Tuesday, 23 September 2014

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: THE CRICKLEWOOD GREATS

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

36. THE CRICKLEWOOD GREATS (2012, dir. Peter Capaldi)

23/09/2014


I don't really watch "Doctor Who" myself, with my personal best science fiction TV show being "Red Dwarf," but I would watch if Peter Capaldi is given the opportunity to direct an episode and, even more, write it too. The reason? He is more than up to the job.

"The Cricklewood Greats" was a documentary that explored the history of a fictitious British film company, of the sort that have appeared at Elstree over the years, along with Hammer, Ealing and the rest, and explores the  trends in British film over time, from horror, Gracie Fields-type broad comedy, to 1970s sex exploitation films, and huge Terry Gilliam-like productions - to help this along, Gilliam also appears as himself.

This film must have taken a very long time to get right - every production looks contemporaneous, the result of seemingly endless research, note-perfect performances from actors, and on-note funny scenes, such as wandering around the branch of B&Q built on the site of the studio, pretending that the wood department was the dressing rooms, and so on.

Peter Capaldi co-wrote, directed, and starred in "The Cricklewood Greats," but would you give that sort of freedom to someone who was playing a foulmouthed political spin doctor in "The Thick of It"? No, you give it to someone who won the 1994 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (tied with "Trevor," a short film that inspired The Trevor Project, an important AIDS charity in the United States) having written and directed "Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life," a film about the disturbances coming to the author while he wrote his famous stories. The same year the film was made for BBC Scotland, 1993, was also the year Capaldi was seen playing a transvestite in an episode of "Prime Suspect" for ITV, displaying artistic range like few others.

That Peter Capaldi will only be known as one thing to so many people shows why Christopher Eccleston has seemingly cut himself off from "Doctor Who" after his one series. The time must come when Capaldi is given the change to show what he can really make of the show he loves, and it will be so much more than when Warner Bros. started letting David Schwimmer direct episodes of "Friends."



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