Scum

Criminally under known in the US, maverick filmmaker Alan Clarke was a thick scar on the visage of Margaret Thatcher’s Britain; concurrently hyperreal and surreal, Clarke’s films were explosive, scathing investigations into the darkest underbellies of British society, and inspired a generation of filmmakers from Harmony Korine to Gus Van Sant. There may be no better film to introduce new fans to his work than his early masterpiece, Scum. Starring a young and dynamic Ray Winstone as Carlin, a new inmate in a “borstal” – a youth detention facility – this highly controversial landmark of British cinema was originally made for the BBC, but was banned for its graphic depictions of suicide, rape, riots, and racism, and continued to be relatively underseen in the US and UK alike, partially due to obscenity lawsuits filed against any television network or VHS company who dared pick it up. The film’s violent immediacy culminates in Carlin’s retaliation sequence: the camera absorbing him in one of Clarke’s signature, haunting long-takes, as he exacts revenge with a pool ball-filled sock, seizes power, and declares “I’m the daddy now!”

Dir. Alan Clarke, 1979, DCP, 96 min.

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