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Week 8: The Damned United [Mar. 24th, 2009|03:19 pm]
The Independent Film Forum


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At last a good film about football or a cinematic own goal? The next film up for discussion in The Independent Film Forum is The Damned United, adapted by Peter Morgan from David Peace's novel about Brian Clough's disastrous reign at Leeds United. Is old big 'ead an impersonation too far for Michael Sheen? Add your comments below and we'll print the best in the newspaper next week.

Here's a trailer...

The Independent's chief film reviewer Anthony Quinn, scored the film three out of five:

"This is the Life of Brian, and nobody else's. As such, it's never dull, and in many little details it's a back-of-the-net pleasure: I loved the moment Clough chests the ball, swivels and shoots while barely interrupting his latest monologue (Sheen was a useful footballer before he started acting) and there's a delightful sequence of him preparing the away team's dressing room, placing an orange – and an ashtray – by each player's towel. This scene has been rejected as inauthentic, but it feels right, and the laugh is irresistible. The mingling of contemporary match-footage and period recreation is also convincingly handled, even though I don't recall Tony Gubba commentating on quite so many football games as he does here.

What the film doesn't do is explain – anything. "I wouldn't say I'm the best manager in the country", Clough said famously, "but I'm in the top one". You could easily believe him, but you wouldn't understand why from watching this. And if he was the top one, how did he manage to fail so abjectly at Leeds? Damned if I know."

Here is what James Lawton, The Independent's Chief Sports Writer, had to say about the film:

"Those who go to watch the film will see the cars, the hair, the wallpaper and the clothes in a way that no novel can possibly deliver. They will see, too, another masterful performance by Michael Sheen who, after taking on the role of Tony Blair in The Queen and David Frost in Frost/Nixon, turns in an uncanny performance as Clough. And they will get to relive the tale of Clough's brief reign at Leeds, without doubt one of the most dramatic of sporting tales. Yet the most fascinating facet of this film is that it provokes a whole series of intriguing questions. They spring from the line trodden between fact and fiction, a line that has prompted Nigel Clough, Brian's son, to publicly state that he won't be among the many thousands who will flock to see this sure-fire blockbuster. "

What did you think of the film? Have your say below...


From: nellyd23
2009-03-25 06:41 pm (UTC)


First of all I haven't seen the film. However the novel did make me uncomfortable in the way it put words in the mouths of people still living. Now I haven't seen The Queen, but I can't imagine it portrays our monarch in a negative light. The Damned United on the other hand certainly paints a very raw and uncomfortable image of Brian Clough, especially for those close to him. Normally in a movie this wouldn't bother me. For example Il Divo, which I have seen, is spectacular. But surely Andreotti as a politician and a man of power and questionable morals demands attention from film makers and satirists. Andreotti's period in power was so weird and so eventful that you couldn't make some of that stuff up. Clough on the other hand, although exceptional and colourful, demands more respect than he gets in The Damned United. Now David Peace would tell us that the Damned United, like the Red Riding Quartet, is simply a version of the truth, but the problem is that now the book is a film and is in the local multiplex, it really is in the public domain and the public may start to think that the Clough portrayed by Mr Sheen is the real Clough and that is what is probably vexing the Clough family. I am a massive fan of David Peace, I just think the film had come a bit too soon.
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From: amitypd
2009-03-27 08:21 pm (UTC)

The Damned United.

I'm not sure why the previous poster considers a film to be in the public domain and a book not but that's by the by.
The problem with the film is that it's not The Damned United; it's a sanitized adaptation which ultimately should have been a straight Clough bio-pic (although the producers are indeed having their cake and eating it by astutely playing both ends of the controversy. )
David Peace's book - love it or hate it - was never intended to be a biography or verbatim account of actual events: it's even tagged as "An English Fairytale" and Peace himself describes it as "an occult history of Leeds United" (with "occult" taking its original meaning of "secret".) Therefore the book is IMO a fevered imagining of what Peace thinks was going through Brian Clough's mind, set against his signature portrayal of Yorkshire as being akin to hell on earth - where there's something essentialy evil in the very landscape. It's not supposed to be taken 100% literally. It's art! You wouldn't have a go at Francis Bacon because he didn't quite get the Pope's nose right would you?
And anyway, anything that pisses off Johnny Giles can't be all bad...
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From: nellyd23
2009-03-28 05:36 pm (UTC)

Re: The Damned United.

No it is not supposed to be taken literally, but the problem is that it will be by many. The point about the Pope is a good one but wasn't the Bacon painting of a Pope that had been dead for several hundred years? And I just don't get the point of the Johnny Giles reference. Didn't he have his dialogue from the 1st edition removed?
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[User Picture]From: totaldrwhofreak
2009-03-29 10:45 am (UTC)

The Damned United

I thought it was amazing.
Laugh out loud funny at some points and incredibly touching at others. Michael Sheen gives a stunning performance as Clough and i think it is a must see film for both football fans and non football fans alike. But i think it's important that it's not taken as complete fact - it's a factional film, not a documentary.
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From: fredtheshred
2009-04-17 09:09 am (UTC)

The Damned United

I saw Michael Sheen in The Queen and Frost/Nixon and he was very good at portraying the new Pope aka Tony Blair and David Frost too.
However in TDU I thought he just wasn't quite up to the sarcastic/acid tongued Brian Clough that we all loved/hated.
Michael was just a tad 'too nice' to carry Cloughie off as ol' big 'ed deserved.
I should know I was on the receiving end of a good thick lashing from Cloughie's tongue once and believe me it was not a nice experience.

Good all-round performances from the rest of the cast and Chesterfield's Saltergate ground never looked better. 8/10.
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