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October 1996, Week 3


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Tony Williams <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 18 Oct 1996 16:32:14 CST
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 Blaine Allen has raised an interesting and very relevant issue concerning
the relationship of Potter's work to certain social and historical contexts
as well as articulating a mode of commentary on such contexts.
 It is really valuable to gain the British perspectives over the last few
mailings. But as to Potter's pre-SINGING DETECTIVE work mediating a
"conservatism of form",this does beg certain questions. STAND UP NIGEL
certainly belonged in a British 60s television "social realist" tradition.
But we must remember that this form was a really viable and dynamically
exciting mode of delivery for many key works of this era. It is also a
form which Ken Loach continues in his current film career as the recently-
released LAND AND FREEDOM shows. The danger of dismissing Potter's work
prior to SINGING DETECTIVE days as formally conservative falls into that
once supposedly radical (but now hopelesslly fossilized)"classical realist
narrative" thesis associated with certain aspects of SCREEN
theory. It is now as dated as platform shoes and bell-bottom jeans.
 We must also remember that even in STAND UP NIGEL BARTON, Potter subverted
"realist" concerns by casting over-thirty-year- old-and-above actors as small
children. It was one episode in the text but provided a precedent for
BLUE REMEMBERED HILLS (if memory is correct?) when the casting formed the
basis for the entire play. It may have become cliched but was innovative once.
 It is perhaps problematic to draw a line between the supposedly conservative
realist Potter from the radical postmodernist version. SINGING DETECTIVE
and PENNIES FROM HEAVEN certainly succeeded in their formal experimentation.
But could the same be said for BLACKEYES and the Potter scripted/Roeg directed
TRACK 29 which was an embarrasment for all concerned in the production?
  Potter consciously or unconsciously may have derived the idea for COLD
LAZARUS from a 60s episode of a British T.V. series which cast Patrick
Troughton (prior to DR WHO days when he was known as a serious character
actor on British television) as a rich businessman who wanted his brain to
survive beyond his bodily decease. He was persuaded by the series character
(played by John Robinson) to accept a natural death. The episode had
Troughton in two roles playing an imposter and a disembodied head.
 However, this idea is also "common currency" since it goes back to
 SON OF MAN was recently performed on stage in England. The original TV
production cast Colin Blakely as an earthy Christ who died on the Cross. It
caused a lot of controversy at the time. Unfortunately, the same is not
true for current British TV productions of the "great works" catering to
English and overseas retrogade nostalgic fantasies about "the good old days"
for those well-fed and affluent fortunates not facing a grim existence of
agricultural/industrial exploitation and death by starvation.
 The pre-SINGING DETECTIVE works still need more discussion in this debate.
 Tony Williams
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