Still hashing out what it is I want to do for my assignment. I have vague ideas of what I want to include – the surrealism of Jean Cocteau, a bit of the Orpheus myth, maybe some psychogeography. I quite enjoyed writing the latter, although admittedly my understanding of it is the Alan Moore model made famous in From Hell and Unearthing, and I don’t know how much it deviates from Iain Sinclair’s ideas (the two are mates, so maybe not that far off).
Creativity’s been stretched a bit thin as has my mood the past couple of weeks, what with everything else on my plate. A good chunk of my brain was colonised by dumbangel, my Theories of Creativity & Writing piece that blended together Riddley Walker, Brian Wilson and dealing with mental illness where I decided I’d write in fragmented Joycean English. I don’t make things easy for myself. God only knows how Joyce did it for Finnegans Wake; reading a few paragraphs felt like ingesting expired magic mushrooms and fucked about with the language centre of my head good and proper.
As much as it wore me out forcing myself into that headspace, I kinda liked writing something so weird and ‘outside’, for want of a better term. I can’t see myself going that far down the path for this module, but offbeat and poetic? I’m all about that. It was while trying to find something that fit my needs that I learnt about Derek Jarman’s final film, Blue.
Yeah, calling this a “motion picture” is a stretch. It really is what it looks like – spoken word narration over a single shot of International Klein Blue. I wanted to catch this at the Tate Modern, not sure if it’s still there, but YouTube led me to a full version of the CD album (Blue is the rare film that can be bought on DVD and CD) that sadly disappeared at the time of writing, so you’ll have to make do with this fragmented version. Listen to it while you work, and be borne away by the lovely writing. Jarman was dying from AIDS and going blind from complications with the virus (‘My retina is a distant planet, a red Mars from a Boy’s Own comic with yellow infection bubbling in the corner’), so for his last artistic statement, he and his friends (Nigel Terry, Tilda Swinton, John Quentin) got into a recording booth and recited what is basically a prose-poem detailing Jarman’s life, his visits to hospital, his battle with his ailing sight, rousing chanties about oral sex, and the dreamlike journeys of “Blue” as the noble colour wanders through the void fighting the evil Yellow.
Trust me, this all works. There’s no narrative, it’s an exploration of memory and mind. I’m tempted to call this psychogeography of a sort. Rather than Sinclair walking the M25 to try and unearth “the fiction that is England”, or Sir William Gull using Hawksmoor churches to daub 20th century London with blood in From Hell, or even the twisted maze of branch and bone that was Carcosa in True Detective, this is a more literal use of the term – mapping out a person’s soul. Blue takes us from the waiting room in St Bartholomew’s Hospital to a labyrinth built of mirrors that blinds travellers on sunny days to Vincent van Gogh going mad in a yellow cornfield, and it all feels so natural. We’re in Jarman’s head, his beautiful imagination turning down different paths and places as he walks behind the sky, ‘an astronaut in the void’.
I’m not a million miles away from this style, or at least I’d like to be. Using words sparingly and precisely to create a picture.
Homework: Listen to Low by David Bowie (RCA, 1977). It’s what I keep spinning during winter, and the elliptical mysterious lyrics feel appropriate for what I want to do.