Skip to main content

The director says I look like a battered monument. I have a terrible feeling he’s trying to be kind to me.

One More Time with Feeling
(2016)

Perhaps the aspect most underlining the legitimacy of this nominal making-of-an-album (Skeleton Key) documentary is that the tragedy informing it is never even outlined (I admit, while I knew the basics, I wasn’t aware of the tabloid free-for-all that ensued). Nick Cave lost a son, and as close as we come to addressing the circumstances outright is his comment “Every time I articulate it, it does him a disservice”.


Director Andrew Dominik originally intended to make a performance-based piece, and you can see this more functional approach in the problems with the 3D camera that open the documentary. It surely wouldn’t have developed that way if the more ruminative, reflective, contemplative aspects of the interview process had been considered at the outset, as technical trials tend to hamper such openness. The musical renditions are gorgeous, mesmerising affairs, however, and Dominik shoots them in a manner that captivates. Particularly so the formulation of the album’s spoken word opener, Jesus Alone, with its atmospheric, minimalist accompaniment as Cave’s persuaded he needs to do an overdub.


The doc includes significant contributions from Warren Ellis (who looks like Joaquin Phoenix in his art instillation period) and Susie Bick, but Cave is obviously front and centre (there’s a nagging feeling that Bick’s inclusion is, with noble intentions, designed to show her as an independent person with her own goals, but it has rather the opposite effect). He is candidly elliptic in his conversation, addressing the sheer impossibility of putting into words his feelings over his loss, yet with his every contribution he reminds you he is indeed a philosopher poet (he comments of the album that he usually doesn’t “let lines go I’m not really pleased with” but this time his approach has been different – you wouldn’t know it, even in his off-the-cuff conversation).


Cave discusses the suggestion that his songs have a prophetic nature, something his wife is superstitious about, unconvinced by the idea, but Dominik succeeds in pulling us into Cave’s subdued maelstrom, with his admission of the loss of Arthur that “It’s affected me in a way I don’t understand”. And how he still recognises the person he sees in mirror, but within is another person. And how incidents are revealing, of crying in a friend’s arms only for Cave to realise they’re someone else he didn’t actually know very well. And the obverse, in response to a room filled with kind eyes (“But when did you become an object of pity?”)


He’s also more than willing to slay a few sacred cows, such as the notion that trauma fuels creativity, since he found it only impeded the imagination because it left no room for anything else. Some of his observations are more general, such as on the aging process (“You decay and you sort of diminish… The struggle to do what I do requires more effort”) or musing on anything that may disrupt the status quo (“Most of us don’t want to change, really. I mean, why should we?”) and his belief that there are no such things as accidents, applying this musically (rather than in relation to the singular accident that overshadows everything). Rather, they’re a magical synthesis.


Dominik takes on board the looseness of Cave’s announced approach to how he now composes (“I don’t believe in the narrative any more… I don’t believe that there’s a pleasing resolve”), whereby the resulting fractured narrative and its distressing logic is much more real to the way the musician feel about things. So in his design of the picture, Dominik imparts a feeling of unfolding as it will, organically, while sufficiently aware enough of his own feelings on the matter (that life is a natural, enforced narrative, and by extension so is a movie, since both have a beginning and ultimately an end) to come back to the notion of elasticity Cage mulls over in the opening sequences (how a friend was mentioning “how time feels elastic these days, the idea that all things are happening all the time... All past, present and future are happening right now”). In closing Cave suggests, perhaps more theoretically than practically, that he and Susie have decided to be happy. You hope only that they get there.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Anything can happen in Little Storping. Anything at all.

The Avengers 2.22: Murdersville
Brian Clemens' witty take on village life gone bad is one of the highlights of the fifth season. Inspired by Bad Day at Black Rock, one wonders how much Murdersville's premise of unsettling impulses lurking beneath an idyllic surface were set to influence both Straw Dogs and The Wicker Mana few years later (one could also suggest it premeditates the brand of backwoods horrors soon to be found in American cinema from the likes of Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper).

James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.

Moonraker (1979)
Depending upon your disposition, and quite possibly age, Moonraker is either the Bond film that finally jumped the shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take on the character. Many Bond aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger Moore’s take on Bond.

The protocol actually says that most Tersies will say this has to be a dream.

Jupiter Ascending (2015)
(SPOILERS) The Wachowski siblings’ wildly patchy career continues apace. They bespoiled a great thing with The Matrix sequels (I liked the first, not the second), misfired with Speed Racer (bubble-gum visuals aside, hijinks and comedy ain’t their forte) and recently delivered the Marmite Sense8 for Netflix (I was somewhere in between on it). Their only slam-dunk since The Matrix put them on the movie map is Cloud Atlas, and even that’s a case of rising above its limitations (mostly prosthetic-based). Jupiter Ascending, their latest cinema outing and first stab at space opera, elevates their lesser works by default, however. It manages to be tone deaf in all the areas that count, and sadly fetches up at the bottom of their filmography pile.

This is a case where the roundly damning verdicts have sadly been largely on the ball. What’s most baffling about the picture is that, after a reasonably engaging set-up, it determinedly bores the pants off you. I haven’t enco…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991)
(SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

My dear, sweet brother Numsie!

The Golden Child (1986)
Post-Beverly Hills Cop, Eddie Murphy could have filmed himself washing the dishes and it would have been a huge hit. Which might not have been a bad idea, since he chose to make this misconceived stinker.

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…