If my kids or grandchildren ever ask me what 1992 looked like, I’ll try to find them some footage from Dance Energy in whatever the format of choice is. There has been some great footage uploaded before, but shouts to Ian Powell for uploading some late 1992 episodes of the short-lived Dance Energy House Party dating back almost exactly 22 years — it had a Vas Blackwood-assisted comedy element back then and some of the music picks were just crap (just to dispel the revisionist depictions of this as some kind of flawless glory time), but there’s too many great moments to list right here. The brief boots in clubs trend segment with TLC, a Happy Mondays performance and the Essex dance music feature with Suburban Base had me having to have a sit down. Part of me finds a cathartic warmth from watching this kind of thing, but it also reminds me of my mortality when I realise just how long ago it was since I kicked back with some Turkey Drummers and Kia-Ora at 6:25pm on a Monday to see it the first time around.
I don’t know why I keep returning to ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ Maybe it’s for the same reasons that I keep trying to get dig away at ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ with it’s spine cracked to just 10% of the book’s content — I want to know what I’m missing. I’m not talking about the cult of characters who topped themselves in black and white Nike Decades, but Michael Cimino’s ponderous ani-western, which fired my imagination as a kid by featuring a manic Christopher Walken, Tom Noonan, Brad Dourif, Jeff Bridges and Mickey Rourke and a nude Isabelle Huppert. Alas, the pauses, the pacing of the first half and the frequent misuse of its spectacular cast means I’ve never managed to finish watching ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ I concentrate too hard and get confused, I get restless, I answer the phone, I end up daydreaming that I’m watching ‘Con Air.’ I got so close — 20 minutes from the end of the 149 minute cut, but after pausing it to answer the door to a Domino’s I realised that I just didn’t want to go back — I didn’t care about Kris Kristofferson’s hero or Sam Waterston’s villain. That 20 minutes could be spent watching a ‘Seinfeld’ episode again
Somebody told me that I’m a fool, a spoon fed moron, who doesn’t understand the nuances of Cimono’s work, but I’m convinced that this film could be distilled into an engaging 100 minutes. I still can’t co-sign the animal cruelty like the supposedly “real” horse with dynamite sequence — if you’re going to die for a film, I’d sooner be the bull in ‘Apocalypse Now’ or the cow in ‘Come and See.’ Being sacrificed for a film that recouped $3 million on a $44 million budget is the final insult. I still haven’t made my mind up about this film. What am I missing? Why did Jerry Harvey make the extra effort to screen the longer version on the Z Channel? There must be something in this abomination that creates these rabid fans who think the film flies by. The Johnson County War is a significant moment in American history, but it isn’t the stuff of gripping cinema — rather it seems to have been something that’s touched on in more entertaining books, TV shows and films as part of a snappier narrative — and the director slows it to a molasses crawl that I can’t quite wade through.
I’m going to return for more when the real director’s cut (the 219 minute version was a rush job) that’s been trimmed to 216 minutes is released by Criterion this November. Maybe that 3 missing minutes is the key to unlocking this mess. Maybe I’m just a glutton for cinematic punishment. Will Criterion put out a ‘The Adventures of Pluto Nash’ 2-disc Blu-ray package in 2032 that lets us reassess Eddie Murphy’s lost masterpiece with a digitally restored 142 minute director approved cut? I hope so. If I had one really positive thing to say about ‘Heaven’s Gate’ it’s that the film has the best roller skate violinist/barn dance sequence of any Hollywood film. And that’s something to be grateful for.
With OG Huaraches set to return, it’s always worth focusing on a slightly more contemporary (though still showing my age) crush than Huppert — Chilli from TLC whose Huaraches and ACG-looking garments in the ‘Baby, Baby, Baby’ video make me love her even more.
Rick Ross might have shut down the internet for a few minutes on Friday, but Springsteen is still the true Bawse. Still, the prospect of a live E Street Band without Clarence is a troubling one. ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Jungleland’ won’t be the same without Clarence Clemons and judging by the laborious process to even find out if tickets for Springsteen’s London shows are still available, it looks like Ticketmaster won the war when it came to paying to see him, but Bruce still maintains a certain magnetism. He’s not the greatest dresser — misguided souls might believe it was jingoistic excess, but ‘Born in the USA’ wasn’t a regrettable phase musically, but that leather, denim and headband hasn’t held up well — and nor is he the worst, but the construct of the Bruuuuuuuce mythos means the outfit must come second to the sound to represent that absolute dedication to the craft (that doesn’t apply to the rest of the band, who wore some wild suits in their day).
That utilitarian approach to dress meant that Bruce managed to dodge some of the most regrettable looks of the 1970’s, but also put together some excellent outfits — the jacket and white v-neck tee (swooping, but not to the point of 2012 man-cleavage douchery or Givenchy chest bearing) on ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ in 1978, the wooly hat and rolled up denim shirt from the sceptic smashing Hammersmith show in 1975 and the early Columbia press shots are my favourites. 1973 was a good year for my heroes and their garments, including Marvin Gaye’s double denim (yeah, the trousers might have been flared, but he still pulls them off — Bruce’s Hammersmith Odeon slacks were a little voluminous too) and red wool beanie from Jim Britt’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ session shots make for the coolest looking Marvin in his career, but while Gaye was in the process of redefinition, Peter Cunningham’s images of Springsteen around the release of ‘Greetings from Astbury Park N.J.’ in February 1973, in full interview conversation mode are the most effortless Springsteen outfit — beard, grey hoody, flannel shirt and denim. A no bullshit uniform from a time that taste occasionally forgot.
The sound matured from word-cramming opuses and the decades-old throwback romanticism, but Springsteen emerged cool. Not everybody could go balls-out like Bowie when it came to attire in 1973 and pull off teal tailoring or a pirate eyepatch and hoop earring combo. Still, they ended up meeting in 1974, and Bowie covered ‘Growin’ Up’ during the ‘Diamond Dogs’ sessions and ‘It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City’ (with a coked-up soulful excellence), both from Springsteen’s debut. An image from John Kalodner captures the meeting of a megastar and a man on the edge of stardom with two very different dress senses.
Looking for some inspiration for something I haven’t made yet, I revisited Hype Williams’s troubled ‘Belly’ from 1998. Now the film’s fondly remembered after some negative reactions, but while the bulk is style over substance (not necessarily a bad thing, hence my love of Tony Scott’s ‘The Hunger’ with a vampiric Bowie and a lesbian scene with Susan Sarandon that blew my pre-pubescent mind), the byproduct is still stunning. DMX can almost act, Nas can’t, but the film still captures that excess of the era perfectly. In fact, that film lacked a certain substance but reveled in excess makes it as much of an embodiment of hip-hop in 1998 as ‘Wild Style’ was of a rough and ready (and still sketchy) scene in 1982. The opening titles are still some of my all time favourites — the gooned-out masks in ultraviolet lights, the way the beat drops, silenced gunshots and the movement within the BELLY letters are all still on point, with Hype’s techniques still trickling down to WSHH premiered promos of mixtape tracks.
Hype Williams was 29 when he made ‘Belly’, having evolved from bad graf on the walls for ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’ in 1991 to his first video, ‘Two Minute Brother’ for BWP aka Bytches With Problems (he also directed ‘Come Baby Come’ for the equally forgotten K7) and then changing the look of an entire culture half a decade later from working with female acts with acronyms as group names. Seeing as Hype was inspired by Gaspar Noé’s ‘Enter the Void’ for ‘All of the Lights’, I expected big things from a ‘Belly’ follow-up when it eventually happened, but his plans to direct a film from a Joe Eszterhas screenplay called ‘Lust’ was unexpected. Both Hype and Joe have pretty much been off the Hollywood radar since the late 1990’s, and yes,because Eszterhas is involved, it’s an erotic thriller. I’m interested to see how the film turns out if it’s ever made.
David Fincher’s translation from music video man to film director might have had a ‘Belly style production ordeal with ‘Alien³’ but he came of age, and just when it looked like he was going to be the stylish film with a big reveal guy, he drops ‘Zodiac’ and ‘The Social Network’ on us. What’s consistent in his films is a focus on typography, motion graphics and the art of the opening title — Kyle Cooper’s ‘Se7en’ work (complete with Bowie’s ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’ over the end titles if we’re going to tenuously try to link these entries with a Bowie birthday theme), Picture Mill’s ‘Panic Room’ sequence and P. Scott Makela’s ‘Fight Club’ design are all memorable. ‘The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo’ doesn’t match those highs, but it works well as a slippery, gothier, bleak take on Bond opening credits, but like ‘Se7en’s opening, Trent Reznor’s work suits the mood. There’s a good breakdown of how the film’s opening titles were developed here, talking to Blur Studio’s Tim Miller who directed it. Salutes to masterful motion graphics dude Onur Senturk too. The sequence looks like the commercial for the Hewlett-Packard peripheral from hell, with Rick Owens on creative direction, but somehow that suits the movie.
I’m late to the party on this video interview with Stüssy Triber Lono Brazil, who also uploaded some footage of the International Stüssy Tribe 1st Annual Tribal Meeting in Tokyo from 1991. It’s worth a watch. Because I just used to gawp at the VHS cassette in clothing stores back in the day without every buying it, I’m not sure if it was on the old Stüssy tape back in 1992.