Greg Kurcewicz on Adam Curtis
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Greg Kurcewicz on Adam Curtis
It Felt Like A Kiss, Adam Curtis

It Felt Like a Kiss, Adam Curtis

Greg Kurcewicz writes on the music of It Felt Like a Kiss… and says it’s time Adam Curtis had a room at Tate Modern.

Have you ever noticed that when you have a documentary on TV covering any issue to do with the 1960s – anything – could be about banning pesticides, moon landings, car production in the midlands, whatever – at some point you always get that stock shot of some fey English hippies dancing in a circle in a field, cutting to that face-painted woman gazing at a placard with ‘Love’ painted on it, then a shot of some dudes down Carnaby Street trying on some threads in I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet and the music is somebody in the 1980s trying to make a Shadows-esque guitar sound with bad guitar effects?

Our image of the past has been colonised by lazy clip researchers and penny-pinching production companies.

Thankfully, somewhere deep in a dark storeroom in Ealing or someplace, there is one, softly spoken man on a mission, patiently loading up a Steenbeck with old rusty reels of gaudy Fuji 70s film stock of forgotten news reports, and writing down in a small notebook an endless stream of polemical sociological narrative in response. Though the man is muttering quietly to himself, the stack librarian decodes a request for another cup of tea… (no sugar)…

Adam Curtis’s latest work, It Felt like a Kiss is a little bit different from his earlier works (The Power of Nightmares, The Century of the Self, etc) in that it disposes with his well-metered voiceover and instead deploys a stream of music and text as a foil to the well chosen clips.

Emotive music, banal music, trashy music. I can’t help but think of being reminded of elements of  Ken Jacobs’ magnificent 6 hour epic Star Spangled to Death, which you will love if you like Curtis’s work.

I suppose that I knew this before, but it’s nice to have it confirmed: Mr Curtis has really good taste in music. This isn’t just an exercise – it rocks! He’s used a Faust track – and I’m getting images of him in his youth, in a trenchcoat, with long hair, buying Can records from a branch of Virgin…

He loves his Godardian references too – the theme from Le Mepris – and big block colour type titles, and why not?

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Anyhow, as you can probably gather, I loved the film… but it makes me think that this could work in a similarly effective manner without any text at all. Granted though, that it’s a concentration on ephemeral details that makes it different from his other works. I loved it in the way that I loved watching The Rock and Roll Years on BBC Two in the 1980’s. That’s a compliment because that was great…

It Started with a Kiss was a collaboration with ‘immersive’ theatre company Punchdrunk, for Manchester International Festival. I don’t mind if Adam Curtis wants to work with DJ Spooky or Michael Ball and Lou Reed at Glyndebourne with fireworks and lasers. Thankfully I didn’t have to go and do that – I watched the film on the internet. I forgive him. I know it must be a welcome break from the groundbreaking rooting around in dusty rooms. I need to see his work. I demand an Adam Curtis channel. Not on the internet, but on the BBC proper TV channels. The digital channel that they use for snooker the rest of the year would be fine for me.

I want to see the true story of the Trident missiles arriving at Greenham Common while Jan Leeming intones the news from the beige newsroom set with The Birdie Song from the pop charts in the background (the real version please) because that’s how I remember the chilling banality of it. And Adam Curtis’ best structural filmmaker voiceover weaving some sociopolitical truth over the top.

In my estimation, Mr Curtis is up there with the best structuralist filmmakers: Owen Land, John Smith, Hollis Frampton and all. Wait a minute, forget the out of season snooker TV channel – he needs a room in Tate Modern…

About the Author: Greg Kurcewicz is a film artist, musician and curator.


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