My evenings are short now that I am working elsewhere. The chores and tasks of existing do not vanish because you arrive home an hour and a half later in the evening, etc. There is the precious reading time to consider though. The first month of my commute has taken me through Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312, a Martin Beck novel, and I’m currently nearing the final quarter of The Breaks of the Game. Anyway, this post is a placeholder for something I want to write about later and do not want to forget about.
Jonathan McCalmont, of Ruthless Culture and Interzone, has been reviewing the films of Andrei Tarkovsky as part of the current reissuing of his films, so that mortals can actually see them. I managed to see three of them at the cinema: Stalker, The Sacrafice, and Solaris. It is Stalker which I wish to write about, since Jonathan has added a fine piece of the genre of criticism about and around the film Stalker in the form of his review for FilmJuice. It’s a good piece with plenty to think about. It’s shorter than Geoff Dyer’s Zona too. His post around it can be found here.
The placeholder of an idea is a question. Why do certain films (Stalker being a prime example) invite rewatching, reinterpreting, and replaying to a degree of intensity more fervent than written fiction, especially the shorter forms?
I have unverifiable theories. And I will probably end up citing my own reading and rereading of the stories found near the back of M. John Harrison’s Things that Never Happen.
Time to clean up cat litter and apply flea treatment to the mangy moggies.
I visited my local independent (and favourite) cinema, Phoenix Square, yesterday to see the recent Ben Wheatley film ‘A Field in England’. It is superb. The film critic Danny Leigh praised the film concisely by describing it as, “A head-spinning trip into the far corners of the English psyche.” As you can see from the poster above it also receives publicity worthy quotes from the director Nicolas Roeg (‘Walkabout‘, ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth‘). Which is appropriate as one of the films A Field in England reminded me of in its style and attitude was Roeg’s ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’.
‘A Field in England’ is as funny as it is weird and as horrific as it is beautiful. In the UK — and I suspect elsewhere — the film is available via all legitimate distribution channels, and almost certainly the less legitimate ones too. There are no excuses to miss seeing ‘A Field in England’ apart from your own apathy.
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.
Last night I watched Sans Soleil with Jenny. For a film essay on the nature of memory I think it appropriate that I remember little of its contents. This is 100 minutes of montage supposedly filmed by the cinematographer who’s letters are being read by a detached female narrator.
A day later I can only summon the repeated images of white cat statues found in a Japanese Shinto shrine and a second image of a woman in a Cape Verde market place. She wore a blue vest and peered into the camera.
I shall watch this again soon to make my impressions concrete. I am reminded of William Gibson’s 1992 digital poem Agrippa (a book of the dead). Something else to experience again and to meditate upon. Both are essays on memory that avoid a limitation written literature generally imposes on this subject. Words permanently inscribed on a page can be more readily scanned in an order free from the clock imposed by the forward momentum of frames or deletion. Agrippa and Sans Soleil ask you to forget.