Wednesday, October 24, 2007



Tony Wilson signing the recording contract in his own blood; Rob Gretton forcing him to peel the plaster from one of his mutilated fingers to have another go at spelling Stephen Morris’ surname.

The fact that Tony spelled it correctly the first time, and Rob is lying about the extra ‘s’.

Toby Kebell’s Rob Gretton in general, and in particular in his underpants, too early in the day, scratching his balls as he answers the payphone in his shared house. This directly follows a scene in which he sells himself to Joy Division as their manager, largely on the basis that he has a phone and the other fellow doesn’t.

Sam Riley reading ‘So this is permanence / Love’s shattered pride / What once was innocence / Turned on its side’ over the beginning of a particularly gloomy scene. The lameness of the last line compared to the other three, especially when read rather than sung. The humanity in imperfection.

The way at the end you don’t quite think Ian Curtis is such a bastard as you do two thirds of the way through.

The conclusion you’re lead to, reasonably gently, that Curtis used his suicide to impress on Deborah his sincerity in not wanting their marriage to end, despite his inability to end his affair with Annike.

The bizarre transposition of Joy Division’s TV performance of ‘Transmission’ to a set resembling the one on Ready Steady Go! – individual circular white pedestals for each band member, on which they stood motionless as Tony Wilson introduced them. Joy Division reclaimed as a pop act (and there is a pop thrill to ‘Transmission’).

Listening to the actual Joy Division for the first time in too long.


Other Woman Annike’s total nothingness as a character (it shows that the film is based on a book by her rival – so she becomes a pretty face, vacant beyond that).

The only line given to Stephen Morris, during a late night interview with Annike. ‘What do you find beautiful?’ ‘I saw this really beautiful drum kit once…’ – delivered thicko drummer style, rather than the sardonic way he might actually have said it.

With Curtis dead, we see the remaining members of Joy Division at a table in a pub looking numb. For the first time, Stephen has been joined by his girlfriend Gillian. As well he might have been, so I’m not sure why I disliked this so much – maybe it felt a bit Biblical, they shall rise again as New Order being the implication.

The ghoulishness of New Order writing the soundtrack to Curtis’ last night alive. Also the fact that you could see him playing Iggys The Idiot, but not hear it.

The final shot of the film, a crematorium, black smoke ekes from its chimney, dispersing into the atmosphere. ‘Atmosphere’ plays on the soundtrack.

Samantha Morton, 30, not quite convincing as a shy 16 / 17-year-old hanging out in Curtis’ bedroom, mumbling and necking. Though she made up for this with her simple trust and touching disillusionment later on.

Realising the power Joy Division still have – thought I’d shaken that years ago.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Andy Warhol – ‘The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)’

I can’t work out whether Warhol has the biggest or the smallest ego, so absorbed is he in his coterie, but so aware of it, and so – selfless (if that didn’t mean generous) within it. And then you come across a passage like:

I can only understand really amateur performers or really bad performers, because whatever they do never really comes off, so therefore it can’t be phoney. But I can never understand really good, professional performances. (p. 82)

Which is reminiscent of the whole outsider music idea, that music made by people who don’t realise that their performance falls short of their ambition can be made great by that gap, because it lacks inhibition and has enthusiasm in spades; and also because, being less constructed than more self aware art, it is more revealing of the performer’s personality / soul / demons. And what is art, if not the soul stripped bare? And whose art is less like the soul stripped bare than Warhol’s?

But when he put it like that, the first thing I thought of was Geoffrey Fletcher and the way he uses old buildings as a way of experiencing the lives of the people who first lived in them. That the buildings he chooses are not the grandest or most famous is crucial to this: the over-exposed, over-preserved building is the equivalent of the professional performer Warhol mentions. He continues:

Every professional performer I’ve ever seen always does exactly the same thing at exactly the same moment in every show they do. […] What I like are things that are different every time.

This makes some sense of Warhol’s movie-directing. The only time I’m aware that a film of his was shown on British television was the ‘Peel Slowly and See’ night BBC2 did when The Velvet Underground reformed (1993?), and centre stage was The Chelsea Girls, chosen for its short running time (3 hours) and relative accessibility (it was completely unwatchable, if I remember right, but it did have Nico in it). The idea was clearly to just let the actors improvise for as long as they liked, and then to use all the footage in the final film. I’d always supposed this to be an act of passive aggressive New York cool, not unlike Metal Machine Music, say, but – what if Warhol was actually interested in the bad performances on screen, and in the people who gave them? It’s possible.

Some other stuff he says:

The President has so much good publicity potential that hasn’t been exploited. He should just sit down one day and make a list of all the things that people are embarrassed to do, and then do them all on television.

Sometimes B and I fantasize about what I would do it I were President – how I would use my TV time. (p. 100)

If you lived in Canada you might have a million trees making oxygen for you alone, so each of those trees isn’t working that hard. Whereas a tree in a treepot in Times Square has to make oxygen for a million people. (p. 154)

Damien wouldn’t let me disillusion her. Some people have deep-rooted long-standing art fantasies. I remember a freezing winter night a couple of years ago when I was dropping her off at two-thirty in the morning after a very social party and she made me take her to Times Square to find a record store that was open so she could buy Blonde On Blonde and get back in touch with ‘real people’. Some people have deep rooted long-standing art fantasies and they really stick with them. (pp. 178-9)

‘B’ is whoever Andy (‘A’) has as a companion at the time, everyone being interchangeable. The whole book has this tone apart from the chapter ‘The Tingle – How to Clean Up American Style’, in which the B on the other end of the phone is given free reign to talk about cleaning, tidying and washing for page after page. It’s boring at first, but it becomes sort of hypnotic, and the occasional pay-off line (Warhol keeps sneaking off to the kitchen to get more jam to eat with a spoon, which breaks things up a little) is funnier for the build up. Maybe the films do this too. The tone is the main thing here though, and it’s accomplished in a way which breaks Warhol’s own ‘bad performers’ rule. He may have spent his career as a painter not painting, but he can really write, he can really dead pan.

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