LA-based-via-Olympia band Gun Outfit have been releasing records for nearly a decade. Raised in the world of hardcore punk, they now marry a love of Americana, tinted with their passion for cinema, with psychedelic flair. Their newest album Dream All Over is out now via Paradise of Bachelors, while their Two Way Player EP, opening with ‘Expansion Pact’ is out on Wharf Cat Records on 12 February 2016. Gun Outfit play London’s Lexington on 17 February 2016, with more dates in the UK (see below) and Europe throughout the month. For more information, visit the Gun Outfit website. Below, vocalist and guitarist Dylan Sharp discusses 10 inspiring films.
Here are 10 movies I enjoy. Definitively stating even my own name induces a faint shiver of anxiety within me, so I’ll refrain from claiming these as my top 10 of all time. I’ve tried to keep to slightly more obscure examples of the types of things I draw from in movies, and I’ve left off the great masterpieces that we all love, because nothing is more unnecessary than my own salty take on the tired legends of cinema past. Movies are the greatest art, they are psychological propaganda operating on the deepest levels, ideology’s fever dream and utter compromise, and I’m honoured to have an excuse to blab on about them. These are, in no particular order:
1. Out 1 (Jacques Rivette, 1971)
Forgive the outrage of selecting the abbreviated cut; I have back problems and arthouse chairs can be stiff. Rivette has a self-assured class and a playfulness that makes his films enjoyable and easy – they’re long but they care about you. There’s a certain quality of experience you get from watching very long, very ‘boring’ films – your attention is freed from the fascist dictates of the storyline and left to ponder dully the curvature of the wall or the fabric of the cloth touching your throat. It’s a validation of thought because, for me at least, thinking is only possible after bravely withstanding the compulsive refusal to do so for many minutes. Many filmmakers know this and use it to make art, but Rivette took pains to thoroughly infuse reality with fantasy and, especially in this film, to entrust the actors with the privilege of creation in a uniquely collaborative process. A process working on this many levels is rare.
2. Under the Men’s Tree (David MacDougall, 1970)
As a foolish young man struggling with the straight-faced discussions of objectivity in the social sciences, I thought it would be ‘fun’ to sneak onto the University of Washington campus and, after wolfing down a paper bag full of fresh-cut cubensis mushrooms in a men’s room, spend an afternoon watching ethnographic films in a weird viewing booth. This film stuck out for its grace and simplicity. In Under the Men’s Tree, MacDougall calmly allows the stationary camera to capture a group of African men sitting around under a tree gabbing with each other, exaggerating about simple things that happened throughout the day (one young man lies about seeing a car drive by, for example). It’s a simple depiction of people telling stories, a deliberate resistance to the heavily laboured mythmaking that can seem to be the only path for those inclined to work with moving images. Art and life is just bullshitting, and here it’s studied and celebrated. It is perhaps simultaneously the most and least pretentious film (actually a wonderfully ghosting Portapak video) I’ve ever seen.
3. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Yoshimitsu Bannu, 1971)
As an even younger person I was obsessed with Godzilla. An ambiguous, indomitable manifestation of pure force in all its conceptual ridiculousness – the Japanese Godzilla movies were the most satisfying example of pure cinematic entertainment I’d known. I’d grown up on Nintendo, and Godzilla was the first thing in art that could satisfy that strange desire for simultaneously banal and weird repetition that hours of hopping over a poorly rendered bush had induced in me. Godzilla vs. Hedorah is here because it’s really the weirdest one – it’s simultaneously psychedelic exploitation and prescient environmental commentary that’s dark and serious and insane. It’s the only movie in the series where Godzilla flies (by shooting his hot breath onto the ground and squirting upward into the air) and he gets his ass kicked by a fucked-up blob in a disturbing sequence that reminded me of an animal battling with cancer. Godzilla is the only character in movies that I can say I love without qualification.
4. Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
This was the first film to blow my mind. I saw it in a small 15-seat theatre above Scarecrow Video in Seattle when I was 16. There were projector problems and it was about 95 degrees in there – I remember just sweating while they struggled for 20 minutes to change reels. The experience I had watching it was as close to religious as I’ve ever had. It’s the one Tarkovsky film I’ve only watched once, I’m superstitious about it. Honestly this is the film that caused me to throw my life away studying Russia, philosophy and experimental filmmaking in college. I don’t know what else to say… it blended science fiction and philosophy and spirituality with seemingly zero budget and really beautiful sepia/monochromatic film stock, and it made me think that the world was serious about itself for a protracted moment.
5. 10 Rillington Place (Richard Fleischer, 1971)
I’m not saying this is one of the best films ever, but it’s the best horror/suspense film I’ve seen in the last five years. It’s the story of serial killer John Christie. Richard Attenborough is slimy and the crude-homemade-gas-murder-in-bombed-out-postwar-Britain-by-an-ingratiating-impotent-landlord theme is so dark. The fact that it was filmed in the actual house where the murders took place makes you come out of the theatre feeling dirty. This is true crime at its best, with a proper emphasis on the potential for murderous exploitation by power in times of want.
6. Lancelot du Lac (Robert Bresson, 1974)
Filmmaking is expensive and there are seemingly endless opportunities for lavish waste and extravagance, and if you can’t afford to do it visually you can always go nuts with the storyline. The fact that Bresson is able to maintain his dark economism while recreating archetypal fantasy Europe is pretty impressive. I love minimalism in cinema and music, like the sound of crunching leaves as we watch the forlorn knight’s feet trudge through the empty glade. I get sick of ham acting and self-congratulatory cinema, and Bresson is as pure an antidote to decadence as you can get. I’ve always had a fantasy of getting a job working on crappy historical recreations for bad TV shows and finding a way to create some small sequences of pure art away from prying eyes, but if that ever happened they would resemble this movie and I would be yelled at by my young boss.
7. Love and Anarchy (Lina Wertmuller, 1973)
This is how you make a romantic comedy. Italian ham Giancarlo Giannini plays a forlorn hick who is so obsessed with his idea of assassinating Mussolini that he totally misunderstands the meaning of his erection (I can relate). The crux of the comedy lies in the subtle movement of Giannini’s facial muscles and in his relationship with the other anarchist prostitutes, and it’s a very humanist take on radical politics and a send-up of romance that has yet to really be equalled. It’s a feminist film and an anarchist film and it’s very funny, quite the feat.
8. Arabian Nights (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1974)
Pure spectacle. A nude man wanders through sweeping vistas and ornate castles. Pure lust. Arabian Nights is one of the first books I remember getting into and this movie is a fully adult realization of cinema’s epic potential. It perfectly indulges the fascination for the Islamic golden age I picked up while living in Istanbul with the gay sexual renaissance of the 70s, another period I think about often when the phantasmic notion of true freedom pops into my head. Pasolini also has a great sense of humour. Couldn’t really ask for more.
9. The Hired Hand (Peter Fonda, 1971)
I guess since I play in a trippy American western band I should probably stay on brand. The opening sequence, in which bathing cowboys blend into a brightly sparkling river in a sequence of very slow dissolves, is a great visual realization of what we’re trying to do musically, and it’s as beautiful a depiction of experiences I’ve had in the western US as anything I’ve ever seen. The rest of the movie feels like the residue of an acid trip, not because it’s explicitly psychedelic, but more because of the themes of gently deteriorating masculine friendship and the slow dawning of unspectacular reality on the horizon at the end of your twenties. The pure ecstasy and unity of the trip can’t be maintained, but the relationships you form can last forever.
10. Level Five (Chris Marker, 1997)
Fast forward to the 90s, when I was actually alive. This movie, a bizarre pseudo-documentary investigation into Japanese resistance to the US invasion in Okinawa and elsewhere, came out in 1997. At that time I was in high school living in Saipan in the Marianas Islands with my father. While there, I visited the cliffs where, in the film, we see Japanese women jumping to their deaths in slow motion. By the time I saw this a couple of years ago I almost had a panic attack thinking about how personal history and national history intertwine in infinite aspects, forming invisible threads that direct our every action. Marker is impossibly creative within a non-existent budget and creates works of art that are unlike anything else. He blends so many spheres of being and understanding, and couples that with a charismatic personality that just expresses an openness and love for the world. Just makes you want to create something out of nothing, as now you know it can be done.
12.02.16 Brighton, Green Door Store
13.02.16 Manchester, Gullivers
14.02.16 Glasgow, The Hug & Pint
15.02.16 Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
16.02.16 Cardiff, Clwb lfor Bach
17.02.16 London, The Lexington