Saturday, July 28, 2007



I expect you, like me, were grabbed by the warning on Monday’s Evening Standard :


After seeing those first two words, I was hoping the third one might be "DIE". I saw that headline, bought my shopping, and trudged back home in the rain. I refuse to wear a jacket or carry an umbrella during the summer, whatever the weather, so by the time I got to my front door, my shirt was clinging to me. I felt quite heroic and manly.

But when I stepped outside on Tuesday morning, the feeling had turned to disappointment. I had read flood experts analysing the waterlogged soil and the over-worked drainage systems and the detritus-clogged sewers, and concluding that the worst was still to come. I knew that the floods were spreading eastwards to the capital. An Attack of the Looters was even expected :

Yet on Tuesday, the sun was shining. The Thames had not, after all, burst its banks in the capital. London had not turned into a drowned world. All those apocalyptic promises had come to nothing. We had been robbed of excitement. We logged onto BBC Weather to see when the rain might come next.

Natural disasters are thrilling and frustrating for the same reason : that we cannot blame anybody when they occur. The government might have done more to strengthen flood defences, and we all might do more to stop climate change - at least, this is the wisdom we receive. But we are denied the chance of pointing at somebody and saying “it’s his fault,” and this annoys us. Galvanises us too, for if nobody’s responsible for it, nobody can get us out of it.

Of course, the media presents disasters (or Disastertainment, as it was referred to at Lenin's Tomb earlier this week) according to a specific agenda. Firstly, as per my previous paragraph, nobody is to blame. Criticising anybody, or any party, or any economic system, is below-the-belt opportunism. We must all pull our socks up, pitch in and do what we can. We pay lip-service to the victims, sympathising with their plight (and note how any human loss is always secondary to loss of property), but jouissance is never far away. We enjoy watching the destruction, we enjoy the stories of looting and vandalism, and we especially enjoy the thought that it might happen to us next.

Most cultures have floods or deluges somewhere in their mythical make-up, and they are usually caused by an excess of human life.

The Atrahasis flood

The Babylonians believed that one particular deluge came as a result of human fertility. More than a century of prolific human sexual activity had made the world overcrowded. This displeased the god Enlil, who ordered the destruction of mankind via a succession of plagues, droughts and famines. Yet each disaster was succeeded by further burst of human fertility, and the problem presented itself over and over again. Finally, Enlil settled on flooding the world as a final solution. This might have worked but for Enki, a rebel god who found Enlil’s plan objectionable and advised Atrahasis (whose name meant “exceedingly wise”) to build a vessel which would save mankind. To prevent the gods ever needing to come up with such drastic ideas in the future, Enki invented infant mortality and miscarriages to curb our productive extremes. This tension between excessive creation and excessive destruction is at the heart of most flooding myths.

The Matsya flood

The Bhagavata Purana, a dialogue describing the supreme truths of Hinduism, describes the flood which arose when Satyavata washed his hands in the river and found a fish, who begged him to save its life. In return, the fish warned him of an impending flood which would destroy all life. Satyavata built an ark and, being the only survivor of the flood, re-established life on earth via life-giving "seeds" :

Long ago, when life first appeared on the earth, a terrible demon terrorized the earth. He prevented sages from performing their rituals and stole the Holy Vedas, taking refuge in a conch shell in the depths of the ocean. Brahma, the creator of the world approached Vishnu for help and the latter immediately assumed the form of a fish and plunged into the ocean. He killed the demon by ripping open his stomach and retrieved the Vedas. Four forms emerged from the demon's stomach representing the four Vedas: Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda, and Yajur Beda.

The Dreamtime flood

Here and here you can accounts of an Australian aboriginal legend about Gurukman the frog, who caused a drought by swallowing all the water during Dreamtime. After an arduous journey, a council of animals came together in central Australia and discussed the best way to make the water return. They settled on a plan to make Gurukman laugh, a task which required a truce between the warring species. First, the kookaburra told some jokes - but Gurukman would not laugh. Then the emu performed his funniest walk - but still Gurukman would not laugh. Then the kangaroo hopped about so exuberantly that he fell down a hole - and still Gurukman would not laugh. Finally, Nabunum the eel performed a dance in which he got stuck in the dry ground - at which Gurukman laughed and laughed, and water and life returned to the earth.

The drowned world

The modern mythology of catastrophe is best represented by J.G.Ballard. The Drowned World was one of a series of books written by Ballard in the 60s and 70s depicting environmental or man-made cataclysms, and how humanity might react to them. For Ballard, catastrophe becomes an architecture onto which he sets his core theme : that humans will not run away from disaster, but will instead strive for it. The nature of the crisis is not too important, though there is something about water which makes a flood particularly suitable.

In The Drowned World, global warming has turned London into a swamp. Its inhabitants have long since fled, but the central character Kerans, continues to move south, towards the heat, towards death. To paraphrase Will Self, the book opens the lid of the human psyche, and observes the drama played out between Eros and Thanatos. The only way in which Kerans can pursue life is by setting his compass towards death. Like his heroes Bosch and Dali, Ballard pays special attention to the absurd union between the quotidian and the dreadful.


At one stage, Kerans dons a diving-suit and makes a journey into the unconscious :

He lay back, spreadeagled across the steps, his hand pressed numbly against the loop of line around the door handle, the soothing pressure of the water penetrating his suit so that the barriers between his own private bloodstream and that of the giant amnion seemed no longer to exist. The deep cradle of silt carried him gently like an immense placenta, infinitely softer than any bed he had ever known. Far above him, as his consciousness faded, he could see the ancient nebulae and galaxies shining through the uterine night, but eventually even their light was dimmed and he was only aware of the faint glimmer of identity within the deepest recesses of his mind.

This particular dreamtime is much the same as that of the Australian aborigines : both for humanity and the individual man, it represents "the archaeopsychic past," a past which existed before the need for civilisation, before the Oedipal break, when we sought pleasure for pleasure's sake, and didn't worry about reality. The catastrophe allows us to return to this primal state, for in a state of emergency, the primary concern is survival ; civilisation is no longer of importance. It is inevitable that we should view such a state with a degree of jouissant excitement : the pleasures that civilisation denies to us can at last be satisfied.

So of course the reaction to the floods has been hysterical, and of course hysteria sells copy. But tabloid screams betray a significant repression, and one that we hope may return. "Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory," Ballard writes in The Drowned World. One day, will those tributaries burst their banks?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Robert Wyatt, "Left on man"

- "You say that I over simplify - yes, well so did Albert Einstein"

Won't somebody make this man king of the world? Or at least some sort of international musician in residence? This is from Dondestan (Revisited), which isn't one of his best albums. But if I could offer the SWP one bit of advice (and I address this to its members rather than its leaders) it would to be buy a copy of Nothing can stop us or Cuckooland, play them, and learn them as a manifesto. I promise you will never have heard anything so didactic and so heartbreaking.

Sorry about all these videos btw (not really) - a proper post will follow soon.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Throbbing Gristle, "Discipline" and Psychic TV, "Godstar"

Sorry, the sound quality of the "Discipline" video is atrocious, but - holy shit - it's a video of "Discipline," performed at Heaven, two days before Christmas in 1980. What more can you ask for? You can all die happy people now.

Here is Genesis being interviewed on

Monday, July 16, 2007


Here are a few bits of fiction I have had lying around for a while. They haven't particularly been written as part of a substantial project, and the idea of presenting them in this severed format doesn't seem too bad to me.

I had a very rough outline of a novel some time ago, for which most of these pieces were written, but I had a Brian Wilson moment and, faced with pages and pages of script, couldn't recall what the original point of it was.

I think of the novel occasionally, but let's face it, I'm never going to write it all. So, since the whole has been all but abandoned, I thought I should at least post some of the most significant parts. I suspect they work better as fragments than they would have as the foundations of something bigger, except that the change in style between each section is somewhat jarring.

The novel had a working title of Love Life, which I suppose is a little bit precious, but I quite like it, and so it remains the title of this post.



In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And the name of this God was Philippe Dupont.

And Philippe said, Let there be light; and there was light. And Philippe saw the light, that it was good: and Philippe divided the light from the darkness. And Philippe called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And after a deep sleep, Philippe found that on this first day he felt a great emptiness down below, and heard a corresponding rumble. This he called Hunger. And, having wept a little at the rumbling, Philippe was presented with a great nebulous thing so that his Hunger could be sated. And Philippe drank from a mamilla which had been placed on the surface of the great nebulous thing; and lo, the thing made the rumbling cease.

And once the rumbling had ceased, so Philippe’s attention turned to something brushing against his skin, at once refreshing and smarting it, and this he called the Cold. And so he resolved that the great nebulous thing would subdue the Cold as well as the Hunger; and he pressed himself tight against the velvety softness of the thing until it consumed him, encased his small, cold body, and made the Cold go away.

And now, Philippe decided, his world was complete. There was light and dark, and land and sea, and trees yielding fruit, and moving creatures that hath life (like fowl, and cattle, and creeping things), and there was the great nebulous thing which fed him and warmed him and met all his needs. And this Philippe called Love.

In this world, Philippe was God and everything was a mere adjective of himself. All life – all sounds and sensations and colours and laughs and tears – was his. He cried, so the world cried. He laughed, so the world laughed. He made a smell, so the world smelled. And all in the loving bosom of the Great Nebulous Thing. If only such a world could continue forever!

But tragedy loomed. Philippe had no plan for his world. This was an unfortunate and intractable position to find himself in for, since the world and Philippe were indivisible, there was nothing to shake it from its slumber. For Philippe to survive, he had to confess that the world existed outside of himself. This is quite a confession for God to make.

And so it arose that Philippe sat one night, enthroned in the Great Nebulous Thing, dreaming as usual. It is instructive to analyse the dream he seems to remember having in these formative years, though it is clear to neither of us if what I am about to recount was, in fact, something he dreamed at the time, or whether it actually took place, or whether, conversely, it is a product of his subsequent imagination.


Philippe lay in the bosom of the Great Nebulous Thing

and looked up the blue, starry sky, which he noticed was beginning to crack. There was a man behind the sky with a toolbox chipping away at the moon with a chisel so that it turned from globe to crescent and then faded away entirely. Then, the man quietly unscrewed the stars so that they too faded away and died. There were no sounds to accompany this movement, and all remained peaceful in Philippe’s world. Yet the end was nigh.

Philippe decided to play a game. First he ordered a servant or two to bring some furniture to him: a chest of drawers, a wardrobe, a dresser with a mirror, a hatstand and – why not? – a ceiling and some walls and a large window with a sill. Then he ordered another man to bring him a pot of food and some cutlery to eat it with. Then, having waved away his servants, Philippe took a knife and fork and began carving at his feet: first his left, then his right (this was later to be the order by which Philippe put on his socks and tied his shoelaces). He was pleasantly surprised at how easily he managed to separate them from his legs – such softness of limb and flesh is, of course, an endearing part of any young infant.

Once he had detached his feet from his body, he placed one on the chest of drawers and one on the window-sill. He then moved a little further up his body, carving away at drumsticks and thighs and placing them on various pieces of furniture. Having got as far as his torso (which was placed inside the wardrobe), Philippe performed a full self-lobotomy and placed the goo from the inside of his head on the hat-stand, a manoeuvre which amused him greatly. The Great Nebulous Thing responded magnificently and in precisely the way that Philippe had hoped for – it drew what was left of his head into its loving cradle, then grabbed his remaining body parts from their new homes, so that Philippe was once again complete. Completely and utterly and seductively submissive and beautifully, shamefully passive. This, so Philippe claims, was the last wholly satisfying moment of his life up to this point, for it was soon afterwards that Philippe heard a voice. It was a male voice, and it was making noises which disrupted Philippe’s world, which was usually a very peaceful place. Philippe could not understand what the voice was saying, but it seemed to be addressing him directly, and it said some very bad things.


Philippe decided that he would respond.

Later, when asked about the details of his answer, he was at a loss to recall the precise nature of the accord he struck up with the Voice. But accord there must have been, for his discussion with the Voice concluded with a handshake. As to the rest – well, something must have been said, whether by himself or by the Voice, which caused the shaking of hands. And – yes! It’s coming back to him! – the Voice had wished him “Good luck.”

Good luck for what?

For whatever was to follow the handshake.

What did follow the handshake?

Philippe could not recall the details of the ensuing settlement, but he felt sure the memory would surface sooner or later. The mind is a reserve of overlooked data, an untapped resource, full of material waiting to be unearthed. With a little digging, a little raking through the leaves, some pulling apart of the earth, who knows what he might find beneath the top-soil?

What was the nature of Philippe’s relationship with the outside world at this stage?

It is too soon to reveal the nature of this relationship, if indeed it existed at all. Indeed, it can be supposed that Philippe’s relationship to the world was limited to his love of the Great Nebulous Thing. But in this regard, there is perhaps one concrete fact which can be asserted in lieu of any further tangible evidence: Philippe and the Thing had parted company.

What was the effect of this severance on the boy?

Philippe was like a teddy-bear without its playmates: quite lost and quite bereft. The Thing remained, always hovering in the distance, its warm allure swathed in opulent robes, but it was henceforth out of bounds to Philippe.



Phillipe had often been told that he was capable of anything if he put his mind to it.

This was quite a thing for an eight year old boy to hear. All the innocence of childhood was his, and yet here were grown men pointing at Phillipe’s future and asking him what he saw. His father said it particularly often, especially during the holidays, when Phillipe would follow his father from shed to shed as he bathed and fed his pigs.

“Pip,” his father said, “just you buckle down to your studies and who knows – you could be a rich man by the time you’re twenty-five. Keep your old mum and dad in their dotage, eh?” At this, Phillipe’s father would laugh heartily and pat the backside of the nearest sow. Phillipe always wished that his father would pat him like that, just sometimes.

At nine in the morning on an early birthday, his parents burst into his room in a great stew. Phillipe had been dreaming of a spring camping holiday in the country with some friends and he regretted its disruption, but as he rubbed his eyes he was cheered by the sight of a beaming sun which he spied through a crack in the blind, and by the promise that his parents’ happy faces brought.

“Pip!” his mother cried, running over to his pillow to kiss his forehead. “Betty has won first prize!”

“Old Betty!” his father cried, blinking as if in a daze. “Old Betty!”

“What a wonderful day, Phillipe! Oh, what a wonderful day! Isn’t your father a wonderful man, Pip?” his mother said, looking plaintively into his eyes.

“Good old Betty!” his father bellowed again, as if finally realising the magnitude of what he was saying.

“We’ve made a breakfast, Pip,” his mother said. “Come and join us.” And at that, his parents clasped hands and went skipping down the stairs. Phillipe rubbed his eyes, sighed, and looked out at the sun. He could smell bacon fat from downstairs.

“One day you might do something like this,” Phillipe’s mother said to him at breakfast.

“Something like what?” Phillipe asked.

“You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it, Phillipe – ” his father said, “anything. Look at me. I started off with nothing, and now I have a prize pig.”

“Which pig is Betty?” Phillipe asked as he ate his bacon. “Which pig did this bacon come from?”

“From which pig did this bacon come, Phillipe,” his mother said, admonishing him quietly. “I bought it at the shop,” she said more brightly as she pulled a bit of gristle from her teeth.

“Why though?” Phillipe asked. “Why buy bacon when you have a herd of them outside in the shed?”

“A sounder,” Phillipe’s father said testily. “The noun of assemblage for swine is sounder. Herd refers to cattle or deer. Sounder refers to swine. Soouuuuwnder,” he said again, wrapping his mouth round the word. “Now, boy, eat your breakfast, or you’ll miss out on the day.”


Phillipe sat in the dint of a tree,

looking over at the lane that ran down the side of the garden. Beyond the lane was a row of matchbox houses where some of his school friends lived, and beyond were ploughed fields and thickets of trees. He heard the laughter and screams of girls playing in the garden of one of the houses nearby, and felt a pang in his heart. He got this feeling often, especially in the holidays when he heard other children playing games and making a lot of noise, while he sat in his tree and looked on. From his position in the tree he could not see the children, but he knew who they were – Anabelle Moss, Ralph Brown, Stephanie West, boss-eyed Marcus Baron – all from his school, all from his class. He had thought many times, as he sat daydreaming, of what they might be up to, and he had even thought about jumping down from the tree, walking over to the matchbox-houses, and joining in. But no. No – with sad resignation he always decided to stay in his tree. He did not want to play their games, and they would probably not let him.

The pang in his heart never surprised Phillipe, but it scared him a little. He did not know why it scared him, and he wondered whether Anabelle or Stephanie ever got scared like he did. He thought perhaps not – no doubt they got scared by snakes and spiders and bugs, none of which Phillipe gave a second thought, but did they get scared by nothing? No, probably they did not.

Again those words floated into his head: “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” He had heard them so many times, over and over, they were like a saying.

Phillipe looked over at the sheds where the pigs lived. His father was seated on the back of one of the female pigs, immersed in a novel. The sow stood quite still with her eyes closed, struggling under the weight of Phillipe’s father, and the pull of twelve suckling piglets underneath. Phillipe’s grandfather had probably said those same words to his father when he was a boy: “you can do anything if you put your mind to it.” And now his father had proved them to be true. He had longed to breed a prize-sow, he had put his mind to it, and now his dream had come true.

While she washed up the breakfast things Phillipe’s mother had told him that the local newspapers were coming later that morning for an interview.

“Your father is going to have his picture in the papers, Phillipe! Won’t that be exciting? We’ll have to buy a copy of each of them tomorrow and cut all the pictures out and put them in a scrapbook so we can remember this day for ever.”

“What time are they coming?” Phillipe asked.

“About half-past eleven I think, darling,” his mother replied. “Why?”

“No reason.”

“Bless your heart,” she said, and laughed – at what Phillipe was not sure, though he got the impression it might be him. “I’ll give you a shout when squash and biscuits are ready.” Philippe, sensing his cue, left the kitchen and climbed his tree.

He had been up there for a good hour. Surely it was soon time for squash and biscuits.

* * *

Mrs Dupont sat down for the first time since she got up.

It was half-past ten. Normally she would sit down at ten o’clock, but what with having to prepare for Phillipe’s birthday and then hearing Will’s big news, it had not been a normal morning. Still, she had made breakfast, laid out her husband’s clothes, seen that Phillipe had brushed his teeth properly, washed up the dishes and put them away; and it was time for a break. As she stirred a sugar lump into her tea, she realised that there was one thing she had not done. She had not said anything to Phillipe about his birthday. No “happy birthday” or anything. Will had not said anything either, and nor had Phillipe. Perhaps they had both forgotten, she thought. Phillipe’s head was always in the clouds these days, so it was possible that he’d forgotten. But no, it was his birthday – he would remember that.

Phillipe’s mother sipped her tea and decided she would wish him a happy birthday when she got up. It would then be quarter to eleven, which would leave her just enough time to prepare for when the newspaper men came.



Philippe’s mother, blissfully unaware of the several chest conditions her son suffered as an infant,

would often put Philippe into a whicker cradle and take him to the end of the garden, where the cornfields were. She would place Philippe amongst the golden stalks of maize so that he could look up at the cool blue sky, his view flanked by green trees and his mother hanging out the washing. Sometimes, when she had finished with the laundry, she would come over and sing to him.

It is funny, Philippe broke off as he told me of this idyllic scene, that I can’t say whether this really happened or not. I think I remember it, he said. It seems familiar. But perhaps it did not happen at all. Perhaps I only think this because of what my mother told me later. Or because of what I have seen in photos.

The corn was like a carpet. Its tall hard stalks were topped with wispish fluffy heads, and when the wind blew they all leaned towards him as if they had something to say. Now, whenever he returned to the country and heard the wind whistling through the corn, he remembered that the cornfields also had songs to sing. But however much they bowed to him, or tipped their hats to him, or leaned forward to whisper something in his ear, he could never quite make out what it was that they whispered. For them to whisper, it must be some kind of secret, Philippe supposed; and for it to be a secret, it must be very important. But Philippe never did find out what it was, for at the end of the summer the farmer would come along and cut the corn down. This made Philippe sad, for the stalks of corn were his friends. They were the only ones nowadays who still treated Philippe as a king.

One day, as Philippe looked over the cornfield, its graceful stalks hacked down and rolled into bales, leaving a hard, spiky stubble on the ground, another human being who had walked round the perimeter of the field approached.

“Hello,” the other human said to Philippe. “My name is Thomas.” Philippe stared at him, saying nothing. He was also a young boy, though a little older than Philippe, around four years old. There was something in the boy’s gaze which bothered Philippe. For a start, he did not trust his smile. It was not right somehow. It had too many teeth in it, teeth which did not seem to want Philippe as their friend. They were like the corn-stubble: hard and hostile. And his eyes were no more friendly; or rather, they were too friendly. They looked straight into Philippe’s own damp eyes, which had become inflamed by the pollen and the corndust, and out through the other side. Their gaze had all the confidence of a boy who was physically, socially and morally superior to Philippe : a boy of some standing in the community, with a reputation to uphold. Its eyes looked into Philippe’s in order to neutralize them. Philippe thought he caught them trying to seduce the Great Nebulous Thing once or twice, though he did admit he may not have been of sound mind at the time.

“Hello,” the boy said again. “I am Thomas.”

“Yes,” Philippe replied. “What do you want?”

“I like your cornfield. I thought you might show me it. I would be terribly grateful if you would.”

“My cornfield?”

“Yes.” Thomas kept his gaze fixed on Philippe, still smiling his copacetic smile. There was an uncomfortable pause as Philippe attempted to hold his new rival’s stare. But no, it was beyond him. After just a few seconds, his head dropped and his gaze shifted to his feet.

“So.” The boy was talking to him again. He should have looked up again, but he couldn’t keep his eyes from his feet. The other boy cleared his throat eloquently. Philippe could not see him – perhaps he could have seen his feet and bare lower legs from the corner of his eye if he had wanted to, which he did not – but he had a horrible sense that Thomas had taken a step or two towards him.

“So,” he repeated. And still Philippe said nothing. “Your cornfield,” said Thomas in a voice considerably louder than before.

“Yes,” muttered Philippe.

“Can I see it?” said Thomas.

Nothing, said Philippe.

“Will you show me around your cornfield?” said Thomas, striding a step closer to Philippe.

“The corn has just been cut and the dust will make you sneeze. I don’t think you will like it.”


“No. No, I don’t think you will like it at all.”

“Oh. Well, I think I will. Please would you show me it?”

“No. You won’t like it. It will make you feel funny.”

“That’s ok. I have a cornfield of my own, you know.” Philippe looked up at Thomas, who still stared intently at him.

“Really?” Philippe asked. “There are other cornfields?”

“Oh yes,” said Thomas with a certain amount of pride. “Yes, several others. I have one, but I could have two or three if I wanted. In fact, I suppose the two I don’t have are mine as well really. I don’t want your cornfield, you know. I don’t need your cornfield. Perhaps you should come and have a look at my cornfield. Then you will see why I don’t need yours.”

“What do you mean?” Philippe asked. The boy was making Philippe feel awful. He suspected Thomas might be the devil.

“There are cornfields and there are cornfields, if you know what I mean.” Thomas saw that the look on Philippe’s face – the wounded-boy look which is the boy-Philippe’s legacy to the man-Philippe. “You know, there is no need for you to worry. We can share our cornfields. If you show me your cornfield, I will show you mine.”

Like hell, thought Philippe. “Are you a sneezer?” he asked.

“I don’t believe I have ever sneezed in my life,” Thomas replied.

“You are lucky,” Philippe said, and he smiled at Thomas – a nice, gentle smile, in contrast to Thomas’s own superior pout. And then, out of nowhere, he lunged himself at Thomas, submerging his head into Thomas’s stomach. For all his composure, Thomas was slung back-first into the field. It is to be doubted whether this was what he had in mind when he had asked to be shown round Philippe’s field.

As they rucked and tumbled in the stubble, it occurred to Philippe that fighting came more naturally to him than talking. The Nebulous Thing had gone. A voice had spoken. A boy was after his corn. It was time for Philippe to get his fists out.

Philippe and Thomas grappled with each other for five minutes or more – quite some time for two toddlers, and heaven knows where Philippe’s mother was – until Philippe had Thomas pinned to the ground. In spite ofhis timidity, Philippe had won his first fight. Thomas surrendered feebly at the first opportunity.

“Enough!” bleated Thomas breathlessly. “Stop, please! Enough!” Philippe had pinned the boy’s arms to the hard dirt ground, and had manoeuvred a clusp of discarded corn ears into Thomas’s own ears, nose and throat.

“No,” Thomas gasped, “no you mustn’t!” Philippe put his hand ever so gently over Thomas’s mouth and pushed his head, oh so gradually, into the unrelenting earth.

“Stop it!” the poor boy gasped. “Stop it!” Philippe released his fearsome grip and lowered his face so that it was only inches away from that of his enemy. He looked straight into Thomas’s terrified eyes and saw his own reflection in them. By looking at Thomas’s eyes, he saw what they saw: a frightening blonde monster leaning over him, ready to kill him. But how to kill him? After stuffing the corn into Thomas’s mouth and ears, he had run out of weapons. Although he had overpowered Thomas, it remained the fact that Thomas was bigger than him. A blow to the head from Philippe would surely not kill him. And what would killing Thomas solve anyway? Perhaps he would kill the next boy who came snooping round his cornfield, and the next, but eventually someone would kill him. Besides which, Philippe’s arms were tired from pinning Philippe to the ground.

Perhaps, thought Philippe, perhaps we are not so different, Thomas and I. We are both blond, both ruddy-cheeked, both snotty-nosed, both grubby of face, both equally unkind. Philippe was a little fatter, Thomas a little taller, that was all.

“You know,” said Thomas sweetly. “We could be friends.” Philippe released his grip a little from Thomas’s head. Is he being clever, Philippe wondered. Is he being sly? “We both have corn.” Thomas looked into Philippe’s eyes, but this time with the look of one who really does want to be friends. “Your corn is not so bad either.”

“You’re right there,” Philippe replied. “It is some of the best corn I have ever tasted.”

“Oh yes?” Thomas said, his eyes lighting up. “You have actually tasted your own corn? Even I have not tasted my own corn.”

“You have never tasted your own corn?”

“And you have?”

“Oh yes. I have it in a bowl.”

“When? How often?”

“Most days, I suppose.”

“I don’t believe you!”

“But it’s true.”

“No, I don’t believe you,” Thomas said again. “I’m sorry, but no.”

“But it’s true!” Philippe repeated.

“Then prove it.”



That night, Philippe pretended not to be well,

so that he could sit by the fireplace and drink the special tea his mother made for him. She had not sais anything about his birthday, and he didn't think she would now. The last time he had seen his father was on the back of the pig earlier that morning.

She left Philippe well alone by the fireside - was this the right thing to do? but what could she say? - but he did notice that she looked at him differently. Now she looked at him like she used to look at his father : she no longer had a furrow in her brow, yet her eyes questioned Philippe more than before. A question perched on her lips, fluttering its eyelashes by refusing to look at him.

At almost six the next morning, Philippe woke up. For a few seconds he smelt bacon, and then realised that the bacon was a myth. Today there was to be no bacon. His mother had gone - he knew this even before he bumped his backside down the stairs to check.

And he was right : his mother was nowhere to be seen. There was no note to say where she had gone, no words to explain her absence. But let's be fair, Philippe said to himself, what could she say? She would never survive in the house without her husband ...

Philippe found some oats in the cupboard and made himself some porridge. It was a little weak and runny, but Philippe felt a profound feeling run down his gut as he drank it. The porridge filled the gaps inside him, it clagged into his pipes and gave him the most wonderful constrictive sensation. At nine o'clock, Anabelle Moss knocked on the door.

"Hello, Philippe," she said, and she looked back down Philippe's driveway awkwardly.

"Hello, Anabelle," Philippe said. "Why are you here?"

"I thought I would come because you don't have a mother anymore."

"I don't think I want you as a mother, Anabelle, thank you."

"I'm not your mother, Philippe. But I thought you might like to see somebody." Anabelle sat on the doorway and fiddled with her hair. Philippe looked down at her blonde, dead-straight hair.

"Actually," she said, "I thought you might like to walk with me. Would you like that?" Philippe wondered. He had been up for three hours and he needed a hug. Anabelle was bony, her bones looked like they miht break. She had some tiny blonde hairs on her les, above her short white socks. Philippe wanted to see her feet, which tapped quickly on the doorstep under black-white ballet pumps.

"Anabelle, I'm afraid we shall have to postpone our walk until tomorrow. I have heard there will be rain today. I don't think a walk is a good idea."

"But we'll have a walk one day?" Anabelle asked. She looked up with one eye towards Philippe and with the other at the door-frame, like they were the only people in the world.

"I expect so. I know where you live."

"You watch me from your tree, don't you? I have seen you watching me. I don't think you know what we do, but you watch anyway. I have waved to you a few times. Have you seen me waving at you?" Both eyes were now looking at Philippe.

Philippe said nothing, and after half a minute or so closed the front-door. He went back to the kitchen, opened all the cupboards, closed them again, sat on the floor, felt silly sitting on the floor, sat at the table, felt bored sitting at the table, ran upstairs to put on some shorts, ran back downstairs, ran out of the back door and through the garden, scrambled throuh the back hedge, and then walked sensibly towards a place where he might find Thomas. He allowed himself to look back at the house, from whose driveway Anabelle waved to him girlishly.



I was at school.

My secondary school. The buildings were my secondary school, and one of the teachers too. There was a girl, much younger than me, and she was following me around. She was attached to my ankle by her mouth. She had bitten into my ankle and I was dragging her around. No, that’s not right, I’m getting mixed up. She was kicking me. Kicking the backs of my legs. I wanted to kick her back, but I would get into trouble because her mother was a teacher and she was younger than me. But I can’t walk around school all day being kicked in the back of the legs by a little girl. It’s not painful, but it’s quite embarrassing. What should I do?

I do not recall what happened after this dream. The look on her face as she kicked me – dead, blank, accusing, and green – had woken me up. I got up and went to the toilet, had a wee, and went back to bed. My bed is a double-bed with a large double-duvet and two plump pillows. There was nobody else in the bed, so I took one of the pillows, put my arms round it and held it tight to my body. I used to do this with two pillows – one against my upper body and one against my legs – but now I find that one is enough. I kissed the pillow, its neck and its breasts, and then the pillow woke and asked me if everything was alright. Yes, I said, I have had a bad dream, that’s all. I love you – I love you so much. And the pillow replied, I love you too. I asked the pillow if I could hold it all night, and it said, yes, I could. So I did, I held her, and I told her, or myself, that it was perfect. The moment was perfect, beautiful. And then we fell asleep.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Men are so necessarily mad that it would only be madness by another name for them to be sane.

- Pascal, Pensees

Dada is the dancing spirit atop of the world's morals ... Dada is not an axiom ... Dada is a state of mind independent of all schools and theories, one that addresses individuality itself without doing violence to it ... One cannot understand Dada ; one must experience it. Dada is immediate and obvious. If you're alive, you are a Dadaist.

- Richard Huelsenbeck, Dada Almanach

Huelsenbeck’s anti-definition will frustrate those who wish to put Dada into a little box. But Dada does not classify easily. It consciously invites misunderstanding and confusion and it does not have an evident manifesto, though its adherents produced several. Huelsenbeck is right to be abstruse and open with his anti-definition. How could a movement formed by the quiet, reflective Hugo Ball, the Napoleonic Tristan Tzara and the derisively mouthy Huelsenbeck be axiomatic? How could such an orderly movement ever contain someone like the Oberdada?

The Oberdada was Johannes Baader, or so he claimed.

Who was Baader?

Walter Mehring, a fellow Dadaist, believed him to be “without doubt the most noble and sublime individual in our midst.” Hans Richter, another friend, said that “he resembled a stick of dynamite blasting itself to pieces. Richard Huelsenbeck disagreed, calling him “a bearded potato-ascetic,” “an architect or tailor’s apprentice or assistant hairdresser, at any rate a bourgeois fool,” and “an unbearable mixture of mendicant friar and petit-bourgeois.”

The German authorities tended to side with Huelsenbeck since they certified him insane. This was excellent news for Baader who found sanity to be rather stigmatic ; unconstrained by the chains of fine mental health, he could do exactly as he chose.

For most of us life is a conciliation between our pleasure-seeking instincts and the voice of Reason. A revolutionary tries to subordinate this authority, this Reason, to the individual will. But for Baader, only the will existed. For all that Huelsenbeck said that he was an egotist, it appears that he didn’t have an ego. He didn’t need to, since for him there was no force that could repress his wildest desires. He probably was indeed psychotic, an idealist caught at the junction of Eros and Thanatos, unsure which route to take. To paraphrase Marx, he was in terror of himself in order to give himself courage. Dada became his perfect outlet.


He was born in 1875, in Stuttgart. At the age of 17 he went to study at the city’s trade school, and graduated to the technical college three years later. At 28, he began working as a mortuary architect in Dresden, and at the age of 30 he met Raoul Hausmann, another Dadaist, in Berlin. By 1916 when, in the words of Hans Richter, Dada became “a storm that broke over the world of art as the war did over the nations in the midst of war”, Baader was 40, much the oldest of the Dadaists.

Nevertheless, a chronological approach to Baader’s life is difficult – all the more difficult, since he apparently died twice.

Baader was first pronounced dead on 1 April 1919 from a stroke, aged 43 or so. His comrades at Club Dada prepared an epitaph, and concluded that it was a great shame he wouldn’t be able to make the forthcoming Eighth Zurich Dada Evening. But for many years, Baader had been telling people that he was Jesus Christ (and several other personages besides) – and perhaps he was, for the next day he was reborn. To celebrate this miracle, Baader introduced a new calendar – the Calendar of World Peace. It was not widely adopted. One could claim that Baader did not die from a stroke at all in 1919, and that his subsequent resurrection may not have brought about the calendar of world peace.

One could claim that world peace was inaugurated when Baader first opened Teacher Hagendorf’s Reading Desk that same year. This desk made him his fortune, enabled him to see how silly Socialism and Communism and Nationalism were, and meant that Baader, now quite loaded, was able to bring down world capitalism, which of course brought about world peace. One could claim this – and in fact Baader did, saying afterwards :

The world owes it all to Teacher Hagendorf’s Reading Desk, and also to Oberdada, President of the Globe and Heavenly Sphere, Director of the Last Judgement, True Privy Chairman of the Intertellurian Oberdadaist League of Nations in DADACO.

King of all Dada, Jesus Christ, high-priest of all the world and the universe beyond, arbiter of eternity : it is clear that Baader’s important role in history has been somewhat overlooked. Two more stories about Baader will enlighten us further. The first is very instructive, for it hints at Baader’s power of prophecy (eighty years before Baudrillard, Baader described the first world war as “a newspaper war – in reality, it never existed”).

By 1930, long after Baader first told people he was the Messiah, Germany had becoming full of people claiming to be Christ. One of these characters with a messianic complex became rather powerful in that country soon afterwards. Anyway, a Congress of Christs was organised in Thuringia to determine which one really was the Messiah. Hausmann’s companion Vera Broido-Cohn takes up the story :

The Christs seemed to sprout like mushrooms. A meeting of them was organised in a large meadow near a town, and Baader did a fantastic thing. As he was a journalist, Lufthansa had offered him a pass which enabled him to make whatever trip he wanted, free, if he went to an important rally in Germany. He called the company and asked them if he could be brought to Thuringia and set down in the middle of the meadow. It was accepted.

All of the people at the rally stood up and formed an enormous circle. Each Christ went to the middle, and behind him came all of his supporters. The spectators pushed from behind and then all eyes went up to see Baader descending from the sky. He landed, then went away. They saw his face, and were rendered speechless.

The second story is told by Hausmann in his Courrier Dada. It takes place in Friedenau in 1918, on the 100th birthday of the Swiss novelist Gottfried Keller. Hausmann and Baader were waylaid in the town’s streets, breathing in the tranquil evening sun. Baader had brought a copy of Keller’s Der grune Heinrich along with him and celebrated they read it.

Without wasting a word, we made for the middle of the street and stood under a powerful electric street-light, high – too high – in the air. We took out the tome and began to read, shoulder to shoulder. ‘Poetry, made to measure, on the spot.’ We took turns to open the book at random and read scraps of sentences with no beginning and no end, changing our voices, changing the rhythm and the meaning, leafing backward and forward, spontaneously, without hesitation and without a pause. This gave the whole thing a new meaning and produced some remarkable juxtapositions. We did not notice the passers-by ; we certainly noticed no sign of public interest. Zealously we stuck to our task for at least a quarter of an hour. The words of the book, illuminated by our exalted mode of speech, borne up on the wings of our elation, tormented by new associations, took on a meaning beyond meaning and beyond comprehension.

It was a very good celebration, with all due solemnity, and I am sorry it was not filmed. But talkies did not exist in those days.

What one would give even for a photo. But, a photo or a talkie would have necessitated staging, and this was not a staged event. There was no audience, nothing was on show, and no record of the reading – save Hausmann’s own account – exists. It does not exist as a work of art – nut how much harder it hits you than something framed in a gallery.

Dio-Dada-Drama, one of Baader’s few formal works of art


Some time after Dada’s heyday, Walter Mehring was in Hamburg, and decided to look up his old friend. “I discovered that he was still around, occasionally tacking up the length of the Binnenalster and sleeping there. But no one, not one sea-dog, nor the hoariest husky in the Hagenbeck Zoo, knew his address.” Many years earlier Baader, as a young architect, had designed part of the Hagenbeck Zoo, in which the animals ran free. He often said he would liked to have designed something similar for humans – only humans are too wild.


Spot the difference :

Courtesy of Banana Nutrament

Sunday, July 08, 2007


The dialectical image

Our view of history is shaped by economic factors, as we have said, but by technological factors as well. The photographic image and film have altered the past immeasurably, of course because they enable it to be seen, but also because of their dialectical nature. The film quite clearly shows movement, but the image is in motion too. One cannot view the image in isolation. It is defined by what precedes it and what follows. The art historian Aby Warburg saw the image as a still, charged with movement, and wrote his doctoral thesis to this effect on Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.

The Birth of Venus depicts Venus emerging from the sea in a shell. It is a still image, but when we imbue it with movement we get Ursula Andress emerging from the water to greet James Bond.

If a still image is charged with motion such that it could be the missing part of a film, film itself must merely be a set of images, fluid but liable to be cut at any point.

I love my camera because I love to live

When we see a film, we are in a sense repeating the event which is being filmed. Now that we all have digital cameras, we can take movies so that we can relive the moment later on. We thus become the passive spectators of our own lives. The same applies when we see a documentary film of an historical event. As Giorgio Agamben points out in an essay on the films of Guy Debord, film works in the same way as memory. It "restores possibility to the past." Agamben quotes Walter Benjamin when he talks of memory as making "the unfulfilled into the fulfilled, and the fulfilled into the unfulfilled." We could see cinema in the same way. It allows us to project possibility into the past.

But the possibility created by the image can be killed off by that very same image. Images can deaden the imagination, especially when they illustrate the dominating effect of commodities. We are surrounded by these sort of images - in advertising, all forms of news and entertainment media, pornography etc etc. They project onto us, the unsuspecting viewer, all the hopes and desires of the capitalist system. We think we are watching them, but in fact they are watching us.

Our society is what Debord calls a society of the spectacle. An advert for an early home movie camera illustrates the point perfectly :

"I love my camera because I love to live. I record the best moments of life and revive them at will in all their richness."

The girl in the advert can permanently live her life by recalling memories. With her Eumig camera, she can recall her own memories ; via other media, she can recall the collective memories that have been projected onto her. Either way, the present has been petrified, and life with it.

Debord recognised that cinema must undergo a radical change in order for it to be revolutionary. This is not to say that cinema per se is an inadequate medium, merely that the commercial form in which its presents itself - narrative, plot, characterisation etc, all aimed at a market - inevitably means it will be overshadowed by the capitalist spectacle. The cinema works in the same way as the cathedral, with passive spectators being fed a message.

The Romanian angel

Debord was directly inspired by Isidore Isou, a Jewish Romanian émigré in Paris, and the founder (and initially the sole member) of the Lettriste movement.

Isou had been inspired by the Italian poet and philosopher Giuseppe Ungaretti, who stated that language is all that stands between mankind and chaos. But in turn, Ungaretti believed (like Debord, and Adorno/Horkheimer, and Derrida later on) that Enlightenment rationalism had turned everyday language into la parola abusata : the deliberate misuse of the word. Writing in the 1930s, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Ungaretti’s apocalyptic message was unmistakable. And Isou, a Jew who had escaped from Nazi-run Romania ten years later at the age of 23, heard it : meaning must be untied from a bastardised language. Poetry must be stripped down to the letter. Only then can a new language be created. Or, as Isou put it, “you couldn’t kill five million Jews and go on living as if nothing had happened.”

Amplification and chiselling

This stripping down of artistic forms came about as part of a natural process, and this became the basis of Isou’s all-encompassing theory of amplitude and chiselling. This theory stated that there are two phases to any development, be it artistic, political, economic or whatever. The first phase is called the Amplified phase, and is the period in which the form is born, acquires its vital characteristics and has its basic parameters set. In the case of poetry, for instance, Isou believes the Amplified phase began with Homer. Homer established what poetry is ; those who followed wrote poems according to the Homeric form. But eventually, it becomes impossible to innovate any further. Everything that can be done within the form has been done – any more additions to the canon from this point on are extraneous, “dead commodities”.

At this point the second stage, called the Chiselling phase, begins, whereupon artists must deconstruct the form. Rather than the poem being used to express subjects outside of it, the poem itself becomes its own subject. During the Chiselling phase, language is whittled down to the letter – the indivisible phoneme. The letter is all that is left after the poetic work is thoroughly deconstructed. Once this deconstructive Chiselling phase has been completed, a new Amplified phase may commence, and poetry can be reborn as the purified letter becomes imbued with new (and perhaps negative) meanings.

Lettrist poetry therefore has no meaning in any classical sense. According to the diagram above, which shows the entire Chiselling phase and how it acts upon poetry, writers from the past 100 or so years (all, save Tzara and Isou himself, French) have reduced poetry to the plastic image, then the sonic image, then the word, and finally the letter. Isou has set language free to “digest” new images and meanings, as in the hypergraphic or “superwriting” of Lettrism.

Slime and eternity / Howls for Sade

In 1951-52, Isou and Guy Debord, who had recently joined the Lettrist movement (and who would later resign and form his own Lettrist International) made two films which would completely disrupt all classical notions of what a film should include : Traité de bave et d'éternité and Hurlements en faveur de Sade.

The Lettrists recognised that even Dadaist films such as Rene Clair’s Entr’acte, which did away with the demand that cinema should follow a narrative path and somehow “make sense”, had not provoked the kinds of riots that the Dadaists intended, and had become almost reified into the artistic canon – the opposite outcome to the anti-art proposed by the manifesto writers of the movement. If this sort of revolutionary cinema could not be the hammer which would shape a new reality, it was clear that something far more radical had to be done.

The history of cinema in both of its phases is outlined very early in Hurlements, when Debord gives us his cinematic crib sheet :

1902: Voyage dans la lune
1920: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
1924: Entr’acte
1926: Battleship Potyomkin
1928: Un chien andalou
1931: City Lights. Birth of Guy-Ernest Debord.
1951: Traité de bave et d'éternité
1952: L’Anticoncept. Hurlements en faveur de Sade.

The films of the very early twentieth century set the template for cinema and Expressionists,. Dadaists, Bolsheviks, surrealists and American social comics have played with the style. Now, in 1951/52, is the time for chiselling to begin. Indeed, the protagonist of Isou’s Traité de bave et d'éternité famously states the Lettrist manifesto :

I believe firstly that the cinema is too rich. It is obese. It's reached its limits, its maximum. With the first movement of widening which it will outline, the cinema will burst! Under the blow of a congestion, this pig filled with grease will tear into a thousand pieces. I announce the destruction of the cinema, the first apocalyptic sign of disjunction, rupture, of this corpulent and bloated organization which is called film.

The chiselling techniques of which Isou speaks and which feature prominently in his film - discontinuity of sound and image, the scratching and tearing of celluloid, the use of flicker and negative sequences - are taken to their logical conclusion in Hurlements, a film with no images, no soundtrack, just voices uttering and repeating legal articles, declarations of love, gnomic edicts (“There is no film. Cinema is dead. No more films are possible. If you wish, we can move on to a discussion”) and surrealist elegies (“Death is like steak tartare”), as if from a disordered script. The film concludes with 24 minutes of imageless silence.

Debord had been attracted to Isou in part because of the way he had taken his film to the Cannes Film Festival in 1951and disrupted every board meeting until his film was shown (or rather heard – only the soundtrack to the film, and not the images, were ready for broadcasting). The Lettrists’ troublemaking had angered and excited people in equal measure, but it certainly attracted attention. With the first showing of Hurlements, Debord took this to its logical conclusion.

During a final silence of twenty-four minutes, when the only sound in the room was the turning of the reel, a member of the audience got up, thanked Mrs Dorothy Morland for an interesting evening and apologised for having to leave early. Everyone else stayed to the end, hoping that a sensational tidbit might still be coming. When the lights went up there was an immediate babble of protest. People stood around and some made angry speeches. One man threatened to resign from the ICA unless the money for his ticket was funded. Another complained that he and his wife had come all the way from Wimbledon and had paid for a babysitter, because neither of them wanted to miss the film...

The noise from the lecture room was so loud that it reached the next audience, queueing on the stairs for the second house. Those who had just seen the film came out of the auditorium and tried to persuade their friends on the stairs to go home, instead of wasting their time and money. But the atmosphere was so charged with excitement that this well-intentioned advice had the opposite effect. The newcomers became all the more anxious to see the film, since nobody imagined that the show would be a complete blank!

- Guy Atkins (with Troels Andersen), Asger Jorn : The Crucial Years, 1954-1964

The second film here is the full version of Hurlements. Sit down and watch it now, in its entirety. Unlike the original audience, you will have the option to pause or stop or fast-forward the film on your laptop. Resist this temptation and watch the whole film.

By its very nothingness, Hurlements fixes the audience’s attention onto nothing but the medium itself – the projector, the screen, the monitor. It is awesomely boring and utterly infuriating, and as such represents the last stage of the chiselling phase. It killed off cinema, just as Finnegans Wake had killed off the novel, and in doing so it all but killed off Lettrism.

Postscript : the destruction of idols

In 1952 Charlie Chaplin, whose City Lights had been part of Debord's crib-list, visited Europe to promote his new film Limelight. Debord had admired Chaplin for the same reason as Barthes did : because “he shows the public its blindness by presenting at the same time a man who is blind and what is in front of him. To see someone who does not see is the best way to be intensely aware of what he does not see.” Chaplin’s sophisticated portrayal of the pre-proletarian, pre-class-conscious worker had earned him a blacklisting from the United States, where he had recently been denounced as a traitor.

But in Europe, Chaplin basked in the glory of still being worshipped. He accepted an audience with the United Kingdom’s new queen, and the prestigious Légion d’Honneur in France. After a press conference in the Paris Ritz on 29 October 1952, Chaplin walked out of the hotel to face an adoring crowd, plus four men called Serge Berna, Jean-Louis Brau, Guy Debord and Gil Wolman, Lettrists all. They hurled abuse at Chaplin and scattered splenetic leaflets which suggested to Chaplin he might not be so welcome among all Parisians :

The point of this stunt was threefold : to turn in an easy target, to destabilise the position of Isou (who played no part in it) as leader of the Lettrists, and to signal the end of Lettrism itsekf. For the Chaplin stunt (and the ICA screening of Hurlements) had both gone beyond Lettrist theories. Isou himself sympathised with his colleagues at the time, but disapproved of attacking Chaplin, who he regarded as untouchable. Debord was unrepentant : “the most compelling exercise of freedom,” he said in the first issue of the Internationale Lettriste, the splinter group formed by Debord after his brutal rupture with Isou, “is the destruction of idols, especially when they speak in the name of freedom.”

Isou and Lettrism were withering, they had become “submissive and graying.” Debord, ever the frosty strategist. was in the ascendant, and the seeds of Situationism had been sown.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


What to say about this :

The Public Information Films that everyone remembers are the "Charlie says" ones. When I saw them as a child in the 80s, they seemed pretty benevolent : the boy never got hurt, and Charlie always made a full recovery from having a pot of boiling tea fall on him, or falling in a lake, ready to suggest that we always tell mummy when we go outside etc etc.

But this one is horribly grim - one kid drowns in a silo, another is crushed by a tractor, another drinks poison and screams herself to death, etc etc. What the hell did the director have in mind when he shot it? How much effort must have gone into making a twenty-five minute film like this, only to warn children about the dangers of messing about on the farm? It is shot through with that very British, very 70s, very other-wordly type of surreality, and it's even funny - deliberately funny. Combine harvesters thrash ominously, only to continue their harvests quite harmlessly. "Ha ha!" it whispers in your ear, "you thought it was going to crush the little bugger!"

The children themselves are quite inhuman. The leader, who calls himself Geronimo, either doesn't notice that his Indians are dying out on a daily basis, or he doesn't care. When the girl drinks the poison, he gently asks her if she's ok. "I think so," she replies, only to emit her last, blood-curdling shriek later that evening. The next day, "Geronimo" is happily playing cops and robbers in a ludicrous American accent again. When he finally meets his maker, hurtling down a hillside on a tractor, you rather feel he had it coming.

They should show this at the BFI as a one-off - it has everything a cult arthouse film should have. Poetry, metaphors, a funereal denouement - it's all there.