Paintwork is a short film directed by Alan Tabrett and Tim Maughan based on Tim Maughan’s short story of the same title. It’s set in a near-future Bristol, a city known for its graffiti scene (with Banksy as its most famous export), and observes the moments on a cold, wet night in which a graffiti artist called 3Cube resprays the QR code on a Coca Cola billboard to project a heightened view of the city’s tower blocks, and not the pin-up girl straddling a can of overpriced and over sweetened flavoured water.
In Paintwork’s press release and on its YouTube page the film’s debt to Chris Marker’s La Jetée is made clear and open. Paintwork is a photo-montage just like Marker’s film. It’s black and white too, and the film’s story is delivered to us by a narrator helping us to interpret the images on screen. In its presentation, Paintwork owes everything to La Jetée, and I don’t see that as a negative, because its recollection of what I consider to be one of the best science fiction films ever made transplants La Jetée’s form into a contemporary context.
When talking about Paintwork to an American acquaintance, he noted that the British have an obsession for near-future police states. I can only agree with him on this point. As a nation that’s never been invaded and have only been the invaders, we have developed a compulsive cultural desire to design futures where oppression is delivered by complex bureaucracies. See The East India Company and George Orwell’s 1984. Paintwork takes La Jetée’s form, discards its Gallic New Wave romanticism, and replaces it with damp British oppression.
Tabrett and Maughan’s film is also an observation of life in inner-city Britain in general. Another reason why our culture devotes so much time to depicting the moderately oppressive is because it still reflects what’s happening. In Britain 2013, police attention is focused on stamping steel-toe-capped boots on petty crimes of desperate poverty rather than corporate tax evasion or billion pound banking fraud schemes. And in Paintwork, the police are always patrolling, not in armoured personal carriers, but in blue and white diesel Vauxhalls. 3Cube has to work fast to stencil over Coca Cola’s protected billboard. The implication is that if she’s caught the punishment for her crime is excessive.
She succeeds in spraying her subversive stencil onto the billboard and the film ends after eight minutes without any change to 3Cube’s physical or physiological being. Paintwork is eight minutes of moody observation that doesn’t attempt to hard sell you a product, physical or ideological. In a sense it’s a disposable film: eight minutes that you’ll watch and probably forget about. But there’s also the chance that because its disposable, and not trying to convince you of anything, that you’ll watch, absorb, think about, then break apart, sample and remix it’s elements to create something new.