Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer
The Farewell To Middle-earth Issue
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe: Get 12 Issues For £25
Buy the perfect Christmas present this year
Farewell To Middle-earth
Full details of our Peter Jackson-edited issue


Back to Words From The Wise homepage

Red Riding: 1974, 1980 and 1983
Posted on Sunday March 1, 2009, 00:33 by Damon Wise

My review of this very, very good crime project will follow just as soon as I've gathered my thoughts! In the meantime, here's a shot of tonight's NFT panel with (from left) Michael Hayden (NFT/BFI moderator), Andrew Eaton (producer), Tony Grisoni (writer), Julian Jarrold (director, 1973), James Marsh (director, 1980) and Anand Tucker (director, 1983).

And here it is:

I'll put my hand up and admit now that I've never read a word of fiction by David Peace, although, having had him explained to me several years ago by one of the UK's most underused actors I feel as though I do very much know what he's about. And I think if you haven't read his Red Riding Quartet by now, it's probably best to wait until after this three-part series is over (it starts on C4 this Thursday). In the meantime, all you really need to know is that Peace was born near Wakefield in 1967, came of age during the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper and the miner's strike, likes Joy Division, and had a bolt of inspiration when he was given a copy of James Ellroy's White Jazz after he moved to Japan in 1994. That, in a nutshell, should tell you about Red Riding and its origins; and even though it was adapted by Tony Grisoni alone, working from Peace's four novels (the third part was skipped for financial reasons), there's enough of his perspective in this very strange but rewarding neo-noir, an attempt to create a gritty, Scorsese-style genre of drama in the north of England that producer Andrew Eaton only half-jokingly described as “The Full Marty” before the trilogy had its sort-of premiere in a marathon screening session at London's Southbank last night.

The first part is something of a tester. Directed by Julian Jarrold, whose previous movies – Bridehead Revisited, Becoming Jane, Kinky Boots – have nothing in common with this save maybe a strong sense of period, it's a dark, twisted and almost dreamlike evocation of the past. Titled 1974, it stars Andrew Garfield as Eddie Dunford, a young crime reporter on The Yorkshire Post who becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a local schoolgirl. Linking the mystery to two previous disappearances, Dunford suspects that not only is a serial killer at work but that his identity is being protected by police top brass, whose corrupt influence is confirmed when a colleague is murdered. It gets a bit overheated, and not a little confusing by the end, but as an opening salvo, the 106-minute 1974 perfectly sets the mood. My only qualm is that the child murder that precipitates it seems a little self-consciously shocking and unduly bizarre (you'll notice some strange wings over the opening credits), and, as a whole, the trilogy never quite supports the weight of it – by the end, I found myself wondering why, in the North, so many people would collude in the protection of a child killer after the Moors Murderers case (I believe Peace also has misgivings about this device). Still, it's not beyond the realms of possibility, and in a weird way this haziness sometimes works in the trilogy's favour, giving it a harsh, nightmare quality.

The second instalment, 1980, was probably my favourite. With Dunford taken out of the story, his place is taken by Paddy Considine as uptight, by-the-book office Peter Hunter, who has been drafted in to investigate the complete inability of the West Yorkshire police to catch the Yorkshire Ripper, who has been at large for five years now. Hunter is a weary man with an unhappy home life, but, more pressingly, he was the investigating officer into the concluding events of 1974, which means that when he arrives on the scene, the local PCs aren't too happy to see him. Directed by James Marsh (Man On Wire, The King, Wisconsin Death Trip), 1980 has an immediately different look, not least because the aspect ratio and film stock have both changed (1974 was Super-16, 1980 is 35mm), giving this more glossy, realistic surface sheen than the distressed, retro-fitted 1974. This new look gives the story an adrenaline shot, and while there's less of a thriller structure – there's more of an American Gigolo feel as the helpless Hunter finds his sinister fate coalescing around him – that doesn't mean there are no thrills, and almost at the very point where you might be wondering where this is all leading, the climactic one-two punch really is a shocker.

The third part, by Anand Tucker (And When Did You Last See Your Father, Shopgirl, Hilary And Jackie), was shot in digital, not that you'd really notice, and continues the use of widescreen. Being the final instalment, 1983 is likely to be the subject of the most grumbles, not because of any lapse in quality but because, by definition, the end is where the loose ends lie. Like 1974, it begins with the disappearance of a young schoolgirl, a situation that sends detective Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey) scurrying back to the files to look for any similarities with the case of the original girl, who was found murdered in a quarry nearly a decade before. In parallel, we also see the story of washed-up solicitor John Piggott (Mark Addy), who has been hired to appeal against the jailing of a mentally retarded local (Daniel Mays) for the killing. For me, 1983 was the most difficult section of all, simply because there's so much information and at least two distinct timeframes. By accident or design, these often blur, but, strangely, it doesn't hurt the drama. By being so wilfully challenging, Red Riding consistently has an almost Lynchian sense of atmosphere; by 1983 the mystery is almost a character in itself, one that contaminates and degrades all who come into contact with it.

The denouement won't be to all tastes, and in some ways rings a little hollow after the darkness leading up to it, but Red Riding is quite a remarkable achievement for cinema too, never mind the small screen. The writing is provocative, the acting exemplary (everybody is sensational, and Mark Addy, especially, is a revelation), and the direction from all three is roughly up to speed with both of these. At the end of the trilogy I had my qualms, of course (many of them to do with certain excesses on behalf of the West Yorkshire police), but I left the Southbank satisfied and very excited by what I'd seen. Red Riding can quite comfortably be described as a British Twin Peaks (first series only!), and I say this not because it features dwarves, giants and log ladies but because it is about evil and place, something David Lynch defined amazingly in that outstanding series. It also takes a truly radical approach to narrative, in the way it plays with time and perspective; characters you think are incidental turn into leads, while others you think will get a big reveal are left creepily vague. And as it does in the story itself, history distorts and repeats itself in surprising ways: I was reminded of Magnolia, not simply because it's an ensemble piece but because for the most part it's a grimly predestined ensemble piece (“And the book says, 'We may be through with the past, but the past isn't through with us...'”). It could be the most important piece of TV of the decade. It's not entirely perfect, but it definitely, physically and intellectually, raises the bar. 

Login or register to comment.


Advertisement

Comments

1 francis.power
Posted on Monday March 9, 2009, 21:26
Watched the first episode of this last week and I have to say it was the most gripping piece of television i've seen since I saw The Wire for the first time. Didn't even recognise Andrew Garfield from Lions for Lambs, can't wait for this Thursday to see the always amazing Paddy Considine...

2 camalonious
Posted on Friday April 3, 2009, 09:51
I've watched all three films by now and I can't help but have a certain
appreciation for them. Set in the north of England it was certianly brave to take on, not only was it a period drama but they gave it such an authetic, as you say "retro" feel to it. The drama combined with the strong Yorkshire accents was compelling, if a little confusing a first it soon became clearer as the second (my personal favourite) and the third unfolded. Very good - Very inspirational.

3 willchadwick
Posted on Friday April 24, 2009, 17:14
I think as a complete trilogy they are all brilliant, best seen if you have time as I recently have to watch them back to back so you an keep a grip over the criss-crossing story lines. I too think that 1980 is the stand out of the three deliver shocks and thrills, and a fantastic central performance by Paddy Considine and some great support from David Morrisey (who truly comes into his own in 1983) and Peter Mullan. James Marsh brings an added dimension to that part of the story, the police corruption thread which was brought to our attention in 1974 becomes more profound in this story. What I also think the trilogy did fantastically is the use of the main villains SPOILER! - Martin Laws and John Dawson, and how the filmmakers don't get them involved with the drama but their eerie presence remains throughout the whole trilogy. 1983 benefits with a second viewing as it is the most complex of the lot, and the final movement of the film I found more heartbreaking and less contrived than I did the first time.


Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

RECENT POSTS

London Film Festival 2014: Fury And Difret
By Phil de Semlyen

London Film Festival 2014: Mommy, Song of the Sea, A Little Chaos
By Helen O'Hara

London Film Festival: Whiplash, Son Of A Gun, Foxcatcher
By Helen O'Hara

London Film Festival 2014: Testament of Youth, Ping Pong Summer, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
By Helen O'Hara

London Film Festival: The Duke Of Burgundy, Gente De Bien, Love Is Strange
By Helen O'Hara


RECENT COMMENTS

London Film Festival: Wild, Salvation, Leviathan
"That's interesting, because I noticed The Salvation had one of the buzziest audience reactions out o"  jencat
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Basterds Blog
"I know this is old as hell now, but I wanted to mention on here how great this is. I've read this ar"  seventhrib
Read comment

Sundance Part Six: In The Loop
"Hello, everybody, the good shoping place, the new season approaching, click in. Let¡¯s<"  aassdd
Read comment

Venice 09: The Bad Lieutenant!
"Just watched the film and thought it was great. Did not expect that ending that made the film so muc"  Zimbo
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Sundance Part Six: In The Loop
13 comments

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview
9 comments

Basterds Blog
9 comments

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!
7 comments

The Wrestler
6 comments



Back | Print This Page | Email This Page | Back To Top

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)