"It's easier to bone the President's wife than to get a movie made." Ray Charles.

How a cult music book became a cult music documentary, and it only took ten years.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Yesterday was a hell of a day for Memphicentric activity in the central London area. As I sat in the French House on Dean St waiting to go and see Mr Johnny Dowd, I opened the G2 section of the Guardian to find a two-page colour spread on William Eggleston and the movies. Since a large part of It Came From Memphis is devoted to Eggleston's adventures in video, which culminated in the sprawling verite work called Stranded in Canton, I thought there might be some reference in there - but the writer insists that "the closest (Eggleston) has come to cinema has been the odd cryptic reference to a video project." Yeah, really cryptic - try this:
"Stranded in Canton is a document of the spirit of Memphis, or more precisely, of Midtown Memphis, 1970s. Using natural light (and later infrared tubes), Eggleston shot unobtrusively in bars, backhouses, fields, cars - day and night. 'The electricity generated...was amazing,' says Mary Lindsay Dickinson. 'The maestro at work with what may have been the world's first infrared handicam! People would do absolutely anything to be in the movie.' Those few who might have been constrained by the camera assumed it was too dark, or that there was no tape in the camera, or that Eggleston was just looped and playing around. 'My idea was to shoot whatever was out there,' Eggleston says. "The second I saw the first reel I was very happy. I knew that it was perfect. I was looking forward to more of it and we just kept doing it. (It) works because of the way the whole takes came off, unedited... It was as if we were looking at something that had been shot fifty times and this was the best take. And these were always the only takes. It was just that good.'" (pp. 226-227, It Came From Memphis, Robert Gordon)
For anybody who, like me, wants very badly to see a 1970's Memphis document featuring geek grudge matches, midnight Mississippi juke joint one-chord trance boogie sessions in full effect, and how people acted in front of a video camera when nobody yet knew what one was - I have good news for all you good people. Stranded in Canton is finally due for some sort of release in 2004.
And hopefully the Guardian might just get their information from a more reliable source next time.
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