presence of Clarke himself on the soundtrack.

Nina - An intriguing film, that keeps going in unexpected directions and refuses to romanticize its easily romanticizable protagonists (moral of the story: you can be a moral person, and even a genuine hero, but still be a complete shit). Ultimately, it flares up into some exhilarating and harrowing domestic confrontations, but for much of the film I found it hobbled by an understandable but unfortunate creative decision early in the film. When Nina and Yuri are in the USSR at the outset (this sequence is rapid and full of huge ellipses, another daring but not 100% successful creative decision), they speak normal, unaccented English - a kind of magical cinematic translation of their normal Russian dialogue. But once they're relocated to England, their English becomes accented and more halting (a more naturalistic representation of how they might actually sound speaking a second language). I can see the reasoning for this, but all it does is draw attention to their accents, which are, to be kind, wobbly, and makes every single inconsistency all the more glaring (their command of English grammar comes and goes with the dramatic demands of any given scene, they speak accented English even to one another in private, or to their presumably monolingual relatives in the USSR on the phone). I understand that subtitled Russian would have been unacceptable to the BBC and beyond the command of the actors, but this solution doesn't really work on any level.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:50 pm 
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Our search engine isn't the best so sorry since I know this has beem clarified a million times, but does the big boxset come with DVDs for everything or just the two discs? Basically what's the smartest route for an American with a basic set up?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:54 pm 
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Just the two discs. It's not a dual-format release.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 3:57 pm 
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Okay, thanks. Guess I'll save the nine pounds and go with the DVD releases.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2016 6:03 pm 
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Next batch. I've jumped about the chronology a little and have a couple of gaps to fill, but I was so taken with the latest two I watched that I wanted to comment.

Danton's Death - A solid adaptation, but Clarke's personality seems rather submerged in the material. I could imagine any number of BBC directors pulling this off in a similar way.

Beloved Enemy - Dry as a bone, but thoroughly absorbing. Clarke often sets the camera up at a distance from the action (a technique that becomes even more striking in Psy-Warriors) and just lets the wall-to-wall dialogue speak for itself, but it's great dialogue: deliberately opaque and euphemistic, working at strategic cross-purposes, tweaking synonyms just enough to provide a figleaf of propriety for unacceptable ideas. I watched this with my wife, who had no idea what it was about when it started, and her gasp partway through when she realized what the protagonists weren't demonstrated just how clever Leland's script was.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
She had naturally assumed that they were government or quasi-governmental representatives, which wouldn't exactly make their behaviour any better, but is a little less of a slap in the face for the audience


Psy-Warriors - This, for me, was Clarke's most impressive directorial effort to this point, judged purely as an exercise in style. Visually, I think Clarke's work actually outstripped the script and performances (which is rare), with an extraordinarily austere aesthetic of rigid frontal compositions in long shot (most shots show the entire bodies of the characters, which is rare enough in cinema, let alone television). The brutalism is redoubled by the stark white (or pitch black) sets and the frequent shooting through the bars of a cage, which very deliberately imposed a grid over the image. This stripped-back look was extremely stylized and, in an odd way, painterly, with a number of shots reminding me of Francis Bacon. When we finally see something different, about a third of the way through the film, it not only accompanies a dizzying narrative twist, it embodies it, which is very astute direction. From then on, the visual scheme is slightly shaken up (and so are we, as the narrative sleight of hand continues), and medium shots arrive with the force of an extreme close-up (and, before we're done, we'll even get some actual close-ups), but the extreme austerity of the framing style manages the remarkable trick of changing the meaning of regular film grammar (or conventional set design) so that it becomes disorienting rather than reassuring. All in all, this is a really remarkable film, absolutely unimaginable as a contemporary UK television production, or on US TV in any era, and the imagery is still arresting, even though it's all too familiar now after the American remake of 2004.

Stars of the Roller State Disco - This curiously little-loved film (no mention in the accompanying documentary - is this the only film in the set that's ignored like this?; a booklet essay that can't stop apologizing) struck me as very much a companion piece to Psy-Warriors, and just about as sharp and well-directed in its way. It's completely different in style, both in terms of narrative and visuals. Where the Psy-Warriors set was rigid, rectilinear, stark black-and white, and scrubbed clean, the Roller State Disco is sloppy, circular, dingy and scarred with graffiti and vandalism, and Clarke shoots it with a restless moving camera. In both cases the camera and the characters are trapped, but in the latter film, the entrapment comes with the illusion of perpetual motion. The characterizations are simply drawn, and some of the performances are a little gauche, but for me that just enhances the weird feel this film has of a Young Adult novel gone rancid on the realities of Thatcher's Britain. It's like the pilot for one of those BBC science-fiction kids shows of the seventies (The Tomorrow People, Timeslip etc.) where the hero realizes at the end that there's no point in continuing (and bloody hell, is that ever a startling final image!) It's an utterly unexpected film from Clarke, but I thought it all worked brilliantly, so I don't know why the people who put the set together are so indifferent to it.

It seems to me that the essay writer completely misreads the central character,
[Reveal] Spoiler:
taking at face value his insistence that it's his own high standards that prevent him leaving the disco and entering the work force. To me, it seemed blatantly obvious that Carly was only at home in the disco and was terrified of returning to the real world, and the script went out of its way to establish this many, many times, in different ways:
- Carly's parents actively want him to come home, job or no, compared with other characters we see that are explicitly consigned to the the Disco because their parents won't take them back;
- Carly is the only character we see that is able to leave the compound at any time (presumably because of the above), whereas other characters resort to tunnelling out;
- when he's welcoming the new Liverpudlian kid at the end of the film, he's the only character we ever see who's enthusiastic and positive about life in the Disco;
- he succumbs to despair when Paulette walks out on him (hoping he will follow), yet he still can't bring himself to leave the compound (even though we know the door to the outside world will automatically open for him);
- most blatantly (and it seems like extraordinarily sloppy reading to miss this), Carly gets presented with three successive job offers which are all generally appropriate to his training, whereas the other offers we see are manifestly inadequate, inappropriate or unpaid, and the three offers are structured - in classic fairy tale syntax - as steadily progressing towards the 'dream job' that he was claiming to be holding out for. It's when Paulette witnesses him reject that final job offer (and he's momentarily at a loss for an excuse before he invents some new purist bluster) that she realizes he has no intention of ever leaving the compound and decides to walk out on him. The job offer continues to be broadcast over the announcement system as she's preparing to leave. I don't know how much clearer the writer could have made it!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:50 pm 
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I have now completed this marvellous box, and boy, does it go out with a bang.

Baal - Very stagy, but quite interesting, and it made me realise what the rigid frontal mise en scene of Psy-Warriors reminded me of: early cinema. This film is full of compositions that could be taken right out of the best cinema of the 1910s, particularly in terms of their respect for the set and distance from the actors. There are also shots and lighting that draw from fine art. That said, I wasn't especially engaged in the narrative, though Bowie's typically mannered acting style fits this role like a glove.

I'd have to go back and check, but I'm wondering now if a lot of Clarke's adaptations of stage plays follow a certain 'proscenium rule' like this one does. With the scripts written for television, going right back to the Half-Hour Plays, he utilises a mobile camera, freely moving amongst the actors and occupying the same physical space as them, but it occurs to me that with several of his worked that originated as actual stage plays (this one, Danton's Death, Psy-Warriors - though not especially The Love-Girl and the Innocent) he tends to keep his camera on the audience side of the 'stage edge'. It changes position to give us the best view of the action, but its position is always from somewhere in the audience. (He'd completely abandon this bifurcated approach to source material with his radical rethink of Road, however.)

Contact - This is such a great film, and perhaps the one I was most excited about revisiting. It must be the quietest war movie ever made, and I find it both extremely beautiful and extremely tense and draining. It's a Bressonian 'action movie' in the sense that there's almost nothing here but action: no ham-handed attempts at 'characterization' (though we see plenty of character through the action); no narrative busywork; no freighted thematics. There's not really much to say but "see it". It's about as pure an Alan Clarke film as he ever made.

Christine - And this is another pure Alan Clarke film, with many of the same qualities. Like Contact, it ultimately becomes a character study in which the character is entirely built up through misdirection (one of the biggest misdirections being the hot topics that occupy the central conceptual space in both films). Formally, it's a direct precursor of Elephant, and like that film, it finds a radical solution to the problem of making a problem film. Another masterpiece that works on you as a process which you just have to undergo on your own.

Road - An extremely strange film that I guess I like the least of his post-Baal TV work. It's paradoxically one of his most cinematic works and one of his most theatrical, and while the cinematics are bracing and even astounding, I don't think the theatrics (specifically, the source play) has aged all that well. Individual sequences work beautifully, but for me they tend to be the ones that are most isolated from the central four characters (Lesley Sharp's stomping monologue, Susan Brown and the soldier, the whole squalid Felliniesque pub scene, scored to Mel 'n' Kim), and when we get to the meat of Jim Cartwright's play (in the final scenes) it all becomes self-consciously actorish: here are my modish themes all laid out before you, and, by the way, down with Thatcher. Right on, brother! Clarke's stylistic manifestation is overtly brilliant throughout, but for me the material still seems brash and obvious. This must be the flashiest direction Clarke ever did, and I guess I'm not 100% comfortable with that, strongly preferring the precise austerity of the works surrounding Road.

Elephant - Like this. I watch Elephant every few years - I can't really stand to watch it more often - and it never loses its power and complexity. It's the logical end point of a certain strand of Clarke's filmmaking and it's pretty much a perfect film within its ruthlessly circumscribed and frighteningly disciplined bounds. It's a provocation on every level, and the apoplectic audience reaction that we can see some of in the extras demonstrates just how overdue such provocation was. Everybody identifies a different problem with the film (too specific; too general; too realistic; not realistic enough; too vague; too obvious), almost all of which have nothing to do with the film itself. When somebody complains to Danny Boyle that there wasn't enough in the film to make it specific to Belfast, and it might just as well have been about senseless killing anywhere, I don't know how he stopped himself from saying "Well, duh."

The Firm - And already Clarke was retreating - or moving on - to more stylistically commercial realms, though content-wise, this is as confrontational as ever. For all that Elephant is an unrelenting parade of murder, I find The Firm much more brutal, with some of the most horrific screen violence I've ever seen. Which is the point, of course. The two cuts were much more different than I expected. It's not just that the most transgressive scenes from Clarke's cut were removed, but that additional scenes were added that strongly change the entire context of the action (by introducing more of a police presence, for instance). The director's cut is more relentless, brutal and disorientating, but I really like all the additional scenes from the broadcast version, so it's great to have them both.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:55 pm 
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I've found it really hard personally to describe in words Clarke's films to people zedz. Especially films like Contact where seeing it is the real gift. I'm a poor writer to begin with and all I can say about it is exactly what you've said here. "See it".

I think I was most impressed by Elephant and for the reasons you described. It's provocation but a necessary one. I think, and I hope some people agree with me here is that the film is actually VERY easy to watch. In the sense that it doesn't any "fat" in it. It's all been cut out. What's left is a really visceral experience and one of the more shocking things in the set (at least for me).

It's a damn shame Clarke died so young. I'd have loved to see more projects like Elephant.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 6:25 am 
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In the latest instalment of the adventures of Clarke's namesake on Blu-ray.com, someone asked if the standalone releases of The Firm and Penda's Fen were the same as in the box set. "Alan Clarke" replied yes to both, and was unsurprisingly swiftly corrected (since Penda's Fen is not the same disc). He then took umbrage:

Quote:
The Penda's Fen disc information wasn't wrong on my end. The man was asking if the disc was the same, by that I thought he meant the technical aspects such as PQ and SQ because it's obvious to me that due to the nature of the boxset, other films are obviously going to be on the disc. You were just more pedantic than I was, not much of a contribution if you ask me.

Although sadly...

Quote:
Anyways, i'm gone. This forum is boring full of boring troll people who've got nothing better to do than to either respond to my taunts or complain about packaging. Get a life guys.

(To be fair, he's not entirely wrong there!)


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:32 am 
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There's a "rule of the internet" called Poe's Law that states sometimes you can't tell if an individual is really that daft or is trolling. I think this applies here, at least for me. I'm completely mystified by his conduct.


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:42 am 
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Quote:
it's obvious to me that due to the nature of the boxset, other films are obviously going to be on the disc.


And yet, The Firm is, in this case, the same disc in the boxset than in the individual release, proving it's actually not that obvious...


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 4:52 pm 
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Well, at least we've got one decent takeaway from this whole Alan Clarke Homonculus incident: "boring full of boring troll people." What a wonderfully succinct description of the internet: sheer, retarded poetry.


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2016 4:56 am 
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Sorry for the late response but I do have a bit of sympathy with the wrong Alan Clarke in that it can potentially feel frustrating when there's a lot of excitement about a forthcoming release followed by very little discussion about it afterwards. It's something I'm guilty of myself, having been delighted with, for example, the announcements of the Taviani brothers and Clarke box sets and then not posting any comments after getting them.

However, I think the reason that most of us don't have much more to say about the films once we've watched them is that we actually don't have much to add to the commentary that's already there. I think this is probably unsurprising as most of us aren't film critics like MichaelB or aren't as erudite as people like zedz and colinr in our responses to films.

For what it's worth, I could add Antonia Bird to the list of film makers obviously influenced by Alan Clarke, but that's not surprising as Safe shares a writer with The Firm, even though he was apparently not entirely happy with Clarke's treatment of his script, according to David Thompson in Richard Kelly's book.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:28 pm 
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With my only Clarke experience being Billy the Kid my impression of him is more Russell or Greenaway than the Loach that gets thrown around. After watching the first two films I'm left with all expectations subverted. George's Room for instance reminded me most of Schlesinger and a little of Pinter both of whom I haven't really heard him compared to. The only thing I 'd compare to Loach is the performances which emphasize the class aspect in an interesting fashion. It also seems to be gendering class which makes at least half suspect that the renter's creepiness might be deliberate in its critiquing of paternalism.

Likewise The Last Train Through Harecastle Tunnel is surprisingly traditional though there are two things which are forward looking to where I was introduced to Clarke. The film starts off like this pleasant travel with interesting people like so sort of square Harold and Kumar. There's this rock filler music that plays at times which contrasts this and at first seems contradictory to the rest of the film. About halfway through though the movie manages to engage with that reality starting with the shockingly racist guard with the flaming son. The lead seems lost from here and I have to admit I was too as I'm not sure to what degree this is all intended to be horrifying or if we're supposed to follow the lead and not care until we meet the judge and his daughter.

The movies, both, are mostly straight forward examples of what I understand to be the norm of the time but I liked them all the same a good deal and was genuinely surprised by their openness and how they used trappings. I can only image where Clarke went from here.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:55 pm 
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I wonder if it's worth taking a sudden bracing plunge into the deep end with something truly uncompromising like Christine? But then again, I watched Clarke's career out of sequence, catching pretty much everything from Made in Britain onwards on original broadcast and only then working back when I had a rare chance to see anything earlier. In fact, the Half-Hour Stories were amongst the last things that I saw.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:20 pm 
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Just because it's easier to keep track of I'm going through this how it is organized in the set which should provide its own pleasures.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2016 10:50 pm 

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I'm enjoying immensely the box set. I recently watched "Scum" and I have a very an unremarkable question: how does the economy in the borstal operate? I remember a scene in which two ladies leave a note for a boy, and another one where he discusses with Carlin about the latter's cut.

I didn't realize until much later that Carlin is no other than Ray Winstone, who gets called a former pretty boy in "Sexy Beast" by Ben Kingsley's character. Re-watched "Sexy Beast" this week along my first watch of "Scum" and I couldn't make a connection.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 2:29 pm 
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Unfortunately the only time you see Winstone now is for terrible online betting adverts during every sporting event.


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