Monday, July 26, 2010

Of Film Diaries & Biopics, Philosophers, Aliens, and Prog Keyboardists

Good interview with London writer and Selected Ballads favorite Iain Sinclair here [via].  The video, a sort-of guided tour of Hackney with Sinclair, is the real highlight, and a must-see if you're a fan, as it includes bits of his 8mm film diary from the '60s and '70s.  I really want to see more of this footage.  Maybe someone could collaborate with Sinclair on editing a couple hours of highlights from the diary, fly him over, and screen it at Anthology Film Archives (with live narration?).

Speaking of Anthology, their Anti-Biopic series (in its final week) was a brilliant idea well executed.  I've seen only two of the films so far, Ken Russell's over-the-top-of-the-top Lisztomania and Derek Jarman's cerebral, irreverent, and altogether engrossing Wittgenstein, but the impressive range of the series and the film knowledge that went into putting it together is clear from just reading through the program.  With Roger Daltrey (as Liszt), Ringo (as the Pope), and Rick Wakeman (as an Aryan FrankenThor - you just have to see it - and the man responsible for the soundtrack), Lisztomania makes Tommy seem restrained, as if Pete Townsend's conception was holding Russell back from really letting his freak flag fly.  Lisztomania is as quintessential a '70s movie as any of the gritty, realistic Dog Day Afternoons that are now so associated with that decade.  [Update: I just saw that Lincoln Center is about to kick off a Russell retrospective, including appearances from the master himself.]

Wittgenstein, the biography of a notoriously difficult-to-understand (and yet highly quotable) philosopher filmed against a black backdrop, could have easily been as dry as Lisztomania is juicy.  Though it runs at a decidedly cooler temperature, Jarman's film has its fair share of sex and eccentricity, integrated with, rather than providing relief from, the philosophy at the core of the story.  The most memorable example of this integration is the glockenspiel-playing "little green man" from outer space who engages the young Wittgenstein in a philosophical dialogue.  Had this dialogue been set in a Greek temple with phallus-shaped columns and scored with some wicked prog synth, it would've been worthy of Ken Russell.

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