photo & text by nacrowe
recently came across the documentary FOR NO GOOD REASON (SONY PICTURES CLASSICS, 2012) which loosely follows the career of the legendary BRITISH painter/visual artist RALPH STEADMAN through a series of interview with JOHNNY DEPP. with little surprise, much of the oxygen in the room is taken up with talk of his famous collaboration with AMERICAN writer and GONZO journalist HUNTER S. THOMPSON who passed away less than a decade before its filming. but not all of it.
what this film made me appreciate was the full context of STEADMAN's work and how bitingly political much of it was. its as if he took the turbulent, introspective psychological machinations of FRANCIS BACON's work and projected it outward onto a corrupt AMERICAN political apparatus that was not expecting that level vitriol and outright bile. what is also just as interesting is STEADMAN's questioning of the purpose of his work, since these warmongering capitalist structures have perpetuated themselves unabated through a new generation, his efforts to change the world inevitably failing. that lingering question is something that all artists, protestors and community organizers deal with at some point, if not constantly.
in the post-TRUMP (or perhaps pre-TRUMP empire) era it is a concern that feels particularly prescient and of-the-moment. what can art do in the face of raw power? his paintings are visceral and unwaveringly detailed to the pain and suffering of the war-torn, malnourished and forgotten victims of war as only someone like GOYA could attest beforehand in centuries past.
for what purpose if no one is listening? if no one cares outside of their own self-interest? there must be a good reason to create, provoke and progress. i just dont know it yet.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
ED WOOD (TOUCHSTONE PICTURES, 1994) is my favorite TIM BURTON film despite the fact that it is the least TIM BURTON-like project he ever made (with possible exceptions being BIG FISH or BIG EYES).
this film is a love letter to B-movies of early cinema and the people who made them. for a man known for his elaborate GERMAN EXPRESSIONISTIC set design and macabre EDWARD GOREY-indebted aesthetic, the fact that BURTON during his early peak chose to take on a project that glorified the questionable talents and even more suspect creative vision of such a figure as b-movie director ED D. WOOD JR, who made his filmography under limited budgets (to put it very diplomatically) and with no conceivable audience, was a truly a bold departure and a touching tribute to the essence of film-making.
it is hard not to fall under the spell of WOOD, masterfully depicted by JOHNNY DEPP, and his singular focus to make his magnum opus PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1959), which to this day is continually on worst movies of all-time lists (which come to think of it is a feat in and of itself). when i re-watched this recently what struck me was how much this film deals with the production of film-making, the almost fanatic zeal to which WOOD goes about corralling his merry band of enablers strikes me as a commentary on the communal aspects and the trust, risks and responsibilities involved in taking on such an endeavor.
this film also touchingly tackles the trust and communication of a director and his actor, here with MARTIN LANDEAU as washed-up, drugged-out, humiliated later years horror icon BELA LUGOSI. his portrayal is done with much humility and grace and is deeply affecting as it showcases the collateral damage of a defeated human being discarded after his usefulness to a studio he helped build rejects him. that is until he is rediscovered by WOOD who gives him a second lease on communal appreciation before his death.
i think for BURTON this film is meta-observation on the pressures, challenges and potential pitfalls of movie-making, but also its community. for me at least such makes this his most impactful film in a career of high-water marks.
this film is definitely worth your time. for the horror/exploitation/b-movie buff or layman irrespective, this is a truly great achievement.
art by nacrowe
man i am a huge JOHN WATERS fan.
when i think about his films, especially those from the 1970s, i think of a true auteur who brings his audience into a fellini-esque carnival alternate reality of the destitute, disaffected and delusional. he holds a mirror to our true selves.
there is an almost poignant clarity in the shallowness of his characters, particularly those portrayed by the inimitable DIVINE / GLENN MILSTEAD (RIP) in PINK FLAMINGOES, FEMALE TROUBLE and DESPERATE LIVING. the baser rungs of our nature provide the motivation for these characters, which poetically mirror modern reality tv and internet meme culture. WATERS back then saw something in much the same way that BILLY WILDER did years before in his doomed opus ACE IN THE HOLE, that spectacle and sensationlism in american life is more important than knowledge, empathy, love or any meaningful higher ideal that binds us all.
his movie's truly reflect a future dystopia: trump's america.
as DIVINE's character dawn davenport states poignantly before her execution via electric chair in FEMALE TROUBLE...
I'd like to thank all the wonderful people that made this great moment in my life come true. My daughter Taffy, who died in order to further my career. My friends Chicklette and Concetta who should be here with me today. All the fans who died so fashionably and gallantly at my nightclub act. And especially all those wonderful people who were kind enough to read about me in the newspapers and watch me on the television news shows. Without all of you, my career could never have gotten this far. It was you that I murdered for and it is you that I will die for! Please remember, I love every fucking one of you!