A trailer for Brighton Rock has arrived online. Remake, reimagining – whatever you choose to call it, director Rowan Joffe’s new vision sees the 1938 crime novel by Graham Greene updated to the 1960s. This means Mods, Rockers, skinny suits and selvedge turn-ups. Thankfully this two minute preview does not run away with the notion.
The Brighton Rock we all know and love was made in 1947, directed by John Boulting and starred Richard Attenborough as vicious local hood Pinkie Brown. Now we have Rowan Joffe (writer of The American) and Sam Riley (Franklyn, Control) in their place. Graham Greene’s book is a grim morality tale set against the backdrop of costal gang violence in post-War Britain. Boulting’s version is a noir classic with a memorable ending (co-scriptwriter Greene’s invention) that chills on every viewing.
It is impossible to deduce from two minutes what Joffe, Riley and co have brought to the table, though a change in period is a smart idea. Tensions between spotless Mods and leather clad Teddy Boy descendent Rockers during the mid-sixties culminated in several full scale battles on the beaches of Brighton. These well documented, very violent clashes will no doubt play at least some part in the updated narrative.
Costume design for Brighton Rock is by Julian Day (The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Control). Judging by this snippet he looks to have reigned in the more obvious period signifiers like mini-skirts and hip-huggers for a grittier, more realistic feel. Squint and you might even think it is the 1930s.
Andrea Riseborough as Pinkie’s manipulated alibi Rose is especially restrained in shapeless coats that establish her character as someone who respects the elements above fashion. Helen Mirren brings a touch of aged but impeccable glamour. Her more evocative outfits disclose just enough to be sexy and dangerous.
The movie will also feature Mod favourite John Smedley knitwear, e.g. their classic short sleeve polo shirt and merino wool ‘Buttercup’ cardigan, presumably worn by Riley, though you will find little evidence of either garment in this trailer. Moreover for men of a certain age, the sixties was a time of turn-down soft collar shirts, ‘smother’ style overcoats or reefers and trilby hats. Eventually, however, the young would own the decade for posterity.
Concentrate and you will spy one shot of Pinkie laying his slim three button suit out as a badge of honour, along with a quick flash of mass (unadorned) green parkas on scooters. This is not Quadrophenia, although look out for one of the stars of that film, Phil Davis, making a welcome appearance. Brighton Rock is bleak and cold. For many, of course, this will be the only sixties they remember. Not everyone was shopping at Biba or Lord John. Some were just getting by.
Brighton Rock, also starring John Hurt and Andy Serkis, was shown as the ‘Surprise’ film at this year’s BFI London Film Festival. It is released nationwide in the UK on 4th February.
© 2010 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.