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Out of This Nettle, Danger…

January 29, 2009


I had a cinema experience a couple of months ago that re-affirmed my faith in the magic of film. Inez had taken the kids shopping and I found myself with a few hours to kill.

It was a cold, wet Tuesday afternoon. I was at a loose end but I wasn’t in the mood for a drink.

Feeding the ducks in St.James Park, (an activity I’m inordinately fond of: perhaps I’m a moron), was called on account of the weather. There was only one option. An afternoon matinee. It didn’t matter what was showing. I just fancied sitting in the anonymous dark while lights flickered in front of me and I could feel the sound.

(What’s that, Mowbray? Climb down a tunnel and wait for a tube train? I’ll keep that in mind for next time.)

I remembered a cinema on the corner of the Kings Road and something street…the Ritz? The Carlton? The Charles? No matter. The poster outside showed a grotesquely muscled man wearing the de rigeur ripped t-shirt and clutching a fearsome looking weapon that never existed outside of a film set: a combination howitzer/RPG/.50 cal machine-gun/flame-thrower/toaster-oven. Perfect. Brainless ultra-violence. In I went.

After settling into my seat I inventoried the damp afternoon crowd…the usual suspects…tarts and their managers come in out of the rain, ditto crack dealers, bag snatchers, dips and shoplifters. Lots of senior citizens, students and dole bandits taking advantage of the reduced ticket price. My people.

The lights went down and away we went as the cinematic bobbin began to weave its celluloid dream. To describe the plot as simple is to give it more complexity than it possessed. It made Mother Goose look like The Critique of Pure Reason.

In a miniscule nutshell, a crisis was afoot, south of the border, down Mexico way. It involved, in decending order of relevance, a nuclear detonator, bent CIA spooks, furiously moustachioed narco barons and a cast of assorted cyphers, unamed in the credits as though they had been expunged when shooting finished.

Our hero, Jack, is a retired something-or-other, never specified due to its ultra-secret nature, who is living the bucolic dream of horses, meadows, trees and such-like faff that leaves hard-core Londoners like me cold. As Jack performs some obscure rustic rite, bringing in the sheaves or mangling his wurzels, a sinister black helicopter appears over the trees.

This is never a harbinger of glad tidings. It lands on Jack’s front lawn and out jumps Hank, Jack’s former boss. You’ve seen this a thousand times–the back and forth–I’m retired; we need you, blahblahblah; and we know how it’s going to end although there is one puzzling aside. Hank says: how are Jenny and the kids?

Jack looks at the helicopter, his eyes clouded with erm…pain or possibly indigestion. Perhaps the helicopter landed on Jenny and the kids and for all their relevance to the narrative, it might just as well have.

After hell’s own amount of twitching cheek muscles, forearms corded with tension and similiar indications of butch emotional turmoil, Jack departs in Hank’s whirlybird, leaving Jenny and the kids pressed into the lawn like divots on a golf course…maybe.

We were starting to get a little restive. So far, so banal, but our Stinkeroo detectors hadn’t yet picked up the unmistakable aroma of ordure on a colossal scale–and that, let’s face it, was what we were there for.

A quick montage of the kind Don Siegel began his career making, only made by piece-workers in a Manila sweat-shop, now unfolded. A plane superimposed over a map. Mountains. Waves. An apple orchard that must have fallen into the developing fluid by mistake. A plane landing.

Jack comes down the plane’s steps, flexing his dorsal fins nineteen to the dozen. Waiting is the local CIA station chief, another old comrade. “Jack”.. “Bill”..they flash the fangs, revealing teeth of weapons-grade whiteness. One understands why the locals are all wearing sunglasses or dozing under their sombreros.

Suddenly, our merde-detectors were quivering like nervous miniature poodles. Bill isn’t alone.

He’s accompanied by a woman and she is a piece of work. She teeters on 6-inch heels. Stuffed into jogging shorts that have clearly shrunk in the wash (she’ll catch her death, for God’s sake; she’s practically naked) and heaving a chest of daunting dimensions at Jack, she puckers and unpuckers lips that have been inflated with a bicycle pump. Jack gives her the manly eye-crinkle and muscle-twitch routine, while she flutters the two dead tarantulas that have been glued to her eye-lids.

“Jack,” says Bill, ” this is Lisa. She’s a nuclear physicist.”

Jackpot…Bingo…we have a winner. The entire cinema collapses in helpless laughter. I turn to neighbours all around me and they do the same. We exchange happy smiles. The cinema resounds with catcalls and whistles. Soon, the smell of cannabis pervades the theatre ; (the two teenage staff wisely stay well out of sight). Someone passes a bottle of Myers rum along the row. I’m handed a large spliff.

The soundtrack is now forgotten.

We’re supplying the soundtrack, the dialogue , the effects. The audience is happy. A good time is had by all. A rotten film has been transformed by people power into something cherishable, warm and human.

Afterwards, the audience streams out into a now dark street. Everybody nods and smiles at one another, people give one another the thumbs up, like a crowd whose team has won. It has. Our team won. Us.

That’s entertainment.

  1. freepoland permalink
    January 29, 2009 11:59 PM

    I enjoyed that Mishari. There aren’t too many city stories of warmly felt communal experience like that. I told you I would compose a fierce poem in the dark by the river, and it happens to be about the opposite kind of experience – rural dissonance.

    (freep’s poem has been posted properly. See the front page–mishari)

  2. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 12:11 AM

    Lovely. If you don’t object, I’d like to post this properly with a suitably perverse image from my store of Polish poster strangeness.

    Only if you don’t mind, of course…

  3. freepoland permalink
    January 30, 2009 12:13 AM

    Yeah, fine; by the way, the sheep was a quantity surveyor, with a working knowledge of Polish.

  4. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 12:17 AM

    Perfect…soon come.

  5. January 30, 2009 12:38 AM

    I’ve just dissed you Misha, but you’ll be relieved to know it was in a good cause.

  6. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 12:50 AM

    You did? What, the remark about canning my own shit and calling it art? I don’t actually get that. I’m just playing in a way that the GU never allowed, so there’s no requirement for rigour, either intellectual or artistic…

    It’s an amusing diversion and a way of exchanging ideas, thoughts, jokes, book recommendations, film and music ditto, etc, etc…

    It’s a digital cockail party. Perhaps I should have called the blog that. The Digital Cocktail Party…

  7. January 30, 2009 1:01 AM

    As in pushing the boundries. Pouring out your stuff.

    I’ve been looking forward to you setting up your blog for quite some time.

    The Cocktail party analogy is good.

    Very John Updike.

  8. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 1:13 AM

    Yeah…I suppose the freedom to post whatever the hell I feel like has got me posting good, bad and indifferent. What the hell, it’s just a blog…one of millions and ultimately, who really gives a toss? If it affords people a few laughs, I’m content…

  9. January 30, 2009 10:26 AM

    Mishari Italian art-nuisance Piero Manzoni canned his own shit as a comment about the myth of the artist. Now of course it can be seen in a museum.

    So your blog may well go places you don’t imagine it will.

  10. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 10:39 AM

    Al, I read somewhere not long ago that the cans have started leaking. Posing something of a dilemma for curators….

  11. January 30, 2009 10:40 AM

    Richard Hamilton’s paintings of Kleenex tissues should sort out the mess

  12. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 10:47 AM

    Actually, I always really liked Manzoni’s (am I right in thinking he’s dead?) shit-canning project. I thought it was a brilliantly subversive project.

    It leaves the bien pensants in a right fucking quandary. Is it Art? Weeelll…it’s definitely shit in a can, literally…soooooo…but it’s an artist’s shit and he says it’s Art…sooooo….hmmmm.

    Highly amusing and a very trenchant comment on the commercialization of Art, I thought…

  13. January 30, 2009 10:56 AM

    Me too – but I think the problem ( if it is a problem ) is that the critics/curators catch on and very soon the work is in the very place whose attitudes it is criticising.

    But always nice to see real shit in a gallery.

    I think he died breathing in too much carbon-monoxide whilst making something.

    btw any idea what the film was that you saw. I’ve intention of seeing it but would be delighted to hear that you haven’t a clue.

  14. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 11:07 AM

    I haven’t a clue. It was one of those generic action/thrillers (so-called)…did it star Dolph Lundgren? Someone like that…

  15. January 30, 2009 11:54 AM

    Excellent! Will cross it off my list of films already crossed off ( if you can’t beat ’em join ’em ).

  16. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 12:07 PM

    Honestly, Al…if you’ve ever lain on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, nursing a hangover and soothing yourself with TV’s visual bubblegum, (granted, an unlikely scenario in someone of such high moral standards), you’ll already have seen this film a hundred times…

  17. January 30, 2009 2:15 PM

    Mishari I’m surprised you haven’t noticed that I scrape the barrel like everyone else but ( affects accent ) ai think you will find that those films are on Channel 5 at 9.00 rather than the afternoon. In which case I have seen only the one film like that but have seen it at least a hundred times – Steven “I’ve not got wood I am wood” Seagal as a chef on a boat.

  18. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 3:46 PM

    I know the one…the career of Steven Seagal is one of those unfathomable mysteries like the Marie Celeste…

  19. January 30, 2009 4:08 PM

    He’s marginally less mobile than some of the surviving 7 wonders of the world.

  20. MeltonMowbray permalink
    January 30, 2009 11:21 PM

    Every time I see SS in ‘action’ I wonder how he ever came to be an actor. What he was born to be is a real cook on a real ship.

  21. mishari permalink*
    January 30, 2009 11:55 PM

    I saw (Ch 5 Sun afternoon fare) one of the timber-faced one’s recent efforts. He’s become very fat, his head included, making his absurd pony-tail even nastier looking…

  22. file permalink
    January 31, 2009 2:29 PM

    yes, muchly enjoyed this piece Ovid, still joyfully picking the Ol Holborn strand out of my yellow teef but the spam gristle that is exposed by your artfully ripped t-shirt only helps me recollect how all the nuclear physicists I’ve ever met looked just like what you said she did, sigh, we will always have Paris(a)

  23. mishari permalink*
    January 31, 2009 2:34 PM

    Frankly, I’m a bit leery of that Stephen Hawking chap. He doesn’t look like a physicist if you ask me…

  24. file permalink
    January 31, 2009 2:52 PM

    …prolly just a mechanic with High Hopes of a Silicone Valley on his own chest, needs a napa rather than a Timely History of Briefs eh?

  25. mishari permalink*
    January 31, 2009 3:34 PM

    A Timely History of Briefs sounds like a winner…I should get cracking on it.

  26. file permalink
    January 31, 2009 3:38 PM

    Y front it yourself?

  27. mishari permalink*
    January 31, 2009 3:42 PM

    …nah…already got a boxer stuff to do.

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