Culture. Alienation. Boredom & Despair. Show Pieces by Alan Moore & Mitch Jenkins

ShowPieces1webEach year Leeds International Film Festival puts together a truly eclectic selection of movies, shorts, animations and documentaries. Its a wonderful event, the largest of its kind in the UK outside of London and I am blessed to have it on my doorstep. This years personal must-see was an exclusive viewing of Alan Moore and award winning photographer Mitch Jenkins ‘Showpieces’.

Moore has never been shy about sharing his vitriol when it comes to movie adaptations of his existing work and really, who can blame him? Abominations like Constantine are an exercise in EXACTLY why Hollywood should leave things the fuck alone and Watchmen, whilst obviously intended as a reverential panel for panel homage of the book, failed miserably simply because the original material was already presented in the medium for which it was intended. A serialized finite comic book series. Something to be digested and appreciated at a particular beat and rhythm, not  consumed in an hour and a half whilst slinging junk food down your pig throat and playing with your fucking phone. So with that in mind I was excited to discover that Showpieces was Alan’s first work written intentionally for the screen. Not an interpretation of existing work, not a ham fisted adaptation designed to squeeze porcine posteriors into overpriced seats. Just the original vision presented as it was meant to be experienced. Far out.

Act Of Faith opens the triptych and immediately sets an uneasy tone. A one act piece in which we are introduced to our protagonist, a journalist named Faith played by Siobhan Hewlett. The camera follows her around her flat and through props and answer-phone messages we begin to get a flavour of this woman’s life. We discover that she is embroiled in some kind of journalistic shit digging with a recently deceased local religious figure and that is drawing her into conflict with her family or perhaps revisiting old wounds. Themes are established early on that echo throughout all three shorts. The camera lingers on archaic entertainment devices that lose focus and assume a deaths head identity. Curtains function as portals and doorways and the characters are often seen stepping through these veils into subtly different realms. The scowling faces of sinister clowns recur in numerous places and shapes.The whole thing drips with a sense of brooding menace and the desperate fucking lonliness of the human condition. It is clear from the off that things are pretty far from alright.

The soundtrack is remniscent of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks in that it uses droning tones to maintain a level of imminent threat. In fact there’s a distinctly Lynchian vibe to the whole affair. Familiar songs are reworked with different lyrics and altered arrangements that add to the off centre weirdness. The atmosphere of the almost familiar, like barely remembered shards of cherished childhood memories, has been a constant motif of Moores work that has always resonated with me. Distant bittersweet memories reflected back at the viewer through the splinters of a broken mirror
© 2012 John Angerson.Filming of Jimmy's End - Northampton
Jimmys End takes place in the sort of dingey working mans club that my father would occassionally drag my sister and I to in the mid eighties when it was his turn to babysit. The type of place haunted by dead eyed souls nursing pints of mild where the stench of spilled drinks, dim prospects and endless fags is ingrained into the very fabric of the place. And that’s just on a Wednesday night. Meat raffles, Roy Orbison on the jukebox and the kind of small town desperation and stewing resentment that ocassionally exploded into nasty vicious little punch-ups outside. Our hero Jimmy played by  Darrell D’Silva, navigates this labyrinthian eternal twilight. Phones ring and bulbs flicker as though something unnatural is trying to push through from behind the curtain. A grim faced clown drowns his sorrows and the mocking laughter of every woman you had ever shamed yourself before echoes in your ears. Alan Moore himself appears in this segment as Mr Metterton aka The Big I Am one half of a mutually contemptuous club act that holds court in this anteroom for the dreaming dead. With his booming voice and divine visage I couldn’t help but think Mr Metterton was actually Mr Metatron. It’s a seedy, melancholy and wonderfully disturbing little piece of cinema.
The final section is titled His Heavy Heart and picks up the threads of our boys story where Jimmy’s End finished. It is difficult to describe this section without spoiling the experience for you so I’ll just say that it wasn’t the pay-off that I was hoping for but opens a doorway for future exploration. D’Silva really shows his mettle here whilst Andrew Buckley’s visceral turn as Bobbles The Clown really chews up the scenery accompanied by the mocking presence of Beryl played by Khandi Khisses. His Heavy Heart is loaded with Egyptian esoteric symbolism and I couldn’t help but wonder if Moore and co had specifically requested the venue for this showing (The Town Hall) because of it’s rumoured connections to the Sphinx or whether it was simply a fortitous conspiracy of circumstance. Either way it added a peculiar and welcome dimension to my viewing experience. I also loved that Moore had set this series of films in his home town of Northampton (coincidentally the hometown of Corehammer’s very own showpiece Stevie Boxall) rather than London or New York. Showpieces possesses that same uneasy sense of localism that Ben Wheatley likes to play with and being from a grubby little town myself, I can very much relate to that. Those type of places are full of sinister stories and bizarre characters festering beneath the shabby veneer of fading respectability and it was pleasing to see that aspect of British life explored here.

There’s talk of Show Pieces potentially becoming an ongoing series. I really hope that happens because I adored what I saw at the LIFF. There are a total of five films in the Show Pieces box set, (two that are absent from the theatrical version I saw) which is now available to purchase from Lex Records HERE

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