In 1980 Jack Hazan’s Rude Boy captured visuals of a time, a place, a movement, and legendary UK band The Clash provided the soundtrack.
Towards the tail end of the first punk wave in the late 1970s, Jack Hazan and David Mingay directed what was to become one of the most significant British films on the punk movement. Released in 1980 and heavily featuring the band The Clash, the brash, bold fictional documentary was loved by fans and hated by critics much like the music it depicted.
The film follows the story of the fictional character Ray Grange, a young Clash fan who leaves his dead-end job working in Soho, London, to become a roadie for The Clash. The film features a number of the band’s gigs and concerts and some intimate scenes during studio recording sessions of the band’s album, Give ’Em Enough Rope. This juxtaposition between fiction and reality, set in London during a very turbulent period, makes this project particularly special being a powerful portrait of the United Kingdom during the late 1970’s that other contemporary films failed, or even dared to capture.
Video-on-demand platforms have fast become the standard for how people consume content, which has created a demand for the restoration and remastering of older, rarer titles.
Services like Mubi have carved their market within the VOD sphere, having specialised in hand-picked auteur cinema, becoming the home for independent movies and restored classics, emphasising quality over quantity. There has also been a resurgence of titles undergoing restoration for theatrical re-release and film festivals.
With this current drive to preserve & restore significant projects from the past, Mark Rance of Watchmaker Films, a London-based distribution, and restoration company, was approached by Jack Hazan to do a complete 4K restoration of Rude Boy (1980) and to make it ready for modern VOD and DCP distribution.
WHAT’S MY NAME
Watchmaker Films has completed many high-quality restoration projects in the past, including other films by director Jack Hazan such as Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris (1970) and the semi-fictionalised documentary biopic of British artist David Hockney, A Bigger Splash (1974). Watchmaker films are also responsible for restoring and distributing legendary director Tobe Hooper’s first-ever feature film project Eggshells (1969), Eagle Pennell’s two features, The Whole Shootin’ Match, and Last Night at the Alamo, and a restoration of the historically significant original vampire film Nosferatu (1922).
Watchmaker Films is dedicated to giving a voice and platform to projects that otherwise would have been lost to time as the cost and availability of restoration, and digital preservation has until now been dictated too much by larger facilities. My goal is to work as efficiently as possible and to make it possible to restore films that would otherwise not be restored simply because it would have cost too much.
With quite the back-catalogue of accomplished work, Watchmaker Films was undoubtedly the right choice for taking on the challenge of Rude Boy.
OVERPOWERED BY FUNK
Like with many films selected for restoration, it’s hard to know what you are dealing with until you look at the film elements themselves. Rude Boy presented an array of issues, not least the stock film stock itself.
I used my partnership with the University of Westminster to scan the negative at 5K 16bit on a Lasergraphics scanner with an emphasis on bit depth, in order to recover as much detail and latitude from the film elements as possible.
Mark found 5247 to be a mediocre negative for restoration purposes finding it generally thin and lacking the desired latitude.
In general the negative had started to shift and was losing its original color. Jack, also the cameraman on the film, had pushed several scenes 1–2 stops making the negative fall apart rather quickly.
Most of the defects Mark encountered were typical lab damage — dirt, conformers glue dripping into a shot, nicks in the negative, and scene-long scratches (thought to be camera scratches but possibly generated in the poor handling of the film in the lab). Additionally, some extra damage to the neg came from lifting frames and messing up the surrounding area.
Despite these issues, the film elements still had vast amounts of detail to offer.
COOL UNDER HEAT
Films like Rude Boy are a testament to the quality of the physical medium of film itself, having been pushed to its very limits in available lighting conditions in an environment that would make a modern digital cinema camera wince.
The tendency these days is to not only restore a film but to make it conform to the aesthetic of modern cinema, which would be totally against the ethos of Rude Boy’s here ‘I am, take it or leave it’ spirit. Mark understands the pressure to get this right.
Marks primary concern was to address any defects which, if left in the film, would immediately pull all but the diehard Clash fans out of the experience, which was a huge undertaking. Handling a 5K feature film is hard work for any company, let alone a dedicated individual working on their own. This is without adding a tight deadline and 40 years’ worth of wear and tear on the film elements into the equation.
Despite the daunting task Mark, like The Clash themselves, battled on in the face of adversity. Fortunately, there was help at hand.
I used PFClean as a Swiss army knife to first establish the base of the film in the Digital Wet Gate (grain structure and essential cleaning), followed by more intense frame-by-frame cleanup using the Workbench, and finally remastering using the Remaster toolset.
This approach consolidated many tasks that previously would have involved a considerable amount of data wrangling.
My main concern was having enough time to focus on tackling some of the finer artistic work that the film required. PFClean made that possible. Scene by scene, I made further adjustments to get what I remember as a working cameraman in the late 70s and 80s to be the quality of color, density, and grain structure of prints you would expect from the Kodak 5247/7247 family of negative, internegative and print stocks. This was particularly important in the scenes where the stock had been pushed.
PFClean’s workflow enabled Mark to work flexibly and efficiently, allowing him to revisit shots that failed his stringent QC standards, tweak them, then re-insert them into the master DPX unhindered.
The restoration process took approximately 4 weeks. That’s one operator, who is also the colorist, on a single workstation.
The scale, speed, and quality of what Mark has managed to achieve single-handedly using moderate hardware is a testament to what can be achieved in PFClean, even as a sole operator.
THE CALL UP
Mark is experienced with the film festival circuit and, over the years, has prepared and delivered many restoration projects, including some of director Jack Hazan’s previous works to multiple festivals in the United States and around the world.
The restoration of Rude Boy was done with the supervision and agreement of the director and cameraman, Jack Hazan, he believes we have a “print” that exceeds the quality of the original. There is more detail, the blacks are richer and the pushed stock is married into the film as a whole, making it a seamless insert.
It is particularly fitting that Rude Boy has been officially selected for the 59th New York Film festival as New York is considered the very birthplace of the punk movement and a significant influence on The Clash’s later work.
Many thanks to Mark Rance from Watchmaker films
Rude Boy (1980) Directed by Jack Hazan and David Mingay
Restored and remastered using The Pixel Farm’s PFClean by Watchmaker films
Scanning by the University of Westminster
Audio remastered by Matt Bainbridge
Watchmaker Films on Mubi