Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Strife Of Brian

The Damned United, Odeon Telford, Monday April 13 2009, 8.45pm.

The makers of The Damned United decided that David Peace's dark brilliant fictionalisation of Brian Clough's doomed 44 day tenure as gaffer of 'dirty Leeds' clearly wanted bloody shooting, despite the structural difficulties of filming a novel that was driven by an increasingly despairing and hugely controversial internal monologue.

Lacking privy to Clough's imagined personal thoughts but having access to TV footage from the time, the film seems a little more factual and even-handed than Peace's book, and what is lost in terms of stylised psychological torment is replaced by a stronger focus on the on-off relationship between Clough and his assistant manager and scouting genius Peter Taylor.

The resulting film is not without its flaws (erratic casting in the supporting parts and slight tendency to sentimentalise being the major contributing factors to an occasionally uneven feel) but remains a highly entertaining addition to the footie film canon, with an astonishing recreation of Clough by the ubiquitous Michael Sheen and strong supporting turns by Timothy Spall as Taylor and Jim Broadbent as Cloughie's Derby chairman making this compulsive viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the green-jumpered gaffer.

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