Eat the poor

Victoria Vetri/Angela Dorian/whatever she’s calling herself this week enjoys the black meat of the giant aquatic Brazilian centipede.

One of the nice things about READING WHEN YOU’RE TIRED, which nobody ever talks about, is when you misread something in a completely insane way and it throws you for a loop. This doesn’t happen when you’re alert because the context-checker in your brain pre-emptively stops you making lunatic inferences (or mine does, and even in dyslexia this part of the reading process seems fairly dependable, and actually can allow the dyslexic reader to struggle through).

The beauty of the demented misreading is that it is ALWAYS an improvement on the original piece, at least insofar as being more SURPRISING. See Samuel Fuller for a typically vigorous defence of the value of surprise: “I start to read a BOOK! I form an OPINION, based on the FIRST PAGE, of where the book is GOING! I turn the PAGE! It’s going SOMEWHERE ELSE ENTIRELY! I LOVE THAT!!!” 

So, Saturday’s Guardian Review offers a nice profile of author J.G. Ballard (obligatory movie connection — you might say CRASH, or EMPIRE OF THE SUN [Spielberg does Lean — underrated? Discuss]. I prefer to point to WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH). It’s very enjoyable, and then he says, regarding his days studying at Cambridge ~

“Things have changed now. But I remember thinking: there must be more to England than this! There’s something wrong. I never met a working-class person unless they were put on a plate in front of me -”

I boggled. My God, he really is a cannibal! And what’s more, cannibalism at Cambridge in the post-war years was actually practiced openly! They left that bit out of Brideshead Revisited.

Hang on. Backtrack ~

“I never met a working-class person unless they were putting a plate on a table in front of me.”

Reality, as Ballard well knows, can be rather disappointing.

12 Responses to “Eat the poor”

  1. The Scottish diet is notoriously bad, and I’m a pretty lousy example of nutritional malfeasance. But I haven’t quite reached that level. Yet.

  2. Lady fingers??????
    Lobster Rockerfeller????????
    a Black Russian????????????????????

  3. Edible film-makers:
    Sam Hamm.
    Jack Sholder.
    Lloyd Bacon.
    Marcel Carne.
    Stephen Chow.

  4. Ballard has his name spelt incorrectly in the titles of CREATURES but didn’t much care as his treatment was mostly thrown out.

    There are a couple of odd Ballard films floating around aside from the ones that you mention. A very low budget student-ish version of THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION, which doesn’t really work as it tries too hard to actually transcribe the book on to the screen, and a rather nice Portuguese adaptation of LOW FLYING AIRCRAFT that fares much better.

  5. That post got me thinking about Brian Yuzna’s class cannibalism film, Society! It even prominently features the Eton Boating Song! (Doesn’t Mark Cousins like that film? I seem to remember him introducing it for his Moviedrome series)

    I really liked the film of The Atrocity Exhibition – it is well worth tracking down as the Reel 23 DVD has in addition to the filmmaker commentary a discussion between the director and Ballard himself, who gives the film his full endorsement!

  6. I seem to remember the BFI book on Crash listing every Ballard adaptation to date, including reconstructions for a BBC doc, directed by Harley “Dream Demon” Cokeliss, which I recall being quite good — sexier than the Cronenberg, possibly. More fetishistic.

    I’m very disappointed in Yuzna’s progress. Stuart Gordon and all that lot seem to have lost the potential they had going, at least of late.

  7. To be fair, my viewing of THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION was accompanied by a few drinks, so I should probably give it another try. Ballard seems like he’s happy with most of the adaptations of his work, though his reaction to EMPIRE OF THE SUN is a little more muted. There’s a nice passage toward the end of his autobiographical novel The Kindness of Women in which he is asked about his thoughts on Spielberg’s film. “They say it’s his best,” is the non-committal reply, as far as my memory tells me.

    I like the BFI Crash book, though it’s patently clear that it’s just an excuse for Iain Sinclair to get to meet Ballard. Fair play. Sinclair has a few film links himself. His book Lights Out for Territory has a fascinating chapter about Michael Reeves, and Sinclair and Chris Petit have made a couple of films together too. One of them, THE FALCONER, was even pretty good. LONDON ORBITAL, which features Ballard, less so.

    The Harley Cokeliss short was taken out of mothballs for BBC4’s Ballard season a couple of years ago, and you’re right, it is sexier than Cronenberg’s. That said, as it spends a lot of time comparing the curves of cars with that of women, it does have the advantage of 1960’s cars. By the 90’s cars were just less sexy.

  8. The Falconer had interesting people in it but I’d like it much better if the fraudulent aspects had been at all convincing. I know exactly when the filmmakers are pulling my leg and that makes the whole thing slighly pointless. I like Chris Petit but I’m not convinced he has an antic side. He looks like a suburban bank manager. He’s talented, but his talents are unfashionably dry and sombre.

    By the 90’s, EVERYTHING was less sexy. Discuss.

  9. I’d agree with you that Empire of the Sun is under-rated — and so does Ballard. I interviewed him when The Kindness of Women was published and he was very complimentary about it. The film had been heavily criticised for suggesting that the camp might seem enjoyable, even beautiful, but Ballard was insistent that Spielberg had captured exactly how the camp seemed to him: critics of the movie had failed to see that, like ET, it’s filmed through the eyes of Jim, not with objective reality. Personally I think it’s some of Spielberg’s most daring work — the car ride through Shanghai in fancy dress, the atom bomb sequence and the weird trek through the rice fields as the Red Cross canisters fall are a perfect fusion of Spielberg and Ballard.

  10. Yes! The scene in Empire of the Sun where Christian Bayle (!) is watching Miranda Richardson make love to her husband while also watching a bomber raid outside and clearly forming a bizarre mental connection between human sexuality and technological mayhem only makes sense if we assume he’s going to grow up to write Crash.

  11. […] interesting and important new idea has arisen — the question of EDIBLE FILM DIRECTORS. (Eat the Poor, comments section.) It’s an area that needs considerable investigation, both from the […]

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