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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

This week at SFC: Scott Walker: 30th Century Man and Gates of Heaven

Our screenings are free and all are welcome.

Thursday November 8th

First film starts at 6:45pm. Feature at 8:15pm.

We will screen the Scott Walker documentary in its entirety this week. For those who only want to see the 2nd half, please come at 7:30.

Scott Walker: 30th Century Man  (Stephen Kijak/UK USA/2006/95')

This is an absorbing documentary tracing the career of the great singer-songwriter from boy band pin-up to avant-garde legend. It includes interviews with famous fans as well as extensive sessions with the man himself during the recording of his 2006 album, The Drift.

"I know nothing about him," says David Bowie of his musical hero at the beginning of this captivating documentary. "Who knows anything about Scott Walker?" "I heard he likes to sit in pubs and watch people play darts," offers Jarvis Cocker. "Is he still cute?" wonders Lulu. The rumour mill surrounding Walker, one of the great singer-songwriters, has had reason enough to turn over the years. Famously reclusive, he lets his music do the talking. "Ultimately," he tells us, "your work is yourself". But three albums in the last 30 years doesn't give us a lot to go on. Stephen Kijak's film, Scott Walker: 30th Century Man, tries to shed light on this most fascinating subject with colourful and eloquent contributions from collaborators and famous fans alike (including members of Radiohead, Sting, Brian Eno, Johnny Marr and Damon Albarn). But the real coup of director Stephen Kijak's labour of love is to provide access to the artist himself as he records his critically acclaimed 2006 album 'The Drift'. When we first meet him, the 63 year-old Walker comes across like the timid elder brother of 'Body World' anatomist Gunther Von Hagens. The leonine hairdo that helped make Scott such a heartthrob back in The Walker Brothers days has thinned dramatically, as has his luxurious baritone voice. He looks allergic and is disarmingly self-effacing for a man who, in 1965, had a bigger fanclub than The Beatles. He's also surprisingly chatty yet gives little away, referring to an extensive creative slump in the 1970s and 1980s simply as "that 20 year hiatus". He is, in fact, the least likely music legend you can imagine.

Gates of Heaven (Errol Morris/USA/1976/83')

This brilliant if very depressing documentary always makes Roger Ebert's list of top ten greatest movies of all time. See it and see why. Just don't count on smiling for about two days afterward.

Errol Morris takes his camera around California and interviews various people involved in pet cemeteries. The first person we meet, Floyd McClure, opened his cemetery as his lifelong dream after his dog was killed; he saw his dream wither away when the cemetery went belly-up and more than 450 animal corpses had to be disinterred and moved. We see some people whose pets had been buried there, but the woman who makes the most vivid impression is Florence Rasmussen, who for some reason goes off-topic and starts talking about her lousy son. Morris keeps the camera on her anyway, and this is where Gates of Heaven starts to enter Maysles or Wiseman territory.

Morris moves on to Cal Harberts, who started his own cemetery with the animals left over from McClure's land. We don't get to know him as well as we do his two sons, Phil and Dan, who help run the cemetery. Phil is a former insurance salesman who's listened to one too many motivational tapes. He seems to be psyching himself up to deal with the remainder of his dull life. Dan is a would-be rock musician who drags his amp outside and practices when nobody is around. The sound of his guitar riffs bouncing off the pet gravestones is incredibly sad and chilling.

Did Morris set out to make a quirky documentary about what some would consider a trivial subject? He came back with an unforgettable mood piece about human loneliness, in which the mourned pets seem much more important than if they had been the movie's true focus (not much time is given to reminiscences about pets).

It's true, it's life, and it makes you want to do anything to avoid ending up like any of these people — except maybe Floyd McClure, who comes off as a gentle visionary.


Anonymous Channon said...

Good post.

8:13 PM  

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