With the decision late last year towards the abolishment of the UK Film Council, a non-departmental body, that's purpose was to directly fund the production and development of British-based films, and to sustain an active and successful film industry and culture, the future of the UK's output has been brought into question. One director who's work has greatly benefited from funding by the UKFC is Shane Meadows, who's films Somers Town and This Is England have broken the Independent market, and into the mainstream, with the latter even enjoying a spin-off television series last year. Arguably the highest point of Meadow's career so far is the vastly overlooked 1997 drama Twenty Four Seven.
The film, set in a Thatcheresque, working-class town, follows Alan Darcy (Bob Hoskins) as he recruits the local youths into his boxing club, in an attempt to steer them away from criminal behavior, and engage them in something they can be passionate about. This in turn merges the rival gangs together, injecting self-respect into their empty lives, but as the day of the tournament quickly approaches, the stress of home-life, drug abuse and other such realities, come to an almighty climax. Twenty Four Seven seemingly lends alot to Tony Richardson's 1962 British classic The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, not only in it's subject matter which merges a grim view of working-class England, and it's class consciousness, with youth rebellion and escapism, but in it's bold black and white imagery, that became popular in the late 50's/early 60's during the British New Wave trend.
Twenty Four Seven is often paralleled to Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, with it's similar black and white aesthetic, and dramatic content, but whereas Scorsese's picture deals more with the contrast of life in and out of the ring, Twenty Four Seven's use of boxing as a driving force behind the plot is more expendable, choosing to focus upon character development and interaction, more so than any scenes of fighting. A scene in particular, in which Hoskins Waltz's with his aunt to The Blue Danube in a social club is easily comparable to a Raging Bull fight sequence, with it's use of classical music, and razor-sharp editing.
As most director's careers develop, the output of their films tend to lose the originality of their first several features, whether that be due to studio interference or any other means, Shane Meadows is one director who's releases have retained a unique style and voice throughout his career, and whilst the allure of Hollywood and a mainstream audience may not appeal to him unlike some British directors (Micheal Winterbottom, Danny Boyle, Guy Ritchie to name a few) Meadows joins the ranks of Mike Leigh, Andrea Arnold and Ken Loach, as one of the most exciting and original UK directors working today.
words by danny walker.