Go on I dare you. I double dare you. Go on, I dare you not to crack a smile when you watch this.
Sublime stuff from the best live-in-concert film ever – Stop Making Sense by The Talking Heads, directed by Jonathan Demme of Silence Of The Lambs fame. If you haven’t seen it, well you should, I’ve never known a recorded gig to be so captivating. David Byrne doesn’t let you ignore him.
Let him entertain you some more…
To some – call them capitalists, call them the driven, call them names – drifting is a plague. Something to be avoided. Health is motivation and direction. From this we progress. Drifters have holes is the wrong places. To be set adrift; just the phrase is like an unwelcome tickle to the soul. Schoolteachers and mothers are always plotting against the drifters.
Psycho-geographical drift is culturally heralded. Physical and mental wandering reveal that which may otherwise remain hidden, or rather buried beneath the white noise of life’s competing stimulants. Drift denies us the life-defying formulaic narrative of pop culture. Instead it gives us the the dream-like narrative that is a clearer reflection of our reality – beginnings and ends fade and blend into a fraying yet seamless tapestry. When you drift there is no destination but location is crucial. You may reach states or places that planning and structure will never find. Incremental moments long since greying are as relevant as any occupying rush of the present. Insignificant glimpses of your past appear as bursts of colour; forgotten clips re-appear as fireworks in your mind having gathered no dust in storage. Illumination bleaches your being before it too fades.
Drifting is calmness but drifting can be sadness. At once detached from the self and consumed by it, your insignificance is clearer as the existence of everything ever, both past and present, muddies egotistical belief.
Patrick Keiller’s film ‘London‘ brought this on.
Keiller’s film follows an imaginary protagonist, Robinson, around the capital in the early 90’s. Blurring documentary with fiction, the miserablist London on show here is almost unimaginable to any contemporary inhabitant. 1992, the Tories win again; London seems set for further decline. The invocation of dead French poets lend a mournful context to the city’s hopeless state. IRA bombs wreck the Thatcherite financial utopia – The City – in a flash, whilst socialist dreams of harmony tune out more gradually. Faded grandeur and the charm of decay strike tenderly through the gloom but this is a beautifully pessimistic series of walks through LDN. Recommended.
Keiller held a Q&A session at The Barbican after the screening last week. I really wanted to ask him what his favourite walk through London was. Sadly the director’s ability to answer a question is in tune with his meandering films. Only a few questions were put to him before our time was up and the moment was lost.
So what are your favourite walks in London? Or bus routes? Or cycle rides? Or vantage points ? For me you can’t beat a bridge at night on a bicycle. Let me know yours, I’d like to see for myself.
I dipped into the world of David Foster Wallace for the first time recently, boy its pretty deep. DFW was an American author of contemporary fiction who committed suicide last year. Here’s his mammoth article, E Unibus Pluram, on televisual dominance, irony and the future of modern fiction for your reading pleasure. You’ll need an hour or two combined with peace and quiet, and probably a dictionary, but it’s well worth the effort. If you want to start with something lighter then I suggest this stunning article about Roger Federer, a truly gladdening piece of literary sports journalism. If you really want to go deep then Infinite Jest is where it’s at…I’m still psyching myself up.
If you’re still a little daunted by volume of reading required then you could try the DFW experience via the medium of film. First-time director John Krasinki has attempted to film the unfilmable by adapting DFW’s collection of short stories Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. It’s out in the US this month so will hopefully be here soon. Here’s the trailer…
It’s been eight days now. It’s still not clear. Harmony Korine’s new film ‘Trash Humpers’ hit the London Film Festival Screen last Monday and my head is still fuzzy. Seventy-Eight minutes of VCR of actors made to look old in footage made to look found. No plot, cackling melting-faced degenerates, with buttocks too lithe for their wizened masks, larking about the suburbs at night looking for kicks amidst trash and booze, whilst repetitively singing an eerie nursery rhyme. I like recalcitrance. It makes feel less stoopid, stupid. If there is nothing to get then I haven’t missed anything. Sure one could dig for social commentary…the decayed nature of the VCR editing evokes a feeling that we have wasted our freedom…the use of elderly miscreants suggests that the older, numerically abundant, generation’s quest to live free has screwed the planet. Sometimes it hurts to pigeon hole the ridiculous. Interpret it yourself. I tend to think that Korine could be a great film-maker if is work to date – Kids, Julien Donkey-Boy and Gummo – is anything to go by. Trash Humpers is a stage of evolution in his career. One of those random stages that isn’t caused by need but more of a freak mutation that doesn’t really affect much initially and becomes the norm. Genetic drift. That sounds rather condescending but Korine is playful, he is experimenting, perhaps kicking out at the overly-processed nature of film-making through this essay on the short, the nihilist and the random. For me Korine deals in the search for Herzog’s ‘ecstatic truth’ and I’ll watch him wade through trash trying to find it. Not every day mind you, we all need a little narrative now and again.
Speaking of Herzog and narrative, I caught the showing of Nosferatu at the Old Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey on Halloween. Nosferatu is a classic vampire horror, the classic vampire horror, originally made by the German expressionist director Friedrich Murnau in 1921. Herzog created his homage in 1979. It was this homage that was selected to be the final screening in the V22 Herzog season which has been showing the director’s work across London during September and October. It’d be great to tell you that I’d really enjoyed the film. I’m going to moan though. Not because of my precious Werner but due to one of the worst film audiences I’ve ever encountered. Oh Lord I know I sound pretentious but the constant talking, sniggering and laughing ruined my appreciation of a wonderful looking interpretation. Perhaps Halloween and the mythic Nosferatu image brought out the wrong crowd. Not that I should ordain how fellow viewers interpret and enjoy a film but once you have laughed at the sight of Nosferatu or the slight melodrama of the script once or twice is it still laugh-out-loud funny every other time? As Jeremy says to Mark in Peep Show after being kept awake by a new Aussie housemate, ‘I just want to know, what’s so funny?’ The situation wasn’t helped by the fact the organisers couldn’t work or position the projector or that glass bottles bought from the bar rattled on the concrete floor every few minutes, or that the space was cold – physically cold – and, worst of all, had terrible acoustics. All of this meant the atmosphere was poisonous for concentration; I had to near meditate to engage with the film. A good idea poorly executed, and absolutely nothing to do with the very little sleep I had the night before. Nothing.
Adam Curtis, documentary film-maker for the BBC, has become a hero of mine. For me this is the zenith of storytelling. There is such a creeping wonder to his use of archive footage and quick edits to provide imagery for his narrative. Add to that stories that are spellbinding in themselves.
Check out the intro to his series of films, The Power of Nightmares. It’s hypnotic.