Punchdrunk and the Cinematic Theatre

The Drowned Man
The Drowned Man (© Photo by Pari)

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable

Format: Theatre

Production: Punchdrunk / National Theatre

Location: Temple Studios

Now booking until 30 December 2013

National Theatre website

Recent years have seen the mediums of theatre and cinema become closer than ever before: while the two have always had crossovers, the results have been hit and miss. But as theatre tries to reach out to an even wider audience, with National Theatre Live broadcasting across cinemas in the UK, and established directors such as Danny Boyle taking charge of theatrical productions, these events are becoming more and more commonplace.

The National Theatre has always taken risks under the direction of Nicholas Hytner: Boyle’s interpretation of Frankenstein was a huge success, and not only brought in a different audience who might not have been regular theatregoers, but also employed cinematic special effects and tricks to create a show that could travel beyond the stage. However, it seems that the National Theatre is now willing to take this idea even further.

One theatre company has always blurred the boundaries between cinema and theatre. Since its conception in 2000, Punchdrunk has been using cinematic language to tell stories within a theatrical setting, creating an all-immersive experience. Punchdrunk shows differ from the usual theatregoing experience: the audience and the performers are not separated – there are no seats and no stage per se. Instead, the audience explores at their own speed and interest whatever the setting may be: a dilapidated hotel in New York, the cavernous nooks and crannies of Battersea Arts Centre, and even a disused post office. Within these unusual locations, the company creates a story that is non-linear and perhaps cryptic, but a story nonetheless.

Take, for example, The Masque of the Red Death (2007-8), where the Battersea Arts Centre was turned into chambers of tableaux, all inspired by the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. The audience, given and encouraged to wear masks throughout the performance, explored the rooms at their own speed, following performers, looking for secrets, and culminating in a lavish, grand ball where the Red Death finally held inimitable dominion over all.

The joy and delight of the show comes from allowing the audience a sense of freedom that theatre doesn’t usually provide. As the audience members examine, investigate and engage, they create their own story, putting together the elaborate pieces of a puzzle. By deconstructing the structure of a play, Punchdrunk allows for return visits and multiple interpretations. Just as the images on a cinema screen can be open to many interpretations, so Punchdrunk’s productions leave an open ending for those keen to look further.

Another example of Punchdrunk wholeheartedly embracing cinematic tropes was seen in their hugely successful show Sleep No More (2003) – the story of Macbeth, disfigured and re-interpreted with references to Hitchcock, Kubrick, Lynch and even Nolan thrown in. While theatre relies heavily on the spoken word, Sleep No More was completely silent. Neither the cast nor the audience spoke, and the audience was told to never take off their masks. Entering the fictional McKittrick Hotel, they explored the rooms and the corridors, encountering silent groups of actors interpreting scenes: crushing medicine, embracing, fighting and sometimes dancing.

As Punchdrunk’s success continues to rise, the company has worked on a grander and grander scale. The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable is their most ambitious work yet. Working with the National Theatre for the first time, the company has taken over a gigantic disused post office in Paddington, turning it into, among other things, an old Hollywood studio. The story is loosely based on Woyzeck, but as with every Punchdrunk production, not much of the original material remains. What now appears are loose threads which the audience has to piece together to understand.

Being their most openly cinematic work for a long time, The Drowned Man also represents a further opportunity for the company to explore their cinematic ambitions. By placing the audience in the role of the camera, they create a unique and individual ‘film’ for each member of the audience. And the genius of using Woyzeck – an unfinished story that can be re-interpreted many times – allows them to twist the material to further utilise their medium.

While site-specific theatre is nothing unfamiliar, the lengths Punchdrunk go to resemble more the obsessive location scouting by film productions than the usual stage play. The Drowned Man is the result of six years of research – and patience. Their sets, which can take more than one visit to discover, are minutely detailed. As a spectacle, the shows are nothing short of breathtaking. However, there’s also something alienating about the company, too. Stories of audience members feeling exasperated are all too common: the cryptic, momentary nature of the productions mean that many important scenes can be easily missed, and given that the tickets are not cheap, this can end up being a huge turn-off for the casual theatregoer. Unlike with cinema, people are not afforded the freedom to take home a DVD of the show to investigate in their own time. It is a highly unique, highly individual and sometimes very difficult experience.

But while the visual arts try to re-invent themselves, threatened on all sides by cookie-cutter mediocrity, it is incredibly heartening to see someone taking the huge risks that allow us to discover more intimate details in the very nature of the mediums we know. Punchdrunk may stumble from time to time, but their approach to melding cinema with theatre throws up tantalising possibilities for both worlds, which is not something to be sniffed at.

Evrim Ersoy

Watch the trailer for The Drowned Man:

The Genre Mask


To mark the UK Blu-ray release of Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession, Daniel Bird looks at the genre implications which stem from the film.

In 1996, I met the writer and musician Stephen Thrower at a programme of Jess Franco films at the Everyman Cinema in Hampstead, London. Thrower was the editor of Eyeball, a fanzine celebrating art and exploitation in European cinema (although in the last few issues Thrower expanded his horizon globally). Eyeball was designed to mimic the layout of the defunct Monthly Film Bulletin. With wit and intelligence, Thrower (along with the likes of Pete Tombs) mapped out a zone of convergence between European high art and more low-brow tastes (genre film, comic books, pornography, etc.). In Eyeball, a review of Godard’s Pierrot le fou would rub shoulders with a reappraisal of Franco’s Virgin among the Living Dead – and why not? Ado Kyrou flagged up the ‘sublime’ moments to be found in ‘bad’ films. Franco made lots of bad films (so has Godard). Thrower was particularly keen on Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession (1981) – a film that was, at the time, pretty much loathed all round. In short, its ‘artiness’ pissed off the horror crowd, while the monster and copious blood-letting excluded it from the prissy gaze of the ‘art house’ set. Thrower, however, loved it, and had no qualms about dedicating the last issue of Eyeball to Żuławski.

In spring 1997, Thrower and I travelled to Paris to interview Żuławski. Szamanka had opened in France and was about to close. It was only playing in one cinema in Saint Michel, and the reviews plastered outside the foyer made for an entertaining read. Libération urged anyone who saw ?u?awski approaching a movie camera to shoot him with a tranquilizer gun. Szamanka did not disappoint: it offered an unhinged performance by a beautiful unknown, and bruising social comment (not to mention cannibalism and nuclear war). Żuławski was admirably intransigent during the interview, rubbishing Terry Gilliam’s Fisher King, Ken Loach’s social realist camera set-ups while proposing that if Martians land on earth then they should be made to watch The Texas Chain Saw Massacre ‘because they might learn something about what it is to be human’. That is not, however, to suggest ?u?awski was a ‘fan’ of genre cinema – on the contrary. Anything that adhered to a ‘formula’ (ironic or otherwise) clearly bored him senseless. It reminded me of an interview Thrower conducted with Alejandro Jodorowsky around the time of the UK release of Santa Sangre. Jodorowsky said that, for him, the horror film was the only genre in which film poetry could still exist. Similarly, David Cronenberg asserted that he was not interested in gore, but rather imagery that could only be shown in the horror genre – like the tumour firing ‘cancer gun’ in Videodrome (Cronenberg, it seems, has gone back on this stance in favour of middle-class respectability). One of the things that impressed me the most about Possession was how Żuławski did not ‘suggest’ the monster (as Polanski did in Rosemary’s Baby), but rather showed it in its slimy, tentacled glory.

Towards the end of the 1990s, the French magazine Starfix asked a number of directors to list their films of the 1980s. Żuławski’s list included:

The Shining
All That Jazz
The Thing
Fanny and Alexander
Blade Runner

Two trends can be discerned: first, take The Shining, The Thing and Blade Runner – three films that were marketed as genre films, but whose beauty, initial commercial failure and current ‘classic’ status rest in the fact that they are – like Possession – anything but formulaic; second, All That Jazz, Fanny and Alexander and Platoon are rooted in personal experience – but in each case Fosse, Bergman and Stone take what could have been mere memoir material to the realm of cinema. All That Jazz and Fanny and Alexander are not just honest and painful – they are also fantastic and, in the case of Platoon, hallucinatory. Żuławski’s list is of films that, like his own, all in some way ‘pierce reality’.

I have no problem with the word ‘genre’. Genre just means category. The novel is a genre, as distinct from poetry. The Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin wrote about how the ‘novel genre’ was rooted in banter, gossip and jokes of the market place as opposed to the sombre, authority of, say, a church sermon. By the same logic, a feature film is a genre in itself, period. However, when the ‘tropes’ that define that category become prescriptive, then the result is familiarity, boredom and apathy. Another Russian, the critic Viktor Shklovsky, wrote about how the job of the artist was to come up with a device that made the familiar seem strange. The ‘strangeness’ sets our brain a challenge, and the process of dealing with it is engaging – not just on an intellectual level, but an emotional one too (see Ben Wheatley’s ‘horror’ films – Kill List, Sightseers, A Field in England). Take The Thing – the Howard Hawks original is a respected, but ultimately hokey ‘man in a suit’ affair. In Carpenter’s version, however, all bets were off: anything could be the thing; we, as viewers, had to readjust to this – the result was something very disturbing indeed. In Possession, Żuławski made a marital breakdown ‘strange’ by showing ‘the horror’ – this was not Scenes from a Marriage – it was something else. Let us not forget that Bergman also turned to the fantastic (The Hour of the Wolf – a film that would make a great double bill with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). The monster in Possession (like the thing in Carpenter’s film) is incredibly poetic in the sense that it conjures up intense emotions through imagery – not unlike Kafka’s cockroach in his short story, ‘The Metamorphosis’.

Kafka frequently wrote stories about animals, but Disney is never going to pick up the rights from the Max Brod estate. The problem, for me, begins with the culture of ‘pitching’ ideas. Frederic Tuten, the co-writer of Possession, once told me an anecdote about a friend who was commissioned to write a script for ‘Jaws in Venice’. Tuten said that while the idea is ridiculous – the juxtaposition of those two elements – a killer shark and urban canals – conjures up an idea that can be, above all else, sold. The problem with such pitches is that they are often reductive and restrictive. Yes, Anna Karenina is ‘about a woman who is unfaithful’ – but it is also so much more. Similarly, Possession is not just ‘about a woman who fucks an octopus’. To pigeonhole Possession as a genre film is to go into the film wearing blinkers. Genre elements are often a disguise, like masks worn during a carnival (see Dostoevsky – whose stories all feature ‘crimes’ but could in no way be confused with episodes of C.S.I. – although it might be interesting to see Crime and Punishment in the style of C.S.I. , just as The Idiot could easily be recast as a love triangle between a geek, a jock and a cheerleader). To only see the mask and not sense what the mask is hiding is to lose out on what makes a film special. The ‘genre mask’ in itself is not interesting. Rather, it is a prop in the game of cinema, which itself is a reflection on life.

Possession is released in the UK on Blu-ray by Second Sight on 29 July 2013.

Daniel Bird

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013


Edinburgh International Film Festival

19-30 June 2013

Edinburgh, UK

EIFF website

Beyond its general focus on British and international, independent and arthouse cinema, the Edinburgh International Film Festival offered two notable retrospectives this year: a comprehensive showcase of Jean Grémillon’s films from the late 1920s until the late 1950s, including feature films as well as shorts, and a smaller selection of films by Hollywood legend Richard Fleischer. The official selection, on the other hand, was a mixed bag yet again, with only a few discoveries to be made. Below, Pamela Jahn and David Cairns take a look across the various EIFF programme strands and report on the highs and lows of this year’s 67th edition of the festival.

Taboor (Vahid Vakilifar, 2012)

Not everybody’s idea of science fiction, this Iranian object of beauty follows a depressed exterminator around a nocturnal city, sometimes at great length. The shots are extraordinarily beautiful, and the intrigue behind his lonely perambulations keeps one watching. Why does he live in a tinfoil-lined house? Is he really at danger from microwave radiation? Confident in its own stylistic language, the film even manages to pull off a perverse bit with a dwarf that doesn’t seem like a Lynch crib, attaining its own shade of askew elegance. DC

7 Boxes (Juan Carlos Maneglia, Tana Schémbori, 2012)

Although easily mistaken as a ‘teen movie’, due to its fun, high-energy yet light-hearted approach, 7 Boxes is a riveting, amiable ‘easy-job-gone-terribly-wrong’ action ride that is worth almost every second of its 100-minute running time. The film follows 17-year-old Victor (Celso Franco) through Asunción’s jam-packed urban market, where he makes a poor living as a delivery boy with a wheelbarrow, while in his dreams, he is soon to become famous in Hollywood. When he’s offered the chance to take care of seven mysterious boxes with unknown contents from a butcher’s shop, in exchange for 100 dollars, guarding them with his life while police search the place, he simply can’t say no. But he soon regrets his decision as he finds himself chased by both the police and a bunch of unscrupulous gangsters, in their search for their macabre goods. Although danger is largely played out in shrewd twists instead of serious scares, 7 Boxes makes deft use of its bustling setting and the market’s tangled net of loose and calculated social connections to drive its story along. A small, terribly engaging film with a bitter-sweet heart that is more satisfying than much of the standard Hollywood action fair. PJ

Watch the trailer for 7 Boxes:

Constructors (Adilkhan Yerzhanov, 2012)

A fractured family have one week to build a house on a patch of land they own, or else the state will take it away. Alternately funny and sad, this haunting Kazakh film is most notable for the way it transforms its wasteland setting, dotted with building sites, into a vision of ineffable beauty, in which back-lit plastic sheeting and old, half-perished water bottles glow like alien artefacts. DC

My Dog Killer (Mira Fornay, 2012)

One would have thought that, by now, the general appetite for bleak, stark East European social dramas with non-professional actors and no hope to be found anywhere, has somewhat waned, but Mira Fornay’s Slovak–Czech film My Dog Killer, one of the three Tiger Award winners at Rotterdam earlier this year, proves that the formula still works. After setting her debut feature, Foxes (2009), in Dublin, this time the director works in her home turf as she follows the apathetic 18-year-old Marek (Adam Mihal) and his dog, Killer, through his daily struggles in a dead-end village near the Slovak–Moravian border, where an all-embracing anger, dodgy dealings and open, anti-Roma racism are the order of the day. When Marek finds out that he has a half-brother with gypsy blood in his veins, he doesn’t think twice before taking drastic action. Though Mihal delivers a strong lead performance (with Marek making the most of his screen presence), in the end the only thing one really cares for is poor Killer. This is a drab, hate-filled film which might well tick all the right boxes to become a solid force on this year’s circuit, but anyone looking for some fresh, less formulaic and more inventive drama may want to investigate further. PJ

EIFF_Fantastic Voyage
Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage (Richard Fleischer, 1966)

The Richard Fleischer retrospective explored the Hollywood handyman’s knack for exploiting visual possibilities in any story. There was no film to represent his graceful use of 3D, alas, but several films showcased his Cinemascope compositions, and this one adds psychedelic special effects to the mix, as a team of secret agents and scientists pilot a miniaturised submarine through the circulatory system of a comatose Russian defector. Their mission: to destroy a blood clot in his brain with a laser gun. It’s all absurd, and exploited better in Joe Dante’s Innerspace, but this movie does have a cheeky sense of humour hidden away, and embraces its own corniest elements quite knowingly. There’s an early appearance by Raquel Welch, who plays a surgeon’s assistant and doesn’t disgrace herself: she’s not exactly convincing in the role, but neither is she the calculated insult to womanhood embodied by Denise Richards, nuclear physicist in The World is Not Enough. DC

The Conjuring (James Wan, 2013)

James Wan’s follow-up to Insidious is perhaps too similar, despite a 1970s setting and a thin veneer of faux-documentary posing. But so what? The shocks are guaranteed to lift cinema audiences out of their seats, the suspense in the early stages before the serious manifestations is quite tantalising, and the movie is cheekily good-natured even as it scares the bejesus out of you.

The one real misstep is the citing of the Salem witch trials as backstory for the (barely explained) supernatural happenings. Don’t haul in a real-life, historical tragedy in which the women tortured and killed were innocent, Mr Wan! This is a filmmaker with a serious talent for playing an audience via misdirection and timing, and all he needs to make a really good film is the deeper application of his intelligence. DC

Watch the trailer for The Conjuring:

Betrayal (Kirill Serebrennikov, 2012)

Sleek arthouse mystery and anomie from Kirill Serebrennikov, director of Crush (2009). Two couples are intertwined in a web of infidelity, suspicion, attempted revenge-sex and acts of God. I found the ending unsatisfactory, but until then, this is a quite remarkable exercise in compelling the audience’s attention via slow-burn mystery, left-field surprises, noir glamour and loooong dramatic pauses. Breathtakingly lovely in its deep colours and spectacularly framed urban landscapes, and very much in love with its female characters’ bodies, in particular with red-headed Franziska Petri’s glassy stare. DC

Outpost 3: Rise of the Spetsnaz (Kieran Parker, 2013)

The latest sequel in the Scottish-shot, zombie-Nazi franchise, Outpost 3: Rise of the Spetsnaz plays more like a video game than ever. The most obvious, long-running problems of a disinterest in character and a sloppy attitude to its own concepts continues to blight these movies, with a hateful bunch of Russian elite soldiers battling no less horrible German Nazis and their mad science experiments in a low-budget bunker. The Nazis are led by a spectacularly unconvincing, amateur-dramatics Christoph Waltz knock-off, and everybody speaks with corny ‘Allo ‘Allo! accents.

The monsters seem to be merely deformed Germans this time, supposedly superpowered but actually defeatable by ordinary men, so what’s the point? When one of the ’heroes’ gets treated by the fiendish radiation device, some measure of complexity hovers shimmering on the horizon, but he’s soon killed off before anything interesting can result. The brutal action and carefully harnessed production values are fine, but the artistic bankruptcy is palpable. Surely this series has hit a reinforced concrete wall? DC

Watch the trailer for Outpost 3:

L’Etrange Monsieur Victor (Jean Grémillon, 1937)

The Jean Grémillon retrospective provided many treats, including this indefinable 1937 drama. When a gangster is murdered by fence Raimu, innocent Pierre Blanchar is jailed for the crime. Raimu cannot enjoy his bourgeois life with Blanchar behind bars, and when the convict breaks out, Raimu shelters him in his own home. And now Blanchar, spurned by his own trampy wife (Viviane Romance), is falling for Raimu’s (Madeleine Renaud, who plays jilted lovers and neglected wives in a startling number of these films). Everybody in this film is tortured by guilt of one kind or another, except the really guilty ones. Making it odder, the script provides plenty of humour for Raimu, a boisterous and inventive comedy player who can’t resist making the most of it, so the tone is violently uneven. But it’s all beautifully done, with Grémillon’s usual documentary attention to the details and textures of small-town life, Blanchar looking soulful and tortured with great cheekbones, and Renaud and the brazen Romance embodying the kind of parts they excelled at: angel and demon, respectively. DC

Festival report by Pamela Jahn and David Cairns

Disembodied Voices: John Parker’s Dementia


I once saw Boyd Rice perform a live soundtrack to John Parker’s Dementia (aka Daugther of Horror, 1955), playing waterphone and bass harmonica, backed by Dwid Hellion from the hardcore band Integrity, in a cinema in central Paris. But mixed in among Rice and Hellion’s loops lay spectral traces of the film’s original orchestral soundtrack, by the former ‘bad boy’ of new music, George Antheil. Re-watching the film some years later, it’s clear that a major contributor to Dementia‘s singular atmosphere of oneiric noir is its score – one of the composer’s last, but by no means least, works.

As an American in Europe during the interwar years, Antheil had been at the very frontline of the avant-garde, collaborating with Dadaists and associated, for a time, with the machine music of the German November Group (Novembergruppe). But from the late 1930s on, the Trenton, New Jersey-born composer would embark on a career in Hollywood, composing comparatively unremarkable (and often uncredited) music for directors such as Cecil B. DeMille (The Plainsman, Union Pacific), Nicholas Ray (Knock on Any Door, In a Lonely Place), and William Castle (Serpent of the Nile, New Orleans Uncensored). In the mid-50s, however, at the time Dementia was in production, the now quinquagenarian composer would start to revisit some of the pioneering work of his youth, revising both the Ballet Mécanique and Jazz Symphony.

Following the murderous dreams-within-dreams of an unnamed female protagonist through a nighttime world of deserted street corners and jazz clubs, Dementia‘s soundtrack is alive with popular rhythms – from the cool, west-coast jazz of Shorty Rogers in the nightclub scene to the various transformations and transpositions of a simple habanera, which seem to crop up whenever the gamin (as Adrienne Barrett’s part is listed in the credits) encounters some attempted seducer. Antheil eschews stepwise melodic movement in favour of motifs made up of serpentine cadences in minor seconds and diminished sevenths. The soundtrack is full of neat touches like the brief flurry of a toy piano in the Rich Man’s apartment, or the sawing cello portamento as the gamin hacks off his dead hand in the street outside. The repeated thrumming of harp strings establishes the dreamlike mode from the very beginning of the film, in time-honoured fashion.

What is perhaps spookiest of all about this score, however, is the voice, often blended with woodwind to create a weird, theremin-like sound; singing eerie chromatic peals of wordless vocalese; Marni Nixon’s voice haunts this soundtrack like a guilty secret. A former child actress turned opera singer, you are most likely to have heard Nixon’s voice dubbing Marilyn Monroe’s high notes in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, or as the singing voice of Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember and Natalie Wood in West Side Story (unbeknown to Wood herself). In this film without dialogue, Nixon provides a similar function in supplying her own disembodied voice to the voiceless body.

From the numinous off-stage voices of the very earliest operas to the various talking automata of the 18th and 19th centuries, there has always been something deeply uncanny about a voice without an apparent (human) source – and all the more so if that voice is stripped of a clear lyric to anchor its meaning. As the Slovenian philosopher and author of A Voice and Nothing More, Mladen Dolar has suggested, ‘What defines the voice as special among the infinite array of acoustic phenomena, is its inner relationship with meaning. The voice,’ he continues, ‘is something which points towards meaning,’ and yet when that implied meaning is refused and obscured, the voice becomes a kind of fetish, pointing only towards the absence of meaning and the gap between sound and its source, or sense and signification. In the context of Dementia, then, Nixon’s voice is both that what bridges the gap between the real and the dream, between the work and its audience, and also what draws attention to the very existence of that gap. Antheil’s use of the voice here recalls finally Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream, in which the voice is ultimately that which reminds us of the impossibility of communication, of our isolation in an ocean of sounds.

Robert Barry

Daisy Hildyard is Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog The White Diomond1
The White Diamond

Daisy Hildyard was born in Yorkshire in 1984, but now lives in London, where she is studying for a PhD on 18th-century scientific literature. Interested in how scientific facts are made and communicated, and the idea and reality of the environment through history, her dazzling debut novel Hunters in the Snow (named for the Bruegel painting) is an eccentric history of England, from the invention of the printing press to the world of virtual reality. Eithne Farry

Werner Herzog’s alter ego is my alter ego. By that I mean Herzog, the character in Herzog’s almost-documentaries, not Herzog in real life. Not the film director who ate his shoe, moved the boat over the mountain or got shot. Or made films.

Half-fictional Herzog interrupts the films of Werner Herzog to ask questions, explain what’s happening, or, fairly often, to complain. I can’t remember where I saw him first, because I felt like I already knew the lugubrious German narrator, with his odd sayings and quiet glum background presence. Out of himself, Herzog has invented a character that is distinctive, slightly caricatured and weirdly familiar – like Dickens’s characters.

The films often turn on this person’s experience. In The White Diamond (2004), Herzog puts his camera behind a waterfall that is sacred to a local tribe, and sees, but doesn’t show, the footage. In Grizzly Man (2005), Herzog listens to a recording of Timothy Treadwell being mauled by a bear, and the film of his listening – but not the recording itself – makes its way into the last cut.

With his deliberate and emphatically bad accent (he always speaks in his second language, English) Herzog is as much an outsider in any of his peculiar scenarios as his subjects. In just a few of his ‘documentary’ films, Herzog looks into the lives of Antarctic geologists, Canadian hermits, Guyanese diamond miners, Himalayan Buddhists, Parisian academics, South American tribal elders. He listens to the people he encounters, properly, if not seriously.

The humour doesn’t come from jokes exactly. Herzog’s films are funny because they’re uncomfortable, partly because they appear to be real – it is not quite clear what is natural and what is manufactured; or what we know, and what we think we know.

This character is my alter ego because I am interested in the things he is interested in. The narrator in my book has something of Herzog’s awkward background presence. I like how he plays the fool. I admire how he is inept: comically and with bad temper, but necessarily, because he is enthusiastic about exploring things which are always a bit beyond him.

Daisy Hildyard

Scott and Charlene’s Wedding Film Jukebox

Scott and Charlenes Wedding
Scott and Charlene’s Wedding

The brainchild of the amiable and unashamedly charismatic Craig Dermody, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding offer a generation’s glimpse of love, home-sickness, basketball, alienation, rock and roll and all things that matter to an expat Aussie stranded in New York. Dermody’s heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics reveal tales of everyday life, unhinged, humorous and poignant, while the music effortlessly sprawls across decades. Their new album, Any Port in a Storm, is out on Fire Records. Below, Craig Dermody picks his favourite films for the Jukebox.

1. The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1973)
The Holy Mountain has everything and the brutality is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen. Jodorowsky is one of my favourite artists, he’s right into tarot cards and sleep deprivation.

2. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
The Dark Knight also has everything for me. There is a moment when he has that fella hostage in that building and he gets sucked back up into the airplane and you really know it’s the best film ever made.

3. Lucifer Rising (Kenneth Anger, 1972)
Lucifer Rising has Marianne Faithful, intense dark images and music from a member of the Manson family. Kenneth Anger was a massive influence for people like David Lynch and John Waters, and never quite got the credit he deserved, but this film is amazing!

4. Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972)
Now, this film really has everything: Trash trash trash trash trash trash xoxoxoxoxox

5. Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks (Dan Klores, 2010)
One of my favourite memories of the 90s was watching the Reggie Miller vs. The Knicks rivalry. I remember everything from this documentary as it happened, and it’s great to hear everyone talk about it retrospectively. High drama + NBA + the 90s = Everything.

6. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
This film really has everything. I could have chosen between a bunch of David Lynch films, and I love all of them, but chose this because it was the first one I got into. Incredibly weird and intense, David Lynch has a style all his own, and is a master of dream-like sequences.

7. Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010)
This film has everything too. Might be considered trash but I love trash, enough to watch it three times.

8. The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)
The Wrestler has an intense, dark reality and a character that is incredibly loveable, but incredibly flawed. I can relate to him in a big way, but he makes me feel ok about how I’m going.

9. Autonomy and Deliberation (UV Race and Johann Rashid, 2012)
Ok, ok, this film really has EVERYTHING. Rock ‘n’ roll by my great Melbs mates UV Race, following the story of lead singer Marcus trying to put the band back together. Heaps of Melbourne in-jokes – the Dogs in Space of 2013.