This week’s entry for Todd’s round up of overlooked audio/visuals is the first two bits of a new project from Alan Moore. Not content with forays into comics, novels, music, magic and publishing, he’s teamed up with Mitch Jenkins to work on a ‘Northampton Noir’ series. Because of course Moore has discovered that NoHo ‘practically invented noir’ as he claims to the Film Programme (with his tongue firmly in cheek). Complaining that films start out as fodder for computer games, products, and a television programme, so they’ve started at the end and worked back to the film. While the second part has received the lion’s share of the attention from the fan boys and press, the project begins with Act of Faith.
The simple prelude follows Faith (Siobhan Hewlett) as she readies for a big night out — or is it in? She ignores calls from her posh sounding father and puts off a co-worker’s invite, then gets ready for her evening. Hints appear everywhere in the scenes: the exposé of a cult figure she’s written who seems to also be a family acquaintance; the very in-jokey Tunguska Vodka, the saturated colours against a jet black background. The lighting is really terrific. The music by Crook & Flail is quite wonderful throughout. As the camera watches Faith get ready, the discomforting acknowledgement of the scopophilic eye of the camera is unavoidable. The voyeuristic caress became annoying to me because it was so blatant; I started thinking about how gendered the gaze was — and how wrong certain aspects of the ritual were. Not showering or at least washing her hair?! For a dress that swanky, surely she would. I liked how they showed it’s very difficult to attach stockings to the fussy little fasteners. It gradually dawned on me that this wasn’t just the voyeuristic camera: this was indeed ritual. Sure enough, Faith had a particular little ritual and a partner for it — but then something goes awry. It’s awful — and just a bit blackly humorous.
Jimmy’s End picks up not long after. Jimmy (Darrell D’Silva, who looks just a bit like George Clooney mashed up with Giancarlo Giannini [not a bad combination!]) wanders along the wet streets of Northampton, seemingly having lost his way on a night out on the lash. At the invite of a burlesque dancer (or so she looks to be) he steps inside a club — and feels as if he’s stepped back decades. The surrealistic touches begin to shed light on the world he’s entered, from the disconcerting jangle of the telephone that continues off and on to the odd clown painting, even the cigarette smoke and the golden light — all presaging things to come.
There’s a sigil on the wall painted opposite the poster trumpeting the club owners: a pair of magicians (perhaps?) Mettatron & Matchbright, “For One Night Only” although it looks like no one’s ever left this place. No surprise to find that Mettatron (or is that Metatron) is Moore and hmmm, Matchbright — surely suggestive of Lucifer. There’s a puppet beneath the poster, too, that seems to be dressed rather like Jimmy. He stares at the sigil uncomprehendingly but continues on to the lounge where he finds a tearful Faith with Matchbright (Robert Goodman who looks like Pete Townshend’s evil brother [no, not Simon!].
“I didn’t even know this place was here,” Jimmy says gaping at what seems to be a vintage cartoon of a drunk man falling down a stair (perhaps a hint of what’s happened).
“Yes, you did,” the bartender says as she hands him a drink.
Curioser and curioser: things continue to get odder as they go along, the ambiance of menace is palpable. There’s been oodles of attention to the set dressing and costumes. I hope it’s more than just some sort of Faustian hell story (I have a lot of theories, only hinting here). I do like the double-act-who-hate-each-other traditions getting built into the story (ha! the soap!) and the whole film looks and sounds so good. It may be the only time I have ever actually laughed at a clown. Look for Melinda Gebbie!
I’m not sure what I think yet, but I’m looking forward to more.