"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.

Monday, November 22, 2004

So - Stranded in Canton.
I've excerpted some of the email I sent to Robert Gordon in response to the film:

"I've had three or so hours to swill those images around in my mind, and many of them become sharper with memory - the proud look in that girl's eye when Campbell Kensinger calls her "straight - a straight chick"; the shock on the faces of the bar patrons watching Lady What's-her-name's routine, sung over (and completely ignoring) the jukebox; Jim Dickinson, drunker and more fucked up (these days I believe they call it 'crunk') than any human being has a right to be, wearing a lounge suit and a huge grin; Molasses and Booth; Randall's beer bottle technique; the few tantalising glimpses of Wild Bill himself, whether physically present, through his voice or the way others speak to him; Jerry McGill, moving from party entertainment to homicidal sociopath in one smooth and almost unnoticeable transition. It was, for me, a fascinating eighty or whatever minutes, and a film I will want to see again, many times. Thank you for the invite.

There was, as I'm sure you've heard, a full house - a scrum of people trying to get tickets - it was the hottest show in town. And they were a great audience, they went with it, up to a point. But at somewhere around the halfway mark I became aware of restiveness, people shifting uneasily, the occasional bit of intrusive chatter, and some walkouts (though none, surprisingly, during or after the geek-off).

There was a decent but sort of stunned ovation after the McGill blackout ending. But then the credit sequence was met with a palpable relief from the crowd - not because the end was near, but because there was a guiding voice telling us who was who, and what became of them, and when, and there was another, far surer ovation then...What you've given us is the 100% proof, uncompromised vision of Eggleston's Sony portapak. I am able to watch it and bring to it the context that your book provides. It seems to me that if the film is ever going to find a popular audience outside of those who are already converts, some cinematic/narrative equivalent of that context is going to be necessary...I know that the 100% proof Eggleston version of the film is what you set out to achieve.

However, it's tantalising how the final section of the film becomes much more legible, using multiple screens, voiceover and titles to give the viewer more to hold on to, and how the audience responded to this sudden change in delivery. They were hanging on every word."

The second screening of Canton is in early December, and I have a feeling I'll be going again, and may write more about it at that point.
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