The other week I was talking to a Great British Filmmaker who, inter alia, was madly enthused about the previous evening’s transmission of 1980, the second of three instalments in Channel 4’s production of David Peace’s Red Riding novels (this one directed by the esteemed James Marsh, he of Man On Wire and others.) So, yes, Great Filmmaker was blown away, thought it was all wonderful, etc. I don’t think he’d had as much pleasure in front of a television set since they cancelled Twin Peaks.
At the same time he was a tad puzzled and frustrated as to why such ostensibly ‘dark’ dramatic material could be made in such a ‘bold’ stylistic manner for television, without any apparent qualms, whereas any commensurate attempts to be ‘dark’ and ‘bold’ with a feature film project are struggling more than ever to get off the ground right now. Great Filmmaker was speaking from rueful recent experience: the demands and expectations of ‘genre’ have become the bane of his life. (Moreover I’m aware of what a hard fight it was for Revolution Films and Channel 4 to get Red Riding into production and onto screens, for all the talent that was assembled in front of the camera as well as behind it.)
But as one film executive recently put it to me, the only movies getting made right now are ones that have ‘a very clear idea of their target audience.’ On that level it will be interesting to see how the feature version of David’s The Damned United fares upon its UK release next Friday. Certainly it’s being offered to the public as a far friendlier, more approachable work than Red Riding, which was unabashed about its aura of suffocating bleakness and virulent Yorkshire-born evil.