Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Control & culture

Listening to Radio4 yesterday, during a phone-in on knife crime, a listener attributed it in part to our highly competitive culture, one in which you're either a winner or a loser. She gave 'The Weakest Link' a mention, something that in the past I would have scoffed at, but there's so much of our television like that now, think more of the Apprentice or Big Brother. Become rich and famous - or a nobody.

As aspiration's grown, inspiration, it seems to me has declined. Virtually all popular music around now seems to be weak copies of the styles of the previous 3 or 4 decades and much of visual art seems predicated on the major dealers conferring wealth and status in return for headline-grabbing mock outrage, and the Hollywood mainstream is now unspeakably bland.

The rebellion's also disappeared - in the 60s or 70s, Anne Robinson or Alan Sugar would've been told to get f**ked, metaphorically if not literally, the world's now well and truly back under the thumb of wealth and power.

By contrast it was great to watch an interview with Werner Herzog, a film-maker not deliberately obscure, but someone who's so motivated by his dreams he's a complete misfit in this day and age. His first notable film, 'Even Dwarves Started Small', he produced and directed himself, and even financed. At 20K it was a pretty tiny budget even then, yet almost impossibly huge coming out of his own pocket. A last important message from the great man - digital film cameras are so cheap now, if you want to make a film there's no excuse for not doing so. But how few people will actually do so (as opposed to a clip of yourself dancing around your bedroom on Youtube in the hope of getting talent-spotted)?

At last I caught up with Anton Corbijn's film, 'Control'. Like many others I found it didn't really engage me until quite near the end, and from what he said in the notes on the DVD, I think it'd been loads better if he'd stuck to his original plan and done it as flashback rather than documentary. In fact I reckon he could've reduced the 'now' content to the last tragic hour or so of Ian Curtis's life.

Other seem to think that Curtis was suffering from depression when he killed himself, but it struck me that it was much more unresolvable inner conflicts. An impossible choice between his wife and girlfriend, a love of what he was doing with Joy Division against the shallowness of fame, the debilitating side-effects of his medication against the potentially lethal fits from epilepsy if he stopped taking it, and more besides. In fact, some reckon there's a psychological element to epilepsy, anger. Another creature of his time, so few these days would have the integrity to even find those conflicts as a root of suffering.

And a tie-in - the night before he died he watched Herzog's 'Stroszek' on TV.


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