unseen cinema: "Unknown White Male"

In June I cut out the one-paragraph reviews of two movies, Duck Season from Mexico, and Unknown White Male from the UK.

More than 50 times I have gone to one of four video stores and loooked for Unknown White Male but never found it until last night, October 13. In the meantime, I have seen more than 50 movies, of which the best were The Return (Russia), All the Real Girls (USA), Spring, Summer . . . (South Korea), Turtles Can Fly (Iran-Iraq), I Can’t Sleep (France), New York Doll (USA), L’Enfant (Belgium), Out of Bounds (USA), Proposition (Australia), Matador (USA), Water (India), Ballad of a Soldier (Russia), Umberto D. (Italy) and The Three Burials of Melquies Estrada (USA).

The worst films were Down in the Valley (USA), Don’t Come Knocking (USA), The King (USA), Eight Below (USA), Easy (USA), 2046 (Taiwan), Harvest doc on Neil Young (USA), Xiu Xiu (China), Notorious Bettie Page (USA), and Sidney Pollack’s movie about Frank Gehry (USA).

During this time, I have been reading or listening to books on evolutionary biology, memory, and architecture. Particularly Nicholas Wade (Before the Dawn) on mitochondrial and X-chromosome tracking, John Gribbin (The Third Chimpanzee), Gleick on Feynman, E.O. Wilson (On Human Nature), and Louis Althusser (Future Looks Like Forever), Laura Huxley on husband Aldous, and Alex Waugh (Time). Bill Bryson (Short History), Hawking (Nutshell) and Daniel Boorstin (Cleopatra’s Nose) also figure during this period.

I saw Massive Attack, and was appalled. The band was terrible. I went home that night and worked 16 hours on a music piece (I should write rhythm piece) just to do something better than Massive Attack, immediately. I saw Roger Waters do Dark Side of the Moon, and was bored. I saw Old Medicine Crow Band and was inspired by how time and place influences memory, since I’d seen them first on the street in Mardi Gras 2001, and now in a theatre with a different vibe.

All of these things collided with my own sense of creativity and self during the time I read about Unknown White Male until last night, when I actually saw the movie. Even if I think it is fake, more art than truth, the movie will exercise immediate influence on the editing I will do to video over the course of the next three weeks. Am I inspired by the movie? Yes. I will recommend it to everyone, and not say whether I think the movie is a fake. Anyone who sees it and is told beforehand that it might be fake will have a different experience than I did last night, when who I am and what I do were so scathingly questioned during the course of three hours. The long version of the sand dunes sequence included on the DVD was absolutely brilliant; all visual art, nothing about Doug Bruce, intense colorizing and processing, simply beautiful, and I will take aim at it the same way I did at Massive Attack.

And then I get the text from you last night, of course from you. Few other people care so much about themselves, as artists or as human beings, as you and I do, so of course a movie about extreme selfishness (anti-altruism) is fascinating and attractive to both of us. Very funny that the world and all the trillions of trillions of thoughts and artistic impulses synapsizing over its surface should still be so perfectly structured to result in this e-mail from me to you, right now, with that movie still crackling in our nostrils.

I last e-mailed you on June 12, a Monday, about the ridiculousness of myspace. The one-paragraph review of Unknown White Male appeared on the previous Sunday in the LA Times’ special issue of summer movies to watch. Tight as a nutshell, and just as nourishing.

Neither of us knows what the other is doing, or has done, during that time, and neither of us really cares except to know what the other thinks about what we are doing, and during that exact time this movie about self-abandonment has made its way to last night, and through your text to today to this e-mail now, where I list only my influences and inspirations and absolutely nothing about my endeavours, other than to create a bass line and mood better than Massive Attack’s in a 5-minute piece I call Minor Attack.

How funny.

(From a correspondence with Jonelle Vette)