What was it Spike Milligan had on his grave-stone again?
"I told you I was ill."
Like Hitchcock’s analogy of a bomb under a dinner table, classic cinema is suspense, but it can be over-used, much like the typical arc, or Noah’s Arc: A flood was coming, he built a big boat, all the animals (well, two of each) got on, and then they got off, and the bit in the middle was the bit in the middle. Bad news for queer animals.
I am interested in creative framing. Harmony Korine and Jim Jarmusch’s films excite me. Often the arc is not so apparent, but there’s a load of interesting things going on that somehow collide or inter-weave in a way that builds a picture. My favorite jokes are the ones that don’t work, like ‘what do you call a dog with a collar?’… ‘spaghetti!!’ … it’s only funny if it’s delivered right. I want to make films that have never been made before, and deliver.
In the film Three Colours White by Krzysztof Kieslowski, there is a moment that sums this up for me. There is a sub-plot that builds, convincing the viewer that they have cleverly figured out that the guy is going to kill himself, and when he doesn’t it’s triumphant!
The audience is king. But the audience is also the pliable subject.
Films are like subjects. They proclaim, ‘Look at this,’ so the viewer hopefully says, ‘that could be me,’ or ‘that relationship reminds me of the special bond that I had with my gerbil, and how sad I was when it died.’
I had pet gerbils that kept dying when I was fourteen. Two of them; one would die, we’d go back to the pet shop and replace it, and it happened like that a few times until we had two completely different gerbils that lasted for over a year. One fat brown one called Esmerelda and one skinny black one with a shiny coat called Mathilda. Esmy was stupid, Tilly was smart. Tilly would be calm in your hand and make you think she was relaxed, and then when you’d look away she’d bolt, and it would take ages to catch her. Esmy would wriggle and squirm, but she never managed to run away. When I ran away, I left them with my brother. Two months later they were both dead. He told me that Tilly had eaten Esmy and then he’d killed Tilly – I never asked him how he did that. I don’t think they had the best lives; maybe they would have rather been lost in the woods with their heads chopped off, but no one ever asked them. I’ve also had some unhappy rabbits, and some cats that deserted me.
Amber Cat never did. I rescued him from a coal-shed when he was a kitten. He was so skinny and scared; he hid behind the armchair in the corner of the living room and didn’t come out for days. He was a ginger Tom, but he was black when I found him. Sadly, I think he must have been abused; it took a long time for him to act like a normal nonchalant cat, in fact he never really did. He was obsessed with cucumber. Crazy for it; and I quite like it too, and thus had to take proper precautions when handling it.
Like Amber, I did not reach the point I’m at now in the usual way. My path to filmmaking came to me like a revelation, Ah-ha!
Joseph Campbell called for the necessity of a ‘new myth,’ he said that storytelling and myth making are paramount to our existence as humans. I believe that films have replaced the stories that were once passed down around the fire, that shape the lives and identities of the listeners. Since we have become a race of animals that exist increasingly through screens, the curation of content and thus the narratives being ingested, are surely more important than ever.
Back to Amber: I remember walking from the car with shopping bags, and Amber appeared from nowhere as if he’d been hiding in the bushes with binoculars waiting for my return. Like lightening he scrammed the bags and my hand, and in a blink he ran off with the big green, cellophane-wrapped vegetable, in his mouth. My hand was bleeding.
I think his brain was damaged and re-tuned slightly off-key. They say that trauma can do strange things to the brain, like those people who wake from comas with a completely foreign accent or a new incredible musical ability. Amber lived until he was eighteen years old, which is eighty-nine in human years. Perhaps that cucumber was his fountain of youth.