"I can't tell you what art does, but I know that art has often judged the
judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what
the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten. I know too
that the powerful fear such art, whatever its form, when it does this,
and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumour
and a legend because it makes sense of what's life's brutalities cannot,
a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art,
when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible,
the irreducible, the enduring – of guts and honour."
To mark Ken Loach's 75th birthday, the British Film Institute recently hosted a two-month-long retrospective devoted to the director's work. The BFI screened a broad cross-section of Loach's work, from the early '60s to the present day, but, remarkably, the 30 films featured in the season represent under half of Loach's staggeringly prolific output. There are few directors in world cinema who have matched his impressive productivity down the decades, fewer still who have done so while producing work of such a consistently high standard, and fewer yet again who have done so while remaining so consistently critical of received wisdom. By the same token, there are few directors who have been so repeatedly misrepresented, silenced and vilified as Loach. That Ken Loach's work has been more thoroughly appreciated abroad than at home is testimony to his capacity to raise uncomfortable local issues while highlighting themes of international concern. We should treasure him. Neither time nor success has blunted his edge. He remains a spiky thorn in the side of established power, and one of the most important directors at work today. It would seem an insult to Loach and his undoubted importance within British film culture to let the season pass without comment.
The Loach season was punctuated by two events of importance to his admirers and detractors alike: Ken Loach appeared in person at a panel event, neatly titled The Politics of Documentary, and a one-day symposium was held, clumsily entitled: From Hidden Agenda to the Free World and Beyond: the Political Films of Ken Loach. DVD Outsider, ever eager to keep abreast of current thinking about internationally renowned directors, and particularly keen to celebrate the work of one of the film industry's perennial outsiders, attended both events. For the benefit of those interested in this most interesting of directors, there follows a report on those events, both of which considered this most obviously 'political' of directors in the context of the politics of his day. Loach's work, after all, exists in the space where politics and culture collide. Films can make a significant contribution to the free flow of information and ideas essential to the healthy life of free societies, and Loach's films have done so more than most.
Two comments that recurred regularly at both events were that "All films are political," which is to say that all images arrive with ideologies attached to them, and that cinema can offer more than just pleasure and distraction. If these views have been in circulation far longer than Loach has, they have seldom been either so marginalised or unfashionable. Critic Colin McArthur regarded his role as being to describe and interrogate "all the impulses, mechanisms and institutions of a complex film culture," that "totality' of film culture which includes not just the films themselves but also film books and criticism, courses and conferences, prizes and periodicals, festivals and seasons, technology and ideology, all questions relating to the production, distribution and exhibition of films, or what used to be referred to as the base and superstructure of film culture. These notes are offered in the spirit of Colin McArthur's remarks, as a tiny contribution to a broader understanding of Loach's work.
|The Politics of Documentary
The BFI's flagship cinema, NFT1, was packed to the rafters for the Politics of Documentary event, which was chaired by Jonathan Derbyshire, Cultural Editor of New Statesman magazine, with guest contributions from Jo Glanville, Editor of Index on Censorship, and Julian Petley, Chair of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. Following a brief introduction by Ken Loach, the audience was treated to screened extracts from his rarely seen four-part TV series Questions of Leadership (1983), made by Central Television and commissioned by Jeremy Isaacs' fledgling Channel 4. In a sense the event was misleadingly titled. It might more accurately have been labelled The Politics of a Documentary. No matter, by focusing on that single series of films the event generated a valuable discussion of censorship and politics.
The Questions of Leadership series is set during the wave of defensive strikes of the early 1980's, and built around interviews with rank and file trade unionists. It details their betrayal by the bureaucrats who controlled their representative bodies. Although the films unfold against the backdrop of strikes at British Steel, British Leyland, British Rail and in the NHS, the focus is squarely on a largely forgotten local strike, at the Laurence Scott engineering factory in Manchester. When workers at Laurence Scott voted unanimously for strike action and occupied their workplace in defence of their jobs, they found themselves at odds with their own union. The leaders of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, who at one point called the police to have a delegation of their own members expelled from their union's Headquarters in Peckham, ultimately did a deal with the owners behind their members' backs, and disowned the strike. The screened extracts from Questions of Leadership called to mind another four-part TV series, shown in its entirety during the Loach retrospective, his historical drama Days of Hope (1975). Director Stephen Frears, no slouch himself, said of the series: "There isn't one cinema film that compares in importance with Days of Hope. Not one." It considered aspects of working class life and political struggle, beginning during the Great War and ending with the betrayal of the rank and file by union leaders during the General Strike. Betrayal is a significant theme in Loach's work.
During a lively audience discussion after the screenings, men who had earlier appeared onscreen spoke from the audience of their experiences during that time. It is always a powerful and dislocating experience when individuals, as it were, step from the screen like that, in the manner of Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo. Their contributions and their presence heightened the emotional charge of the evening. One individual in particular, who had lost most of his hair in the interim but none of his political savvy, noted that when a million citizens took to the streets of London to demonstrate their opposition to the Iraq War, and that when, more recently, half a million took to those same streets to protest about government cuts, they lacked neither passion nor compassion, just anything remotely corresponding to effective political leadership.
Loach himself was at pains to point out that the censorship of political ideas, and of TV programmes such as Questions of Leadership, happens not by outright ban, but by a process of delay, inaction and obfuscation. He wryly noted that the series had been pulled, not because he had fallen foul of sharp-sighted, disapproving critics, but because spurious notions of "balance" and "impartiality" had been invoked, which is to say, not for aesthetic but ideological reasons. Jonathan Derbyshire read from Ken Loach's letter to the Guardian, of 31 October 1983, protesting about the films' fate: "The question of impartiality has been raised. Every news editor, filmmaker, or broadcaster reveals his own political orientation, whether he wants to or not, by what he selects as important, by the questions he asks or fails to ask, by who is interviewed, and by the language used. This is self evident, but, since those at the Independent Broadcasting Authority put such emphasis on 'due impartiality', it is interesting to see how they interpret it in their own partial way." The panel's consensus was the public interest had been betrayed by the IBA, just as surely and shabbily as rank and file workers had been betrayed by those elected, and paid to represent their interests.
|From Hidden Agenda to The Free World and Beyond: The Political Films of Ken Loach
The discussions that took place that night echoed in much that was said at the later symposium on Loach's work in NFT3. The day of screenings, talks and panel discussions was introduced by David Somerset of the BFI's Education team, and chaired by film academic and widely-published author John Hill. The day proper got under way with a scintillating presentation by BBC journalist Paul Mason, titled The State of Britain 1980-2010, one of the most captivating and lucid assessments of that period of relentless social and political upheaval that it has my privilege to witness. Mason is best known for his work on BBC2's Newsnight, but he deserves to be better known for his brilliant books Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global and Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed, which I recommend to anyone keen to understand our 'scoundrel times'. Mason deftly performed the demanding task of describing the social and political circumstances to which Loach's films were a (largely isolated) response. It would be impossible to do justice to Mason's tour de force from memory and a few scribbled notes, but I will try to sketch the outline of his arguments, while inviting the reader, as Mason invited his audience, to feed in appropriate references to Loach's films.
Mason began by flashing up on screen before us an unforgettable image: the famous front page of The Sun published on 15 May 1984, a page which was to have featured a photograph of Arthur Scargill giving the Nazi salute, beneath the headline MINE FUHRER. Printers at Rupert Murdoch's Wapping plant, who had been hosting a visit from striking miners when the mock-up reached the print room, were, naturally, appalled by what they saw and refused to set the page. The paper subsequently appeared without either image or headline, just the words: "Members of all The Sun production chapels refused to handle the Arthur Scargill picture and major headline of our lead story. The Sun has decided, reluctantly, to print the paper without either." The one image that did appear on that front page sat above a "Sun Exclusive" that announced: "Page Three stunner Samantha Fox is insuring her biggest assets...for a whopping £250,000." Mason's eye-catching opening gambit served well as a reminder of the damage done to British journalism by Rupert Murdoch and his hirelings, at a time when our minds remain focused on ongoing revelations about the modus operandi of the Murdoch media, or would if we weren't so distracted and ill-informed. And so the vicious circle sets in: the gutter press infiltrates popular culture, maintaining that it gives people "what they want," while denying us the tools to think otherwise. As Milton said: "They who put out the people's eyes, reproach them of their blindness."
As those present absorbed the shock of that visual memory jog, Mason provided his spellbound audience with other reminders: of the collective industrial strength of which those print industry refuseniks and that front page were emblematic, and of the means by which the Thatcher government engineered a shift from "an iron and steel economy to one of hamburger and chips." He did so while repeatedly reminding us, too, of an unpleasant fact, that Mrs Thatcher mobilized massive popular support for her assault on the post-war consensus. The success of Thatcherism's calculated campaign to demolish the post-war settlement – the crowning glory of British progressive politics – was, Mason suggested, predicated on a meticulously planned, three-pronged attack on the Labour Movement and on all institutions that embodied the idea of class solidarity. Thatcherism's lightning offensive combined aggressive anti-trade union legislation, the creation of record levels of unemployment, and the systematic provocation and ignition of the industrial conflicts shown in Loach's Questions of Leadership. In one of the films in that series, a trade unionist suggests that the fighting unions were picked off, one by one, to prepare the ground for an assault on those that might "go for the throat," a comment he surely uttered with the National Union of Mineworkers, the Praetorian Guard of organised labour, in mind. Mason's analysis of Thatcherism's 'hit 'em fast, hit 'em hard' strategy is similar in many ways to the 'wham, wham, wham' process that Naomi Klein delineates in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
Interestingly, Stuart Hall, who coined the term 'Thatcherism', described 'the Strategy' of the new social regime in 1991, as follows: "Send in the Thatcherite shock troops, in three waves. The first in are the new echelon of managers who...function as the New Model Army. The second wave consists of business-people, who must be recruited into the governing strata...to educate public institutions into the mysteries of market calculation. It must be added that because the British business class is the most ill-educated, the least intellectually formed and the most deeply philistine governing class in the Western world, this ...is the equivalent of recruiting a whole generation of Benthamite simplifiers into positions of strategic power and influence. The third wave consists of the 'independent consultants', called in to advise on implementing 'efficiency' measures. They have the advantage of giving 'cuts' a veneer of legitimacy...These 'independent consultants' sometimes appear to have become an 'official' arm of the implementation of a market regime in every institution in the country."
Those who lived through the processes described by Mason and Stuart Hall, those times of accelerated social and political change, may now be instinctively bracing themselves for further shocks, as the pace of change threatens, once again, to sweep us all of our feet. It felt as though Mason were offering us a rare opportunity to pause for breath, marshal our thoughts, and look back at the havoc wrought by those decades. He deployed both personal anecdote and an array of charts, diagrams, images and statistics to paint a clear-sighted picture of that period of political defeat, demoralization, social disintegration, fragmentation and atomization. Using the manufacturing industry as his telling example, Mason recalled a time when, during summer breaks from study in Sheffield, he could return to his hometown, Leigh in Lancashire, and easily find work in one of the town's engineering plants, a latter-day Arthur Seaton.
Mason then produced some depressing statistics: in 1979, 7.1 million people were employed in manufacturing industry; in 1987, 5.1 million; in 1997, 4 million; by 2010, 2.1 million. As patterns of employment were transformed and unemployment rose to 4 million, trade union membership, which had been rising up until 1980, began to fall. A succession of privatizations and the sale of public housing created a new breed of working class Tory – a class of worker-buyers who identified with capitalism – and severed the ties of loyalty that bound large sections of the community to public institutions. As "pubs full of men were thrown out of work" and the deskilling of the working class continued unabated, rank and file trade unionists and community-minded citizens, those referred to by Mason as "conveyors of decency," were soon superseded by self-interested "wideboys" and the self-employed – the light infantry of Thatcherism. I haven't the stomach to recount what he said about the Major/Blair years, sufficient to say, the damage had been done and the new order established.
One of the most eloquent of the images Mason showed us was that of a 1999 map of England's 'Poverty wards'. It traced, with startling accuracy, the geographical contours of areas that had earlier mapped the nation's industrial strength. The 'every man for himself''/Jack's aboard' worldview that rushed into the social vacuum created by de-industrialisation came to predominate, as the beneficiaries of privatization increasingly came to represent more easily recognizable and 'realistic' role models, and as working class communities were taken over by organised crime and infiltrated by the emergent drugs culture. As if unwilling to allow maps and graphs alone to speak of and for people, Mason then offered an anecdote that spoke graphically of the distortion of those earlier forms of class solidarity that Thatcherism set out to destroy. While covering the growth of gang culture on Merseyside in the wake of the 2007 Rhys Jones shooting, he considered the deadly rivalry between competing gangs in Croxteth and Norris Green, between the "Crockies" and the "Nogsies." Many of those Mason interviewed spoke of the ready availability of guns locally. On a Norris Green council estate he came across a spontaneous demonstration of local women, many of who wore t-shirts dedicated to "A True Nogsy Soldier." New, less benign allegiances had replaced earlier political loyalties; new, more dangerous forms of community had replaced traditional, more cohesive ones. Acronyms sometimes work, as in the shift from ARPs to ASBOs.
The genius of Ken Loach's work, Mason felt, was that it captured those political processes in personal stories, notably in that of the character played by Ricky Tomlinson in Loach's Raining Stones (1993). Tomlinson was himself, of course, one of the Shrewsbury 24, and an active trade unionist during the period of self-confident working class militancy that preceded Thatcherism, and to which Thatcherism was partly an angry reaction. Tommy, the character he plays, seems typical of the self-respecting, decent working class individual now bewildered and confused by the new circumstances he finds himself in. As Paul Mason concluded his riveting presentation, we were left wondering what became of Tommy and his mates, and what became of those who fought alongside Ricky Tomlinson for justice and a very different form of change? In Mason's view, the Left's traditional tendency to regard eras of political struggle in terms of peaks, troughs and waves was flawed; there were, rather, "periods of extinction" in which whole movements were swept aside by history: the Chartists, the revolutionaries of the Paris Commune, the radical trade-unionists of the 70's. As sustained applause rained down on Mason, we were left counting the days to January, when Mason's next book, Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere is due to be published.
It can only have been with a sense of increased nervousness that the next two speakers, Dr. Claire Monk and Jonny Murray, took the floor to talk about representations of the working class in England and Scotland respectively. Claire Monk's recently published book, the tautologically titled Heritage Film Audiences: Period Films and Contemporary Audiences in the UK, continues her important work in that area and she has written widely on the socio-political contexts of contemporary British Cinema. Jonny Murray has written extensively on Scottish film culture, and his first book, Discomfort and Joy: The Cinema of Bill Forsyth, was published as the BFI's Loach retrospective began.
Paul Mason was a hard act to follow but Clair Monk, for reasons that escape me, whooped at being 'picked' to go next; perhaps she wanted to get it over with, more likely, she realised that her talk would chime nicely with Mason's. She began by asking whether Loach's films could be considered English in any meaningful way, pointing out that the only one of his films set in the South East of England was Riff-Raff (1991) and that Loach's recent films for cinema have been European co-productions with multiple funding sources. She reprised Mason's arguments about casualisation, de-unionisation, deregulation, privatisation, and the destruction of working class industries and communities. Focusing on It's a Free World... (2007), she noted how many of Loach's films feature migrant workers who have internalized a competitive system and the neo-liberal mindset. Citing Owen Jones' much-discussed book Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, she argued that Loach's work depicts a move away from class solidarity towards action taken by radical individuals. In Riff-Raff, for example, Tommy can talk to his colleagues about the importance of unions but they listen politely, without commitment. It is he who must act, burning down the building site on which he worded, as a political act of the last resort.
Jonny Murray reminded us of how many of Loach's films were made in Scotland, most recently, Ladybird, Ladybird (1994), Carla's Song (1996), My Name is Joe (1998), Sweet Sixteen (2002) and Ae Fond Kiss (2004). Loach made the four most recent of those films with Scottish scriptwriter Paul Laverty, who also worked with Loach on his contribution to the portmanteau film, Tickets (2005), which, while not set in Scotland, does centre on a group of Celtic fans travelling to Rome for a cup game (just as The Golden Vision (1968) centres on a group of Everton fans). That Tickets was made with Ermanno Olmi and Abbas Kiarostami seemed to affirm Loach's position among the contemporary greats, even if the project itself is no more coherent an example of a flawed form than, say, RoGoPaG (1963)) featuring Godard, Gregoretti, Pasolini and Rossellini. Considering Loach's influence on Scottish directors, Murray noted that the likes of Peter Mullan, Andrew McDonald and Lynne Ramsey have seemed to distance themselves from Loach; perhaps because of tendencies Murray alluded to later in his talk: "a turn against the political" and a sense that political engagement is now seen to be "in aesthetic bad taste." After contrasting 'real' and 'fake' representations of Scotland, and remarking on perceptions of Scotland as a colonized country, Murray ended by commenting on the influence of the Czech New Wave on Loach's work, for instance in the similarities between Milos Foreman's A Blonde in Love (1965) and Loach's Poor Cow (1967).
The first of two afternoon sessions saw two august film academics, Ian Christie and John Hill, consider internationalism in Loach's work, under the heading Representing Revolution (in Spain, Ireland and elsewhere). Unfortunately, I missed the first part of Ian Christie's talk, but am told that he essentially reprised his excellent Sight & Sound review of Land and Freedom (1995). He argued that, while the film's analysis of the Spanish Civil War follows that contained in Orwell's Homage to Catalonia closely (the social revolution is crushed by Stalinism as much as by Fascism), Loach, tellingly, looks at its history from the point of a working class International Brigade volunteer. Christie concluded by commenting on the positive implications of new digital technologies, which offered films, including Loach's, a second life and wider reach.
John Hill, having made a vital contribution to Film Studies with Sex, Class and Realism: British Cinema 1956-1963, has devoted much of his time to intensive study of Irish Cinema. He confessed that ever since he shifted his focus toward Irish cinema, he has tended to see the Irish wherever he looks within film culture. He had become increasingly struck by the emphasis in Loach's films on the fighting Irish, Irishness and the Celtic Catholic working class, an emphasis evident from The Big Flame (1969) through Hidden Agenda (1990) and Tickets, to The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006) – with the latter displaying an internationalism of funding, being financed from 21 different sources. Hill suggested that Loach's increasing internationalism echoed Benedict Anderson's sense of shared communities as "a deep horizontal comradeship," by prioritizing "horizontal identifications" over narrower, national "vertical identifications." He emphasised, as others did, the importance to the Left of Ireland, as the State's Achilles heel, and, Allende's Chile, as a beautiful model of popular power. Many of Loach's internationalist films, he said, display a revolutionary romanticism tinged with anarchist sensibilities. There is a strong strain of anti-authoritarianism in Loach's work, as well as an insistence on posing the question "What might have been"?
The day concluded with a panel discussion, chaired by John Hill on the theme of political cinema. This final session began with introductory comments from guests Paul Laverty, filmmakers Peter Kosminsky and Penny Woolcock, and Loach's longtime producer Rebecca O'Brien. When John Hill jokingly said that Paul Laverty had shown admirable restraint as the "eggheads" dissected his work, Laverty responded that they knew his films better he did himself and understood them better too. He then told a story that revealed much about definitions of political cinema. While in the States on a Fullbright Scholarship, he had once been on a panel with Philip Noyce, director of the Clear and Present Danger (1994), a mainstream CIA thriller starring Harrison Ford and adapted from a Tom Clancy novel. Unwilling and unable to restrain, himself Laverty had detailed a variety of CIA atrocities – in Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua and elsewhere – before bluntly challenging Noyce to explain himself. After Laverty's challenge was met with a stunned silence, Noyce said: "That's the trouble with you Europeans, you're too political." There seemed little left to say on the subject of political films after that instructive tale. As Laverty pointed out, here was a film that sanitized State sponsored terrorism, but, "That's entertainment. Our films are political." Laverty concluded by saying how appalled he was by the conditions he had witnessed when he worked his way down the country researching for It's a Free World... (2007). Among the strawberry pickers of Northern Scotland, the fruit pickers of Birmingham, and elsewhere he saw, as facts on the ground, the consequences of three decades of deregulation and neo-liberalism.
Returning to Laverty's earlier anecdote, Rebecca O'Brien insisted that Loach's films were entertaining and bemoaned the fact that by branding his work as "Political Cinema" his enemies pushed it into a closet, and almost warned the public off it. That approach frequently backfired on its exponents, as did the vitriolic, often personal criticisms often directed at Loach. When veteran critic Alexander Walker attacked Loach's Hidden Agenda after it picked up a Special Jury Prize at Cannes, he had unwittingly done wonders for the film's sales in Ireland, proving the old adage that "All publicity is good publicity." In fact, O'Brian said, the Irish had "adopted the film as their own," much as the Spanish had done with Land and Freedom, and it was gratifying when such films were absorbed into the life and cultures of other countries. Of course securing funding for such films is never easy. For example, it took six years to "sell" Bread and Roses (2000), with even friendly funding sources fighting shy of its subject matter. Despite this general resistance to films with political themes, she said, it remained easier to fund films from a variety of sources, an approach that also had the benefit of increasing the freedom Loach had to work unrestrained by the demands of backers.
Peter Kosminsky, who had been drawn to filmmaking by seeing Ken Loach's Days of Hope, wondered where the new filmmakers were coming from, and recognised that the space for political interventions had shrunk, particularly within television. Penny Woolcock complained of the difficulties of going into pre-production three or four times, and said that tenacity and stamina had become more important than talent. Although Kosminsky was under no illusions about the problems facing those wishing to make political films – "Everybody's hunkered down...we're crushed politically" – he also felt optimistic, partly because "The internet is about to put two fingers up to the Establishment." Penny Woolcock, too, was optimistic about the future, not least because "subjects are generous when they know they aren't being stitched up." She felt that, "The period of quiescence is at an end," and that "It is easier now...with cheap cameras. The form is being revolutionized." Paul Laverty might have spoken for all present when he said: "We must be subversive."
It had been a dizzying, fascinating day of discussion and ideas, but a final treat lay in store for those who attended. After the votes of thanks, we gathered in the NFT's Blue Room for the launch of John Hill's new book, Ken Loach: The Politics of Film and Television, published by the BFI. And who should be there to introduce the book, none other than Tony Garnett, who has collaborated with Ken Loach on films such as Cathy Come Home (1966), Kes (1969), Family Life (1971), Days of Hope (1975), and The Price of Coal (1977). A great day had been greatly enhanced by the presence of Tony Garnett and Paul Laverty. If I have a criticism of the event, it would be that little attempt was made to consider Loach from alternative critical perspectives. It is as if we are all so grateful to Loach for his films that we don't feel able to criticise him.
There was, certainly, a marked absence of any meaningful negative criticism of Loach's work. Although John Hill made passing reference to the Left's attack on Realism in the early '70s, the assumptions underpinning Loach's approach to politics and cinema remained uncontested. During an audience discussion, one participant mentioned Godard's dictum that the challenge for Socialist filmmakers was not how to make political films, but how to make films politically. Unfortunately, nobody picked that up and ran with it. Even if we set aside questions of politics and form, it would still have been interesting to consider ways of making film politically. We might, for instance, have compared Land and Freedom and The Wind That Shakes the Barley with earlier masterpieces of political cinema such as, say, Octavio Gentino and Fernando Solanas's The Hour of the Furnaces (1968), Patricio Guzman's The Battle of Chile (1975-79), or Chris Marker's A Grin Without a Cat (1978).
Marker's A Grin Without a Cat (1978) concludes with a moving credit and a reminder of the collective nature of filmmaking: "The true authors of this film are the countless cameramen, technical operators, witnesses and activists whose work is constantly pitted against that of the powers that be, who would like us to have no memory." That credit, particularly apposite in the context of Marker's film about the political victories and defeats of the '60s and 70s (Cuba, Chile, May '68, etc), later echoed in Milan Kundera's remark that "The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Throughout his work Ken Loach has, among other things, reminded people of their past while reflecting on present circumstances and pointing the way toward possible alternative futures.
In the unforgettable closing scene of A Grin Without a Cat, Marker cuts from an international arms fair to found footage of the culling of wolves by snipers in helicopters. It is a moving metaphor, a memorial to those free spirits who fought for liberty, equality and human solidarity. The film's final words are: "A comforting thought...some wolves still survive." Loach is one of Marker's wolves; a rare, untamed survivor, still roaming the plains of contemporary cinema, still bearing his teeth, still dangerous, still capable of going for the throat.