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Rude Boy (1980)

Courtesy of Buzzy Enterprises Ltd.

Main image of Rude Boy (1980)
35mm, colour, 133 mins
Directors/ProducersJack Hazan
 David Mingay
Production CompanyBuzzy Enterprises Ltd.
ScreenplayDavid Mingay
 Ray Gange
 Jack Hazan
PhotographyJack Hazan
MusicThe Clash

Cast: Ray Gange (Ray Gange); Joe Strummer (Joe); Mick Jones (Mick); Paul Simonon (Paul), Nicky Headon ("Topper"); Johnny Green (Johnny); Barry Baker (Baker)

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A fan of punk band The Clash follows them around for a year.

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Filmed in 1978 and early 1979 as pioneering punk band The Clash was recording its second album Give 'Em Enough Rope and performing live on the 'On Parole' and 'Sort It Out' tours, as well as a one-off Rock Against Racism concert at Victoria Park, Rude Boy is a curious, uneven hybrid of rockumentary and semi-improvised fiction. While the band looms very large in the proceedings, not least through some of the best concert footage ever shot of them in their prime (much of the lengthy running time is given over to their performances), the centre of attention is Ray (Ray Gange), a Clash fan who becomes their roadie but quickly parts company with them partly due to his alcohol-fuelled unreliability but mostly because it becomes increasingly clear that he and the band are politically poles apart.

As with his earlier film, the David Hockney portrait A Bigger Splash (1974), director-cinematographer Jack Hazan (sharing a credit with his editor David Mingay) makes use of lengthy improvised scenes to try to capture the personalities the band in general and singer/rhythm guitarist/songwriter Joe Strummer in particular. This approach is less successful this time, partly because Strummer seems visibly disenchanted with the proceedings (he and the band would later disown the film), but also because Ray proves a less than compelling interlocutor. Frequently drunk, often shambling down anonymous hotel corridors with a bottle of beer in his hand, Ray's barely coherent political views largely derive from a generalised fear and suspicion of black people. At a time when the National Front was at its height, these opinions were undoubtedly shared by a proportion of the band's fan base despite Strummer's strongly-held left-wing and explicitly anti-racist opinions.

An unrelated subplot about a black man being framed by police for conspiracy attempts to broaden the film's political concerns, with glimpses of Margaret Thatcher, then Leader of the Opposition but Prime Minister by the time the film was released, making a speech about the need to reinforce law and order. At around the same time, she notoriously claimed that the British people felt "swamped" by immigrants, a comment that was widely condemned at the time, but which paradoxically had the effect of draining support from the National Front. However, the tensions this created between the government and the black community would boil over into the Brixton riots, only a year after the film opened.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. Left versus right (3:15)
2. 'White Riot' (2:29)
3. 'Safe European Home' (3:12)
4. I've been watching you (0:59)
5. Wouldn't you sign it? (2:00)
Bigger Splash, A (1974)
Hazan, Jack (1939-)