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Saturday Night at the Movies

By Stewart Home.

Rude Boy features a lot of great footage of late-seventies Britain but also unfortunately way too much of rock bozos The Clash playing live. The conceit behind this is nice, the central character is a complete asshole called Ray Gange (who plays an almost fictional version of himself). The film starts with Nazi and anti-Nazi demonstrators taking to the streets of London. Then things move on to Gange who works in a sex shop but would like a job dry humping gear for his favorite rock band The Clash. He eventually gets the break and blows it because he’s always drunk and chasing women instead of concentrating on setting up and taking down the group’s equipment. Nobody likes Gange, who comes across as the original Trustafarian Railton Road flake hoping for a ride via The Clash to somewhere more exciting than his dull and aimless life (some hope eh?).

That said, you get some great shots of Gange walking thru Brixton Market (much better than the images of the same place in Patrick Keiller’s 1992 potboiler London). You also get to marvel at Joe Strummer’s teeth: drugs would seem to be about the only explanation as to how this over privileged
diplomat’s son ended up with his mush in such a shocking state… And despite his incredibly nobby family background, Strummer actually succeeds far better than Gange in his efforts to project himself as proletarian.

Leaving aside all the footage which shows just how decayed Britain was in the late-seventies, there are some extremely amusing moments to savour. The art critic and curator Lutz Becker (an expert on constructivism) makes a cameo appearance as a punter dressed in a white trench coat in Gange’s porn shop. Unfortunately he doesn’t have any lines (presumably so as not to give away the fact he ain’t a native Londoner). Liz Young – who went on to become a noted literary critic and is sadly no longer with us – appears as one of Ray Gange’s girlfriends and gives him a simulated blow job in a toilet. Oh, and if you look very carefully when The Clash come on stage at the 1978 Anti-Nazi League Carnival in Victoria Park in Hackney, you might just catch a glimpse of me in the audience.

I have to say that while I really liked the eponymous first Clash album, I thought the follow up Give Em Enough Rope was a heavy metal abomination. And unfortunately this film focuses on the period in which that was made, so its concert footage is really monotonous. Still it’s curious to watch the lighting rigs and PAs improve in size and quality as we follow the band in their desperate attempt to scramble up the music biz ladder. The Clash didn’t make their real breakthrough (America means money) until after this movie was wrapped, and their narcissism even as fledgling rock ‘stars’ is hilarious to watch. And even if you can’t put up with the tedium of watching The Clash live, just stick your finger on the fast forward button during the concert footage… and marvel at the onscreen parade of super-dumb sleazebags both in and around the group, not to mention some great footage of London in the late-seventies. Worth watching just to see how only The Clash could make the Sex Pistols appear credible.

First posted: Saturday, August 1st, 2009.

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