Monday, October 18, 2010

Laurie Anderson's 'Delusion' & Nowhere Boy

Friday I had the chance to catch a couple of fun things: Laurie Anderson's Delusion at EMPAC (my favourite local venue) and Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy at the Spectrum 8 (as usual). Of course there were several other things possible that night -- among them, Nick Lowe sob! -- but one can't do everything (but two might try, but how to make two of me...?).

Nowhere Boy tells the story of John Lennon's teenage years living with his aunt Mimi (Kristen Scott Thomas) while getting reacquainted with his mother (Ann-Marie Duff)who had left him at the age of five and the emotional turmoil inherent in that situation, as well as the budding musical career he got off the ground between various hooliganish larks. Initially the film's release was overshadowed by director Taylor-Wood's relationship with her much younger lead actor, Aaron Johnson -- a disparity and relationship that would raise few eyebrows if the genders were reversed. The film has a brilliant cast all around (and not too terrible with the Liverpudlian accents for the most part) and definite emotional hooks, but the script doesn't really hang together well. Despite its basis in fact, it's not always compellingly believable, but I did enjoy it on the whole. There are plenty of little tidbits for the fans, like the drawings hanging on the wall that later show up on Lennon's Walls and Bridges LP. The visual accuracy of recreating existing photos through careful wardrobe choices: a pity the same care is seldom applied to crafting the script (cf. Sid & Nancy where the "My Way" sequence mimics the video precisely, but the filmmakers can't be bothered to find out how many siblings Nancy has).

Laurie Anderson is always an interesting performer. I had seen her talk about developing this piece at MassMOCA months ago, so I was already curious to see what had come. It was a much more visual show than some of the others I'd seen in recent years, with images and words projected on the giant screen behind her, on a sofa as well as two uniquely shaped screens on either side of the stage. The show, "a meditation on life and language", ranged widely across a wide variety of subjects in a dialogue between her own voice and the "male voice" she's been using for years that now has the name of Fenway Bergamot. Many of the themes had great resonance for me particularly her thoughts on the impact of silence and her descriptions of her travels in Iceland and how they sparked revelations about her own family. She rode Icelandic ponies at Halldór Laxness' farm (I only rode them at the farm across the way) and met a man who had a brilliant idea to turn a decrepit barn into dance club. Looking around the bleak landscape, Anderson realised at last who this man reminded her of: her own father and his enthusiasm for completely impractical notions.

In one of the most moving -- and difficult -- parts of the evening, she spoke of her mother's death and her difficulty in dealing with the loss of someone she "did not love". A priest she talked to suggested that she simply say that she had always cared about her, but she never got the chance to say those words. Anderson described her mother's delusions at the end of her life, animals she could see on the ceiling, and her gratitude, thanking everyone for coming, for all they had done. It was a really naked moment. She described a dream in which she gave birth to her dog, but also caught herself out in the dream because she had engineered the experience.

There was enthusiastic applause at the end, which continued even after she had come out for another bow, and I had just thought, "well, it's not as if she could do an encore..." when she stepped out again and did just that, picking up the electric violin and stepping to the edge of the stage where we could see her without the lighting (we were in the second row) and played a plaintive tune that held the audience spellbound.

Wonderful.

13 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Quite a nice weekend you had whereas I slept through one movie and was deeply offended by RED. Can we really treat the attempted assassination of a vice-president, however despicable, as a subject for joking. It took me right back to the RFK assassination. Do we really find it funny to hear Helen Mirren say, "I really miss killing people."

K. A. Laity said...

Apparently a lot of people do -- it's an interesting snapshot of our culture, so far removed from the reality of death, especially violent death that it can be fantasy. That's privilege.

I meant to mention in my review that I also saw two previews for "white people in prison" movies (surely a genre of its own now) both of which I hated for entirely different reasons beyond the absurdity of ignoring the racial makeup of the prison population in this country. Millions of dollars those films cost; millions that could have gone toward meaningful prison reform to erase one of the many scandals of our so-called enlightened culture. But no, rich white people would rather pretend to play prisoner for the amusement of their likewise well off audience.

Todd Mason said...

Meanwhile, the Lennon film isn't at all well served by its trailers, at least, which make it look even more than you suggest like the kind of pat rocker biopic that has been so ripe for mockery (WALK HARD and at least one specific parody of this film already).

I'm not sure if there's anything that so un-adults us in some ways as the death of our parents, and so adults us (if my neologistic repurpose can be allowed to continue..."adulterate" doesn't work here) as watching our parents as they approach death, particularly if they daily assistance, even if we aren't providing that ourselves. Harlan Ellison's "The Deathbird" comes to mind. I suspect I would've liked that performance by Anderson much better than the one I've seen in person.

Well, unfortunately, the means by which the case that was prosecuted as detailed in CONVICTION is even more widely applicable, because of those sheer numbers, to African-Americans and increasingly Latinos than it is to pale Caucs, so much so that the film has been extensively discussed on at least one daily program aimed at African-Americans. Sadly, expecting the money used to produce a film to be directly applied to "justice system" reform is similar to expecting money going to star athlestes being turned to teachers instead...different wells, and at least the crusaders in that case have been rewarded with film money that they are apparently at least partially going to plow back into their cause. Maybe not giving team owners huge city budget busting deals for their stadia and then using that money for actual civic improvement that might actually as opposed to bullshittedly draw more residents to dying cities being quite another matter.

Welcome to self-righteous bastard/geek comic-book movie world, Patti...sounds like RED is full of the same sort of thing that made WANTED such a waste of any sane person's time. Only with better actors, at least in part, and Morgan Freeman in both. Wonder which one you slept through.

Todd Mason said...

Actually, I think most folks in their mid-'40s who are dating 20yos get mocked, at least by some observers, regardless of genders involved.

Todd Mason said...

And if we're choosing against cloning and virtual telepresence KateBots as impractically expensive and not quite what's desired, I guess I'm waiting for progress reports on astral projection experimentation, while still consciously inhabiting the corporeal body...

Time to leave the carpet fumes. They almost smell tolerable.

K. A. Laity said...

Ah, the carpet fumes. I hope you are breathing better now. Surely Rovicorp can't approve of their employees living so dangerously?

Astral projection proceeding much better than the 'bots because the start up technology is already in place.

K. A. Laity said...

And I completely forgot to mention the skunk! While I was waiting in the lobby after the show I saw people excitedly gathering at the glass wall by the patio. There was a huge skunk snuffling along the wall like she was trying to find a way in. I still can't get used to those big fluffy New England skunks -- so much white!

Anonymous said...

aaron johnson is dreamy
-b

K. A. Laity said...

LOL, yes indeedy.

Anonymous said...

is that an oblique rhyme?
b-

K. A. Laity said...

Very oblique...

Anonymous said...

i wished i'd said that.
-b

K. A. Laity said...

You will, Bertie, you will.