Sunday, 26 April 2009
A Weird Coincidence
Myself and FORUM/BLOG member, Aloah Gary met for coffee at Waterstones Bookshop in Birkenhead. We were joined for ten minutes or so by another member of the FORUM/BLOG who happened to be in the area (Edg). Ed left and Gary got down to business. He gave me some good advice about where I should next go with my writing. Gary used an analogy to explain my present circumstances. He said “You are like a guy with a dog at your heels with a handkerchief carrying your worldly goods. You need to step off that cliff because you will find that a parachute will be supplied for you as you fall”. Now, believe it or not (and I didn’t mention this to Gary at the time) a two days before I had a waking hypnogogic image of myself walking along a road with a stick and a knotted handkerchief. This puzzled me at the time. I recall thinking “where does that image come from? Did people in times past carry their belongings that way? and what a small amount could be carried”. At the time I mentioned this weird image to my wife.
I left Gary and arrive back home I settled down to read my emails. Nestling in my in-tray was an email from a member of the Graham Hancock Phorum and I opened it. The lady in question, "Nebankh" discussed some strange synchronicities in her life. I was delighted that the synchronicities (synchrondipitys as you know us Itladians call them) were manifesting in her life as they do in ours all the time.
Nebankh had also attached a short story that she was keen for me to read.
I then decided to read the story before I emailed her back to say thank you.
Within half a page I was stunned. I re-read what she had written and my brain simply could not take in fully the import of what I was reading. On the first page of Nebankh's story was the following :
"Goodbye Lily, till tomorrow then," and he tossed her a small card. There was a picture of a young man, with a joyous dog snapping at his heels; over his shoulder he carried a stick with a small, knotted handkerchief carrying all his worldly possessions, and he was stepping off the edge of a cliff with a happy smile on his face."
Just reading that now sends shivers down my spine..... it seemed personally targeted as to not only reinforce the message that Gary had given me, but also to prove to me that there is something powerful going on here .... something that continues to amaze me and leave me in absolute awe!
I am still wondering as to what the significance of this event is ..... but I am keeping an open mind!
Yesterday was another opportunity for meeting a few of the wonderful people who share a fascination for the works of Anthony Peake and who add to the developing discourse on this forum. We congregated at the Blue Bar at the Albert Dock in Liverpool. I, for one, had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the bonhomie and conversation.
Photos of the event can be viewed at http://www.flickr.com/groups/itlad/pool/
Friday, 24 April 2009
ITLADian Movie Project
Well, after seven years procrastinating, The God Game series (six short digital films which I call surrealist documentaries) is finally going to be viewable online, thanks to the assistance of a member of the younger generation! All the films (and the final capstone work, Being the One: Document of a Delusion) will eventually be uploaded to my youtube channel, here
For a description of the God Game film project, which was actually completed back in 2002, you can visit my blog.
The premise of the film (surprise surprise) is quite ITLADian - it actually began with a dream I had, about being in an acting class and using a megaphone to create an after-death persona, who would comment on one's life from "the other side." This instantly gave me the idea of making a movie - combining documentary format with role-playing, with psychotherapy, in which I would ask players to imagine their deaths and reconcpetualize their lives, as stories, seen from this transpersonal (Daemonic) POV.
An idea ahead of its time? Let's hope so, anyhow, because it's taken seven years for the films to get "released"! But here they are....
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Informal Mini-ITLAD Gathering - Saturday 25th April
The Fragmented Self
Here's a recent interview I did as part of a Guardian project with the artist Mark Titchner
It covers various subjects, including schizophrenia, the environmental crisis, multiple personality disorder as relating to our moods, the personal self as Frankenstein's monster, Matrix Warrior, Fight Club, the primal self, mythic narratives of moden movies, and other juicy tidbits.
Saturday, 18 April 2009
Yet More "Itladic" Art
Friday, 17 April 2009
Another "Shadows In The Dark" Interview - Saturday 18th April 2009
Unusually for Anthony's American and Canadian interviews this will be a very reasonable time for you guys in Europe, India and even China.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TONY !!!
Now, if anyone thinks I’m likely to volunteer to organise something like that again, then they are sadly mistaken: It was frantic enough last year and given the large number of ITLADists now, it would be a mammoth job.
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
When the Saints went marching in...
One of the images on display was Anthony with halo and the show also featured a certain Dark Philosopher with a bright red halo. Show has been unexpectedly successful since and I've really enjoyed being there. There is a free-floating halo on one wall for the viewer to be invited to canonise themselves so if you are feeling sacred over the holiday pop along and see for yourselves. You might get a glimpse of your Daemonic side... (Cheers for coming guys)
Friday, 3 April 2009
Fortean Times reviews "The Daemon"
The coda underneath the 9 score read "(A) fascinating exploration of the Near-Death experience."
I then paid for the copy and jumped on the train. My joy turned to elation as I read what Founding Editor, and one of my all time heroes, the great Bob Rickard had to say about my work. The review, which runs to a page and a quarter, is a wonderful synopsis of the whole ITLAD/CTF theory. Indeed it is probably the best precis that has been written. But what was even better that Bob genuinely seemed to like what I had written. Like you guys here on the Blog (and on the FORUM) Bob was using the itladian terminology that we know and love. "Bohmian IMAX" got a mention. He had even managed to mention the itladian movies "Groundhog Day", "It's A Wonderful Life", "Vanilla Sky" and "Jacob's Ladder".
In the final section of the review Bob writes the following:
Agents of Chaos: Alan Moore's Alchemical Worshop, and an Authentic Miracle of a Movie
Warning: the following review is likely to be somewhat “biased”: When I first read Watchmen in my early twenties, it affected me as deeply as any work of fiction ever had—it changed my life. So my responses to the movie—as described below—are going to be more than a little colored by a highly personal connection to the source material. (Jason Horsley)
Watchmen, the movie, directed by Zack Snyder and adapted by David Hayter and Alex Tze, sticks remarkably close to the source material, the ground-breaking graphic novel written by visionary author Alan Moore (whose name isn’t on the film) and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Moore is a self-confessed magician and uncontested genius of comic books, and his twelve issue, 300+ page superhero epic is a stupendously ambitious work, not merely one of the great accomplishments of comic book writing, but an outstanding work of fiction in any field. (It made Time magazine’s 100 greatest novels—what more do you need to know?!)
When I first heard about the Watchmen movie, I was skeptical—to put it mildly. In fact, I was indifferent. And when I saw the first stills from the movie, I knew, absolutely knew, it was a bust, that they were turning it into something gaudy and noisy and messy and dumb—what Hollywood does best. Beyond all doubt, “the visionary director of 300”—a mind-numbingly vacuous live-action cartoon cum commercial for Spartan warfare—would debase the material by catering to the lowest sensibilities of the mass audience.
But within ten minutes or less of the movie, it’s clear that something else is happening. The film, like the graphic novel, starts with the murder of the Comedian. The perfect pre-credit sequence, it sums up the delicate resonance of the story by both keeping to genre conventions (for an opening action set-piece and plot-starting murder) while adding a whole new layer of emotional nuance and poignancy. The Comedian’s weary acceptance of his fate speaks volumes. He has been waiting for this moment, and he’s secretly relieved that it’s finally come. If he puts up a token resistance, it’s only because he doesn’t know how not to. He keeps up his end of the mythic narrative to the bitter end.
This is followed by the lovely, eerie frozen images of the credits, by which flesh and blood becomes comic book image, or vice versa. The credit sequence is inspired: both delightful—enchanting—and wryly amusing, it lets us know that we are in good hands and can settle back to enjoy the most fully satisfying and morally complex superhero enactment in the history of movies. Watchmen is an authentic miracle of a movie—the best of its kind (the philosophical action fantasy) since The Matrix came out ten years ago. (Plot wise, Watchmen is less ingenious than The Matrix, but morally it’s far more sophisticated.)
What’s really astonishing about this movie is that, in under three hours, it manages to capture not only the spirit of the novel but the full, epic breadth of its storyline. I’ve read the comic book at least a dozen times and yet I couldn’t even say which parts the movie misses out (except for the obvious, the parallel story within a story of “Tales of the Black Freighter”). The odds against a big budget Hollywood adaptation of a fiction masterpiece being almost 100% faithful, and at the same time managing to translate it whole into a new medium, are truly phantasmagorical.
Yet therein may be a problem: Watchmen is so completely true to its source that anyone not already enamored of the comic book may be unable to fully grok it. The storyline is straightforward enough, but the peculiar blend of social realism with the pulp roots of comics, and the idiosyncratic, poetic, magical genius of its creator, make Watchmen utterly unlike any superhero movie, or any movie, we've ever seen before. It’s a freak in the best sense of the word: a creature of unfathomable beauty so unique that some people may mistake it for ugliness. It creates its own aesthetic.
What’s perhaps most unusual about the film is its complete moral ambiguity, the way in which it steps entirely outside of the usual mythic paradigm of good and evil, spins off a parallel reality, and weaves its very own mythic narrative. Just as the graphic novel did within the comics field, Watchmen creates a new paradigm for the superhero movie. It’s a paradigm which I highly doubt other filmmakers will be willing, or able, to match, much less develop. There are no heroes in Watchmen, and no villains either. There are rather extraordinary (and extraordinarily flawed) human beings, struggling to make sense of a world in chaos, wrestling with their own complicity in that chaos. These are easily the richest and most affecting characters to ever grace what is ostensibly a fantasy movie. They are not just functions of the plot, as Neo and Morpheus are functions of the plot. As in all great writing, Watchmen’s story develops out of the characters and not vice versa. And these characters are nothing if not ambiguous.
The most dislikeable of the characters, Ozymandias, is driven by a seemingly pathological, philanthropist desire to save the world, and this he succeeds in doing. But we don’t admire him for it—we can’t admire him, because no end could justify these means. He’s an elitist, driven by intellect and a sense of his innate superiority, but devoid of heart. On the other hand, there is much to admire in the murderous vigilante Rorschach—who is all heart. His code of no compromise, his ruthless implacability, his deranged sense of justice, beneath which is a strange tenderness and a deeply wounded soul. Rorschach simply cares too much not to cause mayhem. Like Travis Bickle, his pain, rage and confusion spills out into the world—and he matches it atrocity for atrocity.
Dr. Manhattan, on the other hand, cares little for humanity’s plight: he’s moved beyond that. Was ever a god this chillingly disconnected, a superhero this utterly disaffected? Yet, as Billy Crudup (the only recognizable face in the movie) plays him, Dr. Manhattan is deeply touching. He’s human despite himself, and in his way he’s as lost a soul as the rest of these characters, because he is so utterly, completely alone. As written by Moore, Dr. Manhattan is the first fully believable depiction of a superhuman being—a god—in movies.
On the face of it, the Comedian is the most sheerly unpleasant of the characters: a rapist and child killer, the puppet of the military industrial complex (in a beautiful twist added by the moviemakers, he’s also JFK’s actual assassin). Yet, loathsome as his actions are, he doesn’t ever become hateful to us. None of the characters are defined—or limited— by their actions; they are far too alive for that. Moore’s genius is that he uses the very limited and limiting genre of the superhero comic as an arena—a sort of child’s playground, but also an alchemical workshop—to work through his philosophical themes and develop flesh and blood characters—like forging gold from lead. With Watchmen, he created a kind of feedback loop that expands the story from genre melodrama, into infinity—the realm of archetypes, of true myth. Paradoxically, by turning superhero archetypes into ordinary, believable human beings, ordinary beings are transformed into something extraordinary, something magical, transcendent.
Moore creates a world of impossible possibilities, and the movie recreates that world with breathtaking fidelity—the kind of loyalty and integrity that seems unimaginable in Hollywood, but that has somehow come to pass. Admittedly, the film does fail in one crucial area: that of mapping the endless series of synchronicities between images, words, events, that form the texture of the graphic novel, and that in a sense are what it’s really about. More than the story, or even the characters, Watchmen describes the texture and flow of mystery that living in a quantum universe entails, and what’s lacking in the film is the necessary plethora of fine details, of recurring motifs and themes. Besides that smiley face, I didn’t notice any repeating phenomena, and so the scenes aren’t woven together at this subtler, more esoteric level. The result, for those who aren’t familiar with the original story, may seem to be an almost straightforward, though complex, action movie; they may well miss the finer undercurrents moving beneath the gloriously gaudy surface.
There are other minor flaws: the sex scene to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is something we could certainly have done without; perhaps more seriously, the extreme violence seems out of place here, largely gratuitous—it doesn’t add anything and may even detract from the dreamlike quality of the story (though with the Rorschach scenes a degree of savagery is probably intrinsic to the material). And sometimes what works in the graphic novel can seem mannered and contrived on screen (such as Night Owl’s question, “Whatever happened to the American Dream?”). Moore’s dialogue is often self-consciously clever, loaded, and this works better when we can hear it in our heads and give it our own inflexion. Actors can be all at sea with these multi-layered lines. There are also areas, such as Rorschach’s revealing the abyss of his soul to the liberal-minded psychiatrist, that need more time to be developed, that are rushed and hence diminished, and the film would probably have worked better, been less choppy and more textured, if it had been allowed an additional ten or twenty minutes of screen time.
But despite these flaws, the sheer joy and originality of the source material fills every frame. It animates every performance with an exuberance, audacity, and poetry, that is unique to the genre. I haven’t even begun to analyze the schizophrenic subtext of this film—perhaps another day?—but I can honestly say that, in thirty years of movie-going, I have never been so pleasantly surprised by a movie. Watchmen has every imaginable reason to crash and burn. Yet somehow, against impossible odds, it takes flight.
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Stalker by Tarkovski
Is Stalker a genuine SF movie? It is, but only with due respect to Dostoievsky’s words: „Fiction and reality are one and the same thing. Without reality there is no fiction.” The kind of fiction we find in Stalker is of the same nature with the fiction Nicolae Steinhardt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolae_Steinhardt) uses in his The Happiness Diary: one that „does not delude, does not lead to obscure lands of illusion, and is not a mere change of décor – the fiction of faith. That does not deny reality, but transcends it; that does not have to get out of the yellow room in order to leave it; that is not fiction after all, because it does not entertain the mind with a bunch (a human comedy) of other virtual– yet unessential – worlds, but rather makes it concentrate upon reality; which does not exclude science, but transfigures the world and the individual. ”
So, why be this particular film then? Mainly because nowhere else but in Tarkovski’s works (and arguably in Bergamn’s Nattvardsgästerna / Winter Light, Såsom i en spegel / Through a Glass Darkly, Tystnaden / The Silence or in Bunuel’s Nazarin and Viridiana, in some of Antonioni’s films) – and particularly in Stalker – does modern man’s inability to believe (transfiguring the world) and confess (transfiguring himself) hurt is such proportions. But confession is closely related to faith, and (post)modern man living in the glorious age of general deconstruction has increased his scepticism and believes, like the Writer, that "Conscience, remorse, are merely products of the brain...Who told you there is something going on here? Have you ever seen anybody leaving this place happy?” The whole odyssey towards Tarkovsky's Zone in order to pursue happiness is but a (failed) preparation for the most important moment in a man's life. The moment when he has to say nothing, he has to do nothing but concentrate and remember his own life, for "when one remembers his life, one becomes a better person". Perhaps this is the "clue" to Tarkovsky's charade: once we have reached (together with the Writer and the Professor) the threshold of the Room where, as they say, "the most powerful, tormenting and sincere desire becomes true", the Stalker makes us face the unavoidable question: Who am I? How would I react if a "stalker" (a guide) whom I incessantly suspect of hypocrisy (and whom I had imagined as looking completely different - „leather stockings, an impressive black leather suit, the looks of a dragon”) told me: „You only need to have faith!”? Would I be ready or would I resign, like the Writer does, and whose pride makes him say: “I’ll hardly be a better person if I start remembering my life….And don’t you see how shameful that is? To abase oneself, to grovel, to pray?” Or would I call for extreme measures (like the Professor does, who has prepared – not his soul, but rather a 20 kilotons bombs – in order to blow up “this famous place” for he cannot sleep easy in his bed as long as “this ulcer is open to any scumbag”. The place which “does not bring happiness to anyone” will not be blown up because of the Stalker, the “hypocritical worm” (called by the Writer “simply defective”), who – among bitter tears – tells the Writer and the Professor (but only them?): “Nobody has anything left in this world any more. This is the only place you can come to, if you’ve nothing else to hope for…That’s why you came! So, why are you destroying…faith?” What exactly is, after all, the Zone (or “the yellow room”, as Steinhardt put it)? Tarkovski provides the answer, in his book, Le temps scellé: „The Zone does not mean anything, at least it does not mean anything more than what one can find in my films. The Zone is the Zone. The Zone is life, and the man who lives it either crushes or saves himself. It’s all up to the way one feels his own dignity and ability in discerning what is essential from what isn’t.” If Tarkovski is right, we do need – more than ever – such a Stalker (a guide) to help us transform into a dream the dirt we have filled our souls with, a guide to help us discern – in this very age of excessive zapping and claiming of all freedoms – what is really essential from what isn’t.