Thought Control - #3 - Clocking Off

thought control logoThe end of the 90's - very beginning of the Noughties was a period of many colours, that produced a batch of very different projects. Let's look at the specific department of 'With or Without You', 'Linda Green' and the truly representative and probably best known of them,

Clocking Off
BBC series, directed by Geoffrey Sax and written by Paul Abbott, was shown in the year 2000.

Chris Eccleston appeared in the first season's second episode (plus a surplus blink-and-you-miss-it moment of the fourth). His airport runway controller Jim Calvert is a bit of a lad - but his life changes, first with a heroic deed, then, an act of charity and finally love.

For Eccleston the end of the 90's meant a restart after an undeservedly empty year - which followed, inexplicably, the first real high of his career. Restart brought roles in films of probably every imaginable kind: Quirky indies, blockbusters, romcoms. The last category is interesting, because while the themes were also there before, it was first during this period that social problematic was more or less completely divorced from the characters.

At the time Chris Eccleston said, "I'm certainly not complaining about the roles I've had. But I've done a lot of heavy drama and I wanted to play something that was lighter, and I thought this was well-written." Or as he half-joked in another interview: "The movers and shakers of Soho have me pigeon-holed as a class-avenging lout," he sighs. "But that's not fair. I've reread Jude and looked in vain for opportunities to introduce custard-pies. That's why it was lovely for once not to have a father who hated me or children trying to kill themselves in 'Clocking Off'. It was a nice change to play a bit of a loon, a daft lad."

Responsible for the writing was Paul Abbott whom Eccleston knew from 'Cracker' (as producer for 'To Be A Somebody) - and after 'Clocking Off' went on to guest-star in the first episode of Abbott's less successful affair 'Linda Green' (2001). The one feature film of this genre was also a result of repeated collaboration, with 'Jude' director Michael Winterbottom - 'With or Without You' (1999), a film which is remarkable for its warmth and lack of cynicism.

Is this genre choice just a statistical, automated outcome of that certain time, filled with oscillations, or could it have been a possible career direction - and what would have happened if it were?

One thing is certain - Eccleston didn't have any trouble with these lighter characters. While there might be fewer things to discover in them and with them, absence or minimum of heaviness doesn't mean lower quality of the product. Maybe it would be easier to find films in this direction?

jim from clocking off jim from clocking off jim from clocking off

2010-02-24

5 comments:

Liz said...

I wonder if there have been no comments because this is not generally available in North America (I think the DVD is only PAL) so many people have not seen it.

Perhaps someone could advise about accessing out-of-region DVDs -- multi-region players or software converters etc.

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

Hi Liz,
funnily enough Clocking Off _is_ available in North America - it's an all regions dvd (links in the film's review). Moreover, people from different countries have previously used it as example in their comments.

Out-of-region dvd's, as Chiclit has pointed out several times, all dvd players are multiregion, you just need to unlock them if they try to appear region-limited - google is your friend.

chiclit said...

Liz, feel free to email me, my email is on the site. I deprived myself of European product for a long time until I got a hint from someone on the old Doctor Who Forum. Basically I discovered all dvd players are made the same, just coded before they leave the factory. Once I googled the correct hack it took about 5 seconds to unlock my obscure walmart brand dvd player. I was thrilled, stunned, and then more than a little ticked off at an industry that would do something so ridiculous.

Anyway, now that I have my computer back I can comment on Clocking Off. Its actually a good series with several British actors you want to see in hour long vignettes each exploring the home life of people who work at a Manchester textile manufactoring plant. John Simm, Lesley Sharpe, Philip Glenister were all in episodes prior to the Eccleston episode.

CE acts opposite Sarah Lancashire (the Adipose Nanny!)playing a unmarried Mom of three-CE is the bachelor about town who falls for her family, and its just a fun little hour to watch.

I believe that I have read that Eccleston made a conscious choice to try something lighter which he does every now and then. Its interesting to me to think about the roles that CE has done where he is the star, and those where he is acting opposite a woman whose character is driving the story. It seems to me that he inspires a better performance in his co stars and this is one of those times-its no wonder he has worked with all the prominent actresses of his generation save Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock (would love to see that). When he is supporting, I think you get to focus on the little physical things he does that you might not notice in more intense roles and there are several interesting examples of this in Clocking Off. I also like to seem him smile and use humor, since everything I have read about him indicates in real life Eccleston is funny.

Don't get me wrong, his character in Clocking Off has a story to tell to-of someone getting bored with the louche life, but its kind of fun to watch him in the influence the production from another direction-of acting skill projected off another's performance. I suspect with his skill, dedication, and reputation he has more influence on a set than some actors.

Liz said...

I have looked for Clocking Off here in North America but cannot find non-PAL. Just looked again on EBAY and Amazon and only PAL is available. Am I missing another source?

Will also try hacking my DVD player --great idea!

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

Liz> Certain makes of players and tvs can handle both PAL and NTSC (depending on the decoder; these names doesn't mean exactly the same for tv signal and for dvd properties). Computers have no problems at all.