askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
2016-01-25 12:03 am
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David Bowie Is...Dying

Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (1983)

Jack Celliers: "What a funny face. Beautiful eyes..."

There are a number of reasons I didn't watch this to write a review last time I rewatched all my Bowie movies.  The biggest being: this film is brutal.  

Before I put it on again I ran through, in my mind, all the other prisoner of war movies I'd watched. I decided A Town Like Alice was worse because of the crucifixtion.  Upon watching Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, I've revised that opinion. A Town Like Alice is a hard watch but it offers you something, right at the end; redemption. Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence offers no such concessions. It is an unflinching, critical, damning representation of war.

Everyone is brutalised. Everyone loses their minds. Everyone is lesser for war.  Everyone loses.

Against such a backdrop it feels almost trite to talk about the acting. But I will plough on regardless.

David Bowie isn't the star of the show. The stars, the backs upon whom the movie is carried, are Hara and the titular Lawrence. But I do think Bowie is perfectly cast for the repressed, guilty, self-destrcutive, honorable, uncompromising, Celliers. He is a madman in a world of manmen so it doesn't show. He is flamboyantly and quietly resistant.  I think it may be the best cast and best acted of all of Bowie's roles. Save, perhaps, for Labyrinth.

I understand Bowie was cast on the strength of his performance in The Elephant Man, which I feel gives him a quiet confidence in his abilties. Even the mime scene (because there has to be a bit of Bowie in there somewhere) is appropriate, proportional.  Bowie's character's death loses none of its horror with time. Again, I think Bowie acts those scenes of his 'crime' and death exceptionaly well. Blunt, almost numb. But direct.  I remember distinctly the first time I watched this movie I was in absolute disbelief that they could kill David Bowie, of all people, off so easily.  Some roundabout irony there, perhaps, to my reaction just 2 weeks ago.

The dud note - and again it seems there must always be one of those - is, for me, the decision to use the 36 year old Bowie to play his past 16 or 17 year old self.  Yes, this is Bowie - no, he does not look 36. But does he look 17? Not on your life. The whole flashback section is badly done but it does provide a visual relief from the desaturated nightmare that is the POW camp.  Finally, there's the lingering inconsistency of Celliers being Australian by birth and upbringing, along with a dodgy but not overdone accent up to the age of 17. And then the adult Celliers we meet at the beginning of the film apparently being cockney and in the British army, despite wearing an Australian army hat. BUT ANYWAY.

I must look up Bowie's comments on this role because it is such a big departure from what came before (although perhaps Celliers resignation to his fate does echo that of Thomas Jerome Newton) and it is, in my opinion, such a close study. I'd be interested too, to know what interaction if any he had with fellow actor and musician Ryúichi Sakamoto, who wrote the film's beautiful score.

All in all? A carefully made, and heart wrenchingly direct representation of life at a POW camp. This film is hard going, but Bowie and more make it worthwhile.

askygoneonfire: David Bowie as the Thin White Duke (Thin White Duke)
2016-01-16 09:21 pm
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David Bowie Is...A Gigolo

Just a Gigolo (1978)

Cilly: "They used to call me the child prodigy of the revolution, but the revolution was a little slow in coming so I moved on."
Paul: "Yes, that seems to be my problem"


Judging by the section on reception on wikipedia, the score on Rotten Tomatoes, and the summing up on Film 4, I might be the only person in the world who likes this film.

I'm not sure why.  It's funny!  It's a really quiet, dry, funny, but funny all the same.   For crying out loud, David Bowie is carrying a pig around, arguing with people about whether or not he is dead for the first 20 minutes! 

Some reviews suggest the film couldn't decide what it was but I think it knows quite well. It's a black comedy on the interwar period in Berlin; capturing the listlessness and vague sense of fatalism which inflected the actions and spirit of Berliners at the time.  Perhaps it's because it so quickly reminded me of Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin that I was so open to it.  It also evoked something of Jason Lute's City of Stones for me.  And, of course, Cabaret; fundamentally different from Cabaret of course, but it felt like you had walked round the corner from Sally Bowles' club and stumbled on a whole new story.  Whatever the cause of my susceptibility, I enjoyed it.  

I liked that it was broadly pessimistic. Such subject matter must be bleak.  And that bleakness comes through in the slightly anarchic, offbeat style.  

I liked that it poked fun at the Nazis as disorganised and stupid.  I liked the quiet, wry comment of the conclusion. I liked that Bowie's character was vaguely tragic and also utterly self-indulgent. I liked it.

As I said in my last post, all David Bowie movies need a bit of sex, lingering shots of his delicate features, and an off beat character.  Based on that criteria alone, it is a roaring success.  There are issues though. Marlene Dietrich's refusal to return to Berlin, filming all her shots in Paris and then having them pasted into the film, actually shows. There are bizarre pauses in the 'conversation' between her and Bowie when she recruits him as a gigolo.  And, frankly, there isn't enough sex. In fact, the idea Bowie really is a gigolo is something of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it plot point. It's all a nod and a wink instead of a fumble and a gasp. 

All in all, I thought it rather fun, rather knowing, rather silly and rather wonderful.
askygoneonfire: David Bowie in profile with a hat (Bowie Man Who)
2016-01-15 09:29 pm
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David Bowie Is...Hungry

The Hunger (1983)

It struck me, as I popped yet another David Bowie dvd into the player, that I never concluded the series of blog posts on them.

Tonight I watched The Hunger for the first time.

As David Bowie movies go, it fulfils the key requirements; a number of lingering shots playing over his beautiful features, a bit of sex, a somehow inhuman, or superhuman character. Unfortunately, he's only in it for about 40 minutes and only recognisable for about 20.

The Hunger is a curious film. To all intents and purposes, it's a well made (if you can ignore the monkey murder), engaging gothic-thriller-mystery for the first 20 minutes. Then, as the "make up illusions" (so claimed in the opening credits) begin to emerge it all goes rather downhill. Fast.

There's a brief reprise in the form of a reasonable lesbian sex scene, with Susan Sarandon looking the best she ever has. Then it gets....weird.  It's somehow a low budget vampire flick with hammy acting and inexplicable plotting, and also a big-name-star erotic thriller with a pleasingly open (and also absurd) ending.  

The use of "special" effects is...well. I want to say comendable. Because anyone brave enough to use such low quality fake blood so unconvincingly must be applauded for their efforts.

But what to celebrate? As so often with Bowie films, it's the smaller moments that make this film worth sitting through.  The beautiful scene with Bowie playing cello feels like it was lifted from a high end drama (incidentally, that's the clip they chose to loop at David Bowie Is in the screenign room). The moment as he lays awake in the dawn light and the camera plays across his fragile, wonderfully androgynous features: and he looks tired, and happy, and sad.  The very real lust which plays across his face as he undresses the girl from the club and cracks his tongue up her body.

That bit gives me dirty, filthy, longing shivers.  

Like so many other Bowie films, he gives his all to utterly implausible plots and badly executed screenplays, and shines in moments, just moments, which never get joined up into the tour de force he deserved.  The Man Who Fell to Earth comes closest, and I do love that film more with age, but Candy bloody Clarke is never going to disappear from that film, so sadly, it will never achieve what it should or could have.  Much like The Hunger.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
2013-04-07 07:52 pm
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David Bowie Is...Fabulous

Basquiat (1996)

Everybody wants to get on the Van Gogh boat. There's no trip so horrible that someone won't take it. The idea of the unrecognized genius slaving away in a garot is deliciously foolish one. We must credit the life of Vincent Van Gogh for really sending this myth into orbit. I mean, how many pictures did he sell, one? He couldn't give them away. He has to be the most modern artist, but everybody hated him. He was so ashamed of his life that the rest of our history will be contribution to Van Gogh's neglect. No one wants to be part of a generation that ignores another like Van Gogh. - 'Rene' in Basquiat.
 
I only became aware of Jean-Michel Basquiat as a result watching this film because of what I'm calling the 'David Bowie factor'. Since then I have encountered some Basquiat paintings in the Tate Modern.  I'm not a fan but it's hard not to be moved and engaged by his work.

Watching the film today was only my third viewing; a big problem of this film for me is that Basquiat is a hard character to like. The film itself launches with a heavy art-house style but quickly abandons this style which is both disorientating and inexplicable; it's as though the director couldn't work out how to tell the story and maintain an impressionistic style so he did one and then the other. It's at the point the storytelling style shifts that you begin to connect to Basquiat but I fear rather a lot is lost in the intervening period. To say Basquiat's work has been hailed as speaking about and against racism, power structures, class, and was generally understood as social commentary, it's hard to explain why none of that is conveyed in the characterisation or speech of Basquiat. Ironically, I fear the filmmakers just made a movie about "a black painter who died", missing completely the content and form of his life and work.

Bowie comes in late and doesn't have a huge amount of screen time, however, I think it's one of his best performances. He produces a very believable humanity in his portrayal of Warhol that allows us to connect to Basquiat - and believe that Basquiat could find something in him to connect with. Bowie's performance is fully formed, textured, and delivered with a gentle, warm humour. In many ways, it is all the things that the character[isation] of Basquiat is not.

Interestingly, to me at least, this is the third Bowie film I've reviewed which references Kabuki theatre (Cracked Actor, The Man Who Fell to Earth being the other two).

'A Small Plot of Land', a track from the Outside album, features quite beautifully in one scene and demonstrates Bowie's versatility as an artist and the emotional clout his songs can deliver.

Basquiat is not a 'must-see' but there are moments of real beauty and strikingly good acting from Bowie so worth adding to your list.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
2013-04-06 08:26 pm
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David Bowie Is...Cracking Up

Cracked Actor (1975)

I wasn't originally going to include Cracked Actor in my rewatch because I was sticking to cinematic releases but then I found out there was going to be a showing at the V&A with a Q&A with Alan Yentob (the director).  I also didn't plan to go the the screening, but after a farcically bad Friday I impulse bought train tickets and screening ticket and hoped on the next train to London.

After a brief introduction from the V&As head of Adult Learning which included frequent uses of "amazing" and Alan Yentob very quickly telling us how the film came to be made, the lights went down and the film went up.

I've seen Cracked Actor before - once on YouTube a few years ago, and once on BBC1 - on Thursday night! In both previous viewings I was struck by Bowie's isolation and incoherence, I expected to experience this viewing in the same way, but something Yentob said before we began niggled; he told us that this was his second ever film, his first had been taking a "very genial actor" and making a satirical documentary about him which treated him as a Very Serious Actor and Artiste.  Yentob told us that Bowie had seen this and requested Yentob as his filmmaker.  Could it be, I wondered, that this documentary, held up as [at least part] inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap have been the original mockumentary?  Bowie has always been in control of his image and how he is represented and until now, Cracked Actor seemed a peculiar exception but what if he recognised his bizarre life, and own mental state for what it was, and gave Yentob only what he chose to?  

For the first time, Bowie's comments on the fly in his milk, and being in the back of an accelerating car, seemed both honest, coherent, and wilfully pretentious.  I'm still on the fence about the intention - and self-awareness - behind the wax museum comments, but my third viewing of Cracked Actor left me with a decidedly different impression of that time.  Remember too, that despite ingesting an enormous amount of cocaine in this period, Bowie still managed to make Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station to Station, and most - if not all - of Low, as well as acting so wonderfully in The Man Who Fell to Earth.  He was nothing, if not functional.

The Q&A was introduced by the 'David Bowie Is' exhibition's curator, the lucky bugger who got to physically enter David Bowie's personal archive and see all that stuff*.  We learnt from Yentob that the scene early in the film of David having a cast made of his face was something that he asked David to do.  He says that Bowie agreeing to do it showed that he trusted him and then banged on about it so much that I began to feel very uncomfortable with it - it was as though Yentob required Bowie to prostrate himself to Yentob as God/Messiah/Filmmaker before Yentob would make the film.  Given Bowie was being roundly ripped off by his manager at the time, it felt a little like Yentob was cheerfully positioning himself as yet another controlling force in Bowie's life at that time.  The fact Yentob continually called David Bowie, 'Bowie' and not 'David', as one would expect of someone who was supposedly friends with, and in a position of trust with the man for 6 months, and generally came across as an arrogant prick makes me feel very disinclined to believe he was quite so genial and passive in his filmmaking as you might imagine.

There were a number of questions from the audience that Yentob completely failed to answer, preferring instead to tell us a meandering story which allowed him to name drop some more (did you know he was good friends with Kubrick? Mick Jagger? Duncan Jones? Kate Moss? Nick Roeg? etc etc).  A few interesting facts that did emerge were that, in the scene where Bowie is singing along to Aretha Franklin in the back of the limo, the girl sitting on the floor in front of him is Coco Schwab! I was surprised, she didn't look at all like I imagined.  It also adds more fuel to my little fire of "Bowie was not as isolated or out of control as he looks" because Coco has been a constant and loyal companion with, everyone agrees, great integrity.

As many people know, Cracked Actor was to be called "The Collector" but Yentob felt by the time of release - and indeed even during filming - that Cracked Actor was more appropriate.  Interestingly, Bowie has since spoken of watching that documentary to remember a period that's a little hazy to him.  More interestingly still, Yentob suggested that Bowie was planning, during that period, to disentangle himself from manager and management company and was consciously choosing to document this period - to collect his own history and moment just as it was ending.  The very existence of the 'David Bowie Is' exhibition is evidence of Bowie's own self-archiving and the rarity of rock-umentaries at this time does lend credence to the idea that Bowie was up to something deliberate in asking for the documentary be made.

I know some people speculated on twitter on Thursday that footage of the entire concert at the Universal City Amphitheatre exists in the BBC archive, Yentob, sadly, confirmed this was not the case.  He said he went looking for it some years ago and it's either been deleted or stolen.  Hopefully, it was rescued from deletion by a light fingered Bowie-fan archive-worker and still exists out there somewhere!

I'd really like to see Cracked Actor a fourth time now, no doubt it is still available on YouTube so I will be able, but I'll give it some time to let the above reflections sink in.  If you haven't seen it, it is a fascinating film of its moment - however you feel about Bowie - and worth a watch.  If you have seen it, I'd love to know what you think about the new (to me) angles and considerations of Yentob's apparent attempts to exert control over Bowie, and Bowie's role in the film being made.



*Apparently, as well as having to have the mannequins at the exhibition hand carved because Bowie's frame was so tiny, they found the mask that Yentob got [forced] David to have made, so the mannequins all have David Bowie's actual face on, as imprinted and transferred from that mask!

 


askygoneonfire: David Bowie in profile with a hat (Bowie Man Who)
2013-04-02 09:03 pm
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David Bowie Is...Falling

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)


In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
 - Auden, Musee des Beaux Arts

The older I get, the more I like The Man Who Fell to Earth. I don't know if it you have to chip away at your subconscious with it, or if as I see more of life, I can make stronger connections with Thomas Jerome Newton and his feelings of dislocation, alienation, paranoia, fear, apathy...

The Man Who Fell to Earth is beautifully shot; breathtakingly so at times.  From the grey barren landscape that seems to split apart as Bowie drops his hood and we get the first flash of his ginger hair in the first scene, to the long landscapes around the shack Bowie makes his home after World Enterprises' assets are seized; there is something epic in this film which is never fully realised and I don't believe I've ever seen mentioned in reviews.

Continuity errors are rife.  The most significant of them caused by Bowie reducing the quantity of cocaine he was taking and, as a consequence, eating more than red peppers and milk which causes his weight to appear to fluctuate from scene to scene. The prosthetics for the 'alien' scenes (and aging up Mary Lou - a most hated practice in any film) are all terrible and have dated horribly but the emotions behind the story carry the film through.

I really love the scene which culminated in him turning on a wall of tvs, and progresses from delighted to overwhelmed by the cacophony of images (and I deliberately misuse cacophony) screaming "get out of my mind!".  There's so much there, in that short scene, to do with media culture and being overwhelmed and seduced, and trapped all at once and it's every bit as relevant now as it ever was.

Music makes a film.  Bowie wrote a score for the film and charged the studio a small amount to use it, which they refused to pay, so Bowie refused to let them use it and later released it/most of it/some form of it as Low.  Whenever I listen to that album I try and mentally fit it in the pieces to the film.  Sometimes I think the real score for The Man Who Fell to Earth misses the mark; it's certainly an interesting 'what if'.

Overall though? As I get older I really respect this film.  Bowie's performance is genuinely exceptional.  If you haven't, you should take the 2 and a bit hours to watch it - just don't focus on Candy Clarke's cloying performance too much.


Further reading:
Bits of trivia and links a plenty on Wikipedia
More trivia and an overview of how, when and what here.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
2013-03-31 07:56 pm
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David Bowie Is....Jareth

Yesterday I went to the V&A for the David Bowie Is exhibition.  I bought my tickets in September when the exhibition was first announced and I'm not even a little bit surprised it has given the V&A the biggest pre-sales ever.  

The second half of the exhibition was my favourite, where things were more firmly divided and there was a room dedicated to the Berlin years (including some of David Bowie original paintings!!!), a video room with 3 walls of enormous projections of live performances, and a room dedicated to Bowie's acting career - with a selection of clips running on a loop.  This included a clip from his stage performance of the critically acclaimed The Elephant Man which was really moving and makes me inclined to write to the BBC (the clip was credited to the BBC archive) and beg them to release it on DVD. (you can see the same clip here from 2:11)  There was also a clip from Bowie's first Art School-esq film which was delightful.

Everything else on the loop, except The Prestige, I've seen, multiple times.  So, I've ordered The Prestige on DVD and I'm rewatching everything else.  Starting with the first Bowie movie I ever watched; Labyrinth.

Labyrinth (1986)

The opening credits take me right back to my first ever viewing; laying on the floor of my friend's living room at a pajama party.  Being absolutely mesmerised by the (now looking very low tech CGI) flying owl and captivated from the off by the music.  Refusing to go home at 8pm, choosing instead to remain glued to the screen until the end of the film.

And then, just as we're warming to Sarah for hating babies (an impassioned position I continue to occupy to this day with a few exceptions allowed over the years for family and friend's babies) there he is, all glitter and eyeliner.  I don't remember being afraid of Jareth; he's surely the most non-threatening of baddies.  More accurately I remember being then, as now, mesmerised.  The crystal manipulation (famously done by a man standing behind Bowie with his arms under Bowie's armpits) remains a delightful trick and, as with many Henson productions, maintains its magic years later thanks to the simplicity of the visual.

Like so many family films of the 80s, there's a lot of cheeky stuff and more than a few lines that would be considered inappropriate - if only because of use of words they just don't allow anymore (see also: Back to the Future and the use of 'shit')  I like that the DVD copy has decent enough audio that the you can understand some of what the goblins who turn over the stones in the maze, things like "You're mother is a fragging aardvark!" always make me laugh.  Concluding with some cracking crotch shots, the beautiful Escher room scene (which involved some crazy ass harnesses for walking around 180 degrees which can be viewing in making of documentaries, if your copy is so endowed) and, of course, the soundtrack there is so much to love about Labyrinth.

There's a lot in Labyrinth I've more or less been chasing since I first saw it; a Ludo to call my own, a flamboyant and gorgeous wardrobe, David Bowie promising to be my slave if I love him and fear him.....usual stuff.  I also admitted to the friend (who wasn't a Bowie fan) who I went to the V&A with yesterday that I've been waiting for 4 years for someone to have a fancy dress party so I can go as Jareth; I think perhaps my 29th birthday this year might be the moment if a fancy dress party doesn't happen before then.

Like many of my peers, Labyrinth is a seminal film for me and continues to be in the hard repeat section of my DVD collection; again, as with many of my peers it even taught me a few things - the meaning of oubliette was recently a BBC quiz show answer which caused twitter to erupt in Labyrinth triumph.  I recently bought The Complete David Bowie by Nicholas Pegg which laments Labyrinth as a joke in an otherwise faultless career, which alienated fans at the time.  What Pegg neglects to consider is how many people, like me, grew up with Labyrinth and came to Bowie, if only partially*, through it.



*My first Bowie memory is around age 5 or 6, playing with my brother's hand-me-down 70s space station Lego, singing "Ground control to Major Tom, commencing countdown, engines on, check ignition....."  Obviously my first Bowie experience was much before then as I'd learnt the lyrics to Space Oddity, but yeah, he get's stuck in your head doesn't he? He's been in my head my whole life.  How wonderful.

askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
2011-01-17 09:49 pm
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30 days of...day 13 and 14

Name 3 hugely popular movies that you've never seen.
1. The Godfather Trilogy - I really want to watch it but I hesitate on two counts; what if I don't like it? and; it requires effort and a three-movie-commitment. I'm just not sure I have it in me.
2. Star Wars Triology (i.e. the originals) - I borrowed them from a friend years ago, got to the bit where R2D2 and C3PO are driving/walking across the desert and, bored to tears, I turned it off. I'm a Star Trek girl and always will be.
3. Alien Trashy sci-fi is normally my bag but somehow I've just...missed it.

What kind of car do you drive?
A 1998 Ford Fiesta Zetec Ghia.  It's old and getting to be a bit quirky but it's comfortable, reliable and bloody fast for it's size and age.  It does me just fine.  I've had it since 2006 when I finished University for the first time.  My parents generously bought it for me so I could get to work in a nearby town and it has lived here in the East Midlands ever since where my Mum has taken custodianship for it whilst I was living in different parts of the country.  Before I moved back we were discussing selling it as it's age is against it as was the fact I wasn't driving it, now I'm back it cheerfully darts me about the countryside and ensures that when life is getting me down I can always go downtown.

I fantasise about buying a new Fiesta (a zetec again, naturally), I also fantasise about buying an Audi R8 (drove behind one again tonight, recognised it's arse from miles back, in the dark) but that's no more likely to happen than the new Fiesta.

The end.
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
2010-03-28 04:14 pm

Why Sci-Fi Matters.

Ever since I can remember, sci-fi has been a staple in my imaginative life.  Whether it be Sunday mornings on the sofa with my eldest brother watching the original series of Star Trek, Tuesday afternoon's after school watching Bucky O'Hare, and later, The Girl from Tomorrow*; or one summer when I got a book called Interstellar Pig out of the library and read it twice in the space of a week, sci-fi has always been there.

While other kids worried about monsters under the bed or bullies in the school yard I quizzed my brothers and my Dad on the likelihood of alien invasion and what a post-nuclear holocaust world would be like (not good.  Actually, my Dad was a policeman and as a result had a place in a nuclear bunker.  He told us he would not take it because he would rather die with us than live in the dystopian nightmare of a post-nuclear world, but I digress...)

I recently bought the Star Trek: The Next Generation movie boxset and have begun a chronological re-watch, it struck me as I watched it just what appeals so much to be about the sci-fi genre.  Primarily, it's about possibility, the possibility of a better civilisation, and of a better way of being human. I think this is particularly appealing to children who, by default, have utopian motivations: what kid hasn't asked "why do we need money, can't we just exchange goods as we need them?" and many sci-fi plots tap directly into this, the most notable example probably being Star Trek. 

Secondly I think the key strength is being able to distance yourself from contemporary society in order to make a critique of it.  This is, in my opinion, most successfully achieved through dystopian futures where the sci-fi element has amplified and taken a contemporary problem to its logical and/or most extreme conclusion.  Fahrenheit 451, 1984, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, The Day After Tomorrow all make direct and clear critique through the bleak realisation of the worst parts of our society in a not-so-distant future or through one catastrophic event.  Frequently this type of narrative is related to us through the perspective of one character who is either the only one to recognise their surroundings as a perversion of all that is good and right, or the only one to find out an inherent truth about the world - such as how it came about or how their government has lied to them in order to maintain order through fear.  The one-on-one interaction between reader/viewer and protagonist heightens the sense of horror or disgust at what the world has/could become. Resurfacing from this sort of fiction, for me at least, usually leaves me with a strong sense of isolation from the world as you feel that, through the lens of the fiction, you alone are seeing the world for what it is and the inherent horror of what is to come if things remain unchanged.  Personally, I find the immersive experience of this most compelling and offering the most absolute opportunity for a shift in one's world view.

We've also got sci-fi where Earth/humanity/the world as we know it is largely blameless and passive in its downfall.  We're talking War of the Worlds, Independence Day, and, at a stretch, 2001: A Space Odyssey (HAL destroys the microcosm of humanity on the ship)  Whilst the film does not make an explicit critique of society in itself, there is usually a lot to be taken from the commentary it gives us of political and social concerns of the time.  Most often there is a conclusion which reasserts the superiority of humanity over the cruel, violent 'other'.  It would be unfair to argue that such sci-fi primarily sures up the patriarchal, well established order of contemporary society because such a conclusion doesn't allow for the nuances in such works, what it commonly does is give cause for positive reflection on the contemporary audience's surroundings and mediates larger concerns about threats of international war, disputes and political uncertainty.

Finally there is transformative sci-fi where an individual, group or the whole of humanity is completely altered after an encounter of some sort, think E.T., Back to the Future, Batteries Not Included, Flight of the Navigator.  This takes the notion of possibility I mentioned at the beginning to it's logical conclusion and provides an often temporary or imperfect utopia behind for those connected to the events.  Much like the sub-genre of humanity being passive in it's demise I mention above I think such works reveal more about the socio-political environment in which they were made than reflecting in any broader sense on humanity.  The films I mention above were made in the '80's and I believe speak both of the over-riding confidence in the organisation and potential of society and also the concern which accompanies rapid social and technological change.  More advanced technologies and races contact humanity and whilst there is fear and misapprehension the end result is positive, even if there are difficulties on the road to resolution.

Overall, what sci-fi offers is the opportunity for a damned good adventure, outside of the day-to-day cares of the audience's contemporary world whilst remaining rooted enough in reality and truth that it can provide either a positive reflection on that which an audience wishes to escape or a solution for the ills of mankind.  For me, it provides a sophisticated commentary on what is, what is not and what could be.  It does not flinch from portraying the very worst aspects of humanity - the very thing which so concerned me in my childhood fantasies of how the world would end.  If the only way to be prepared for the unknown is to imagine every possibility then sci-fi provides the perfect forum for that to happen in.  Imagination is unbidden by technology, politics and social reality.  Even the essential human condition can be altered through the genre.  In short, sci-fi matters because it can speak about everything and make commentary - both positive and negative - without having to engage in the minutiae of how we get from here to there and in so doing it can subtly or overtly provide a new way of viewing that which surrounds us.

So yes, I am a sci-fi geek, but it's ok, because it's intellectual.


* As the only kid in my class who watched/enjoyed The Girl from Tomorrow I would play alone at break time the next day, with my hair band pulled down across my forehead, a la the Transducer.  It will come as no surprise to you that I wasn't terribly popular at school.

askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
2009-05-22 09:57 pm
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"Mamma Cass choked on a sandwich"

"Are you scared of being called queer?"
"Are you?"
"Queer?"
"Gay."
"I'm happy."

"'You can not transmit the HIV virus by frottage'...what's frottage?"
"Yogurt. It's french init"








Beautiful Thing is just that, a beautiful film about two kids. Beautifully shot. Stunningly scripted. Plotted with an honesty that makes it hard to remember you are only watching a film.

Watch it. Watch it watch it watch it.
askygoneonfire: 'Love' painted on to four fingers of a hand (love hand)
2009-05-20 10:30 pm

Change Your Heart

Tonight I'm watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the first time on my own. It was a me and Ali film.

It is the ultimate heartbreak film, in my opinion. It shows love for what it is: dirty and painful and stupid and illogical but simultaneously beautiful and life changing and uplifting and rational.

I told [personal profile] beanheartbatman "it just shows love. That's what it is." after we saw it for the first time. She smiled and said she knew I'd say that.

The agony, the sheer agony of losing your life, your love, piece by piece...it's the same whether it's being ripped from your mind as it is from Joel's or when your long term relationship ends and your world shatters.

The film...is perfect. It says everything: regrets, pain, betrayal...love, joy, belief.

The choice to do it all again, to be hurt again, to risk the same things with the same odds endlessly; the times I saw this with Ali I knew I'd make those choices too - do it all again. After we split, the pain and the anger made me sure I would not make that choice. But now? Maybe.

Because it's love isn't it? Exciting, blind, desperate, painful, beautiful, transformative, ugly, sharp-edged, soft, perfect, imperfect... A massive, agonising, exhilarating contradiction.

It's just love. And I'd chose it again.