Baal ★★

Seen because Alan Clarke’s Christine blew me away last year, and like most of his work, it’s almost impossible to see, especially in good condition (this was a video master from the BBC archives). But it’s clear Clarke was limited from being a television production – gaudy sets and lighting, limited shot choices, and besides Bowie, some really limited range of actors. Compared to what Mike Leigh could pull off with the same kind of resources up, it’s astonishing how bland Clarke’s vision is here. I’ve read my good deal of Brecht, but the metaphor being worked out now in the 1980s isn’t exactly clear, and so even at an hour, this thing drags. Why Clarke chose to use intertitles to explain the action that would occur in each scene (split screened up with Bowie singing an old folk tune) in some way reminds me of the use of intertitles from when I directed The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui back in the day, but all those intertitles said things going on in Nazi Germany, not the text itself. Some amusing moments – mostly because Bowie’s purposefully out of place demeanor against the rest of the drama works so well – but kind of left to wits end of what to make of it.