I’ve been in a documentary mood lately (it comes in fits and starts) and have managed to stumble on some rather interesting ones. Here we go:
1. Henry Darger: The Realms of the Unreal. Very sweet and rather sad story of a janitor nobody really noticed who, upon becoming ill, was found to have created an illustrated novel of over 1,500 words by his neighbours.
Titled The Realms of the Unreal, it was an entire universe he’d worked on his whole life. It truly proves you can never have anyone completely figured out, and ‘boring’ people probably don’t exist – we just don’t know what’s going on inside.
2. Derailroaded. In a similar theme to the previous entry, Derailroaded explores the life of Larry ‘Wild Man’ Fischer. Plagued by mental illness, Larry nevertheless had flirtations with fame first by appearing on Frank Zappa‘s label Straight Records and then releasing albums with out there artists Barnes and Barnes.
Whether you like his music or not is beside the point, this is a fascinating film of an unusual personality. On the flip side, though everyone already knows about this I’m sure, I also loved the film about Daniel Johnston. Watch that one too.
3. Live Nude Girls Unite. Strippers formed a union and took their argument to a tribunal? I can hear you chuckle. However this shows each of the characters involved in the fight for fairness at club The Lusty Lady through the eyes of Julia Query, a woman who strips between comedy gigs.
I found this film quite amusing, so maybe you will too. It’s very low-fi and quite short, but it was a fun way to pass an afternoon.
4. The Last American Freak Show. I’ve mentioned this one before but I like it, so I’m mentioning it again. As a disabled man filmmaker Richard Butchins is uncertain of the ethics behind freak shows and rightly so.
The 999 Eyes travelling show is ramshackle, poorly organised, ill equipped to deal with all of its member’s problems and the owners spout constant nonsense about why freak shows are actually really good. But…its this unexpected turn of events that makes it so fascinating. We glimpse the reality of life on the road and meet some genuinely interesting characters. And meeting new people is good.
5. Man on Wire. I’ve seen this film lots of times and I’m sure everyone else has too, but it’s beautiful and very French and it contains a circus performer, so why not hear about the tight-rope walker who balanced his way between the World Trade Centres in New York one more time? Plus the music by composer Erik Satie helps me sleep at night.
Well, Bob’s your Aunt and Fanny’s your…cousin, that’s your lot. Before we pop orf however I’d like to leave you with two lilting melodies garnered from the films mentioned. Number one is the dreamlike piano of Erik Satie, and number two is a rousing tale of fish heads and their various uses by Barnes and Barnes:
A few days ago myself and two friends got back from the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ll be using photos I found online because, rather than reflecting the beautiful Georgian buildings or lively street performers, most of our holiday pictures look like these two below:
For further details of streets and shops have a look at this previous post). For now here is a list of my favourite shows this year:
1. The Curious Couple from Coney Island. Set to a background of 30s jazz and covered with a sprinkling of sideshow history, this engaging couple swallowed swords in ever more dangerous ways, pulled condoms through noses and made me laugh lots. By the end I wanted to run off with them to form an alternative lifestyle couple.
2. Backhand Theatre and Circus Performs Edgar Allen Poe. Using poems and snippets of story from the gothic horror scribe, The Backhand Theatre company have formed a very visual and very intriguing play. I was amazed by the constantly moving sets and spooky story of a mental asylum owner willing to do whatever it took to keep the hospital running his way.
3. Richard Wiseman. Psychologist, magician, author and supernatural debunker Richard Wiseman led us on a very funny journey of video clips and magic tricks. He reminded us how fascinating the brain really is by explaining our need to see faces in everything in case we miss the one hunting us in the trees, thus creating ‘ghosts’ in the darkness. He illustrated his point by showing us pictures of sneaky roofs and happy light switches.
4. Simon Munnery. My favourite I’ve saved to the end. Simon Munnery is one of my favourite comedians ever. Partly inspired by Andy Kaufman, he’s a delightful bag of surreal silliness. We went to both his shows this year, I Am A Fylm Makker (in which he performed the entire show off to the side, projecting his face via camera onto a big screen in front of us) and La Concepta.
Whilst I loved the songs and silly cardboard figures he’d made for Fylm Makker, nothing can compare to 8 of us sitting around a table in a windowless artist’s warehouse being served bizarre and silly concepts for dinner.
Because they only sold 8 tickets at a time, the amount of chairs available in the ‘restaurant,’ it was an intense experience and felt a bit like we’d all swallowed an untested drug, especially his final entrance wearing an enormous chef’s hat pumped up by pneumatics attached to his feet. The video I’ve added below won’t capture that experience, but here are a couple of the things we witnessed at La Concepta restaurant:
But wait…there’s more! Along the way we visited a hippie chocolate and milkshake place with surrealist cups hanging from the ceiling called The Chocolate Tree, wandered around the book fair (missed getting tickets for Neil Gaiman though) and sat in the spooky Jeckyll and Hyde pub, as featured on eeriepubs.co.uk.
So that’s it from me. Below I’ve included the best picture of the three of us, just to prove that we are indeed human beings like anyone else.