"When our spelling is perfect, it's invisible. But when it's flawed, it prompts negative associations." - Marilyn vos Savant

Sunday, December 25, 2011

It Couldn't Happen Here: The Film art review


Since I have been working on and still working on Pet Shop Boys's Performance, a friend of mine and myself noticed how some of the scenes from it is similar to their movie It Couldn't Happen Here and something about this movie that is just pure of art. I believe this is almost biographical and it signifies them.

Filmed: November 1987
July 8, 1988 (theatres)
December 1, 1989 (VHS and laserdisc)
director Jack Bond
design: Video Collection International

^info credit: Catalogue

It Couldn't Happen Here is a Pet Shop Boys film that consist of surrealism art. For those who don't know what surrealism is, it basically is a study of art and literature that embraces the feel of nonrational or significance of imagery. Now unlike Performance, It Couldn't Happen Here doesn't have a major plot. Although according to Neil, "The story is basically us playing our songs as we drive to London in this car and meet phantom-like figures.I always think it should be called 'Escape from Suburbia' because we're really escaping-escaping from figures of authority, a priest, a mother figure, a con man and so on." Jack Bond said,"The journey is obviously a physically a journey across England, but which England? In a sense it's a dreamworld of England, almost a journey through the psyche of England, which is very varied and strange. A particular thing I was thinking about was how in England you have this curious dichotomy. It's a country that is both adventurous and extraordinary and radical in its imagination in some ways - you only have to look at its success in music, literature, and film - and yet the on the other hand has this repressive, almost restrictive side. That's what I saw the Pet Shop Boys traveling through- the repressive side...." More can be found on pp 42-45 in Annually and some in Catalogue too on p. 88. The major similarities between Performance and It Couldn't Happen Here are the facts of running from authority and the scenes with the school boys. Performance in a way in my opinion, had almost like a sequel feel to It Couldn't Happen Here, because they won the last round on the movie, but in the concert theatrical piece, they didn't survive.
What I adore about the movie is pretty much of art that doesn't make any sense at the same time in some cases it does.

*How it happened*

"'It all started in 1987 when we were going to do a tour", remembers Neil. "PMI, our video company, were going to make a film of the tour. But then we decided not to tour and so instead with 'Actually,' we planned to do a simultaneous video release. We worked with the director Zbigniew Rybczynski (who did the second 'Opportunities' video) and had scripts for each song but we had to do it by July and they couldn't get the equipment we needed back off an Italian TV channel...the whole thing fizzled out basically." "Then PMI suggested they use Jack Bond; impressed by a South Bank Show film he'd made about writer Roald Dahl, the Pet Shop Boys agreed to meet him for dinner. Several dinners were had and they got on well. 'The way we see the world seemed to be similar, ' explains Jack Bond. 'In particular I think we saw threats to what we see as valuable as very similar...it kind of gelled. '" "The Pet Shop Boys went away to America, having agreed the basic film idea of some sort of journey linking up presentations of their songs. Jack Bond set to work on the script (helped by James Dillon), firstly playing the songs over and over again and putting them into an order 'that told a story.' Then he gradually sketched out the scenes. The Pet Shop Boys didn't see the final script until a few days before shooting; by then it was obvious that this wasn't just going to be an hour long film video, it had grown into a 90 minute film. It was shot in three weeks - a fantastically short time for a film - during autumn 1987, mainly in Clacton and London. 'They're fabulous to work with... marvelous actors, ' insists Jack Bond forcefully. 'Tremendous...' 'We weren't attempting to be actors, ' says Neil. 'The actors do all the acting' 'We just do what we normally do in videos,' agrees Chris. 'Walking around, me a few paces behind Neil...'" from Annually on p. 42. 

The point in Catalogue about the movie stood out to me: "In the film, they're almost always untouched and they almost never react - I think that's how they succeeded. Non-reaction is the most powerful form of reaction." Catalogue p. 88. I have to agree with this statement because it brings out the idea of what they are trying to convey in the movie, see in Performance, they reacted and therefore success killed creativity in the illustrated theatrical piece; however in It Couldn't Happen Here the less reaction, the more they were oddly successful without being killed.

*The Cast*
Joss Ackland - a blind priest, a murderous hitchhiker

Barbara Windsor - Neil's mother, seems to be a very religious and motherly land lady at a bed and breakfast.

Chris Lowe - the exotic fortune teller (I had no clue until I saw a photo in Annually and the music video of "Always on my Mind"), himself, briefly as a young naughty Abraham Lincoln in a small flicker footage during "It's A Sin."

Neil Tennant- himself, a rock star in gold tasseled suit, another Abraham Lincoln in a small flicker footage during "It's A Sin."

Gareth Hunt - kiosk keeper that rants on about politicians and faults of the modern world, a novelty salesman with appalling jokes "It's only a laugh, no harm done!",Uncle Dredge/ ventriloquist

Neil Dickinson - an insane pilot that had an epiphany of existentialism, a car salesman, a chaffeur that is dressed like in the 1600's-1700's.

An eccentric, surreal feature film that consist of songs from "Please" and "Actually." Annually give a nice description of the movie from start to finish, if you haven't read it already. I know the film really doesn't make sense or have a major plot like Performance had. But that's the beautiful part of art: it's NOT meant to always make sense, I have to agree with Chris, it is really how they do with their videos and a lot of their videos don't really make sense at all. I would have never guess that Neil and Chris would have a film done, but when I saw it on YouTube even though it's not all in good quality, it was bizarre and something that was really astounding as an art piece featuring well known actors and actresses. I hope one day they will have it on DVD, I heard it was but it wasn't official yet. If it is out there, I hope it have Neil and Chris and Jack Bond if he's still living or Chris Heath's output on the movie. All facts are from their books Catalogue and Annually. If you adore art as much as I do, this is highly suggested. This is surrealism at it's best. It was a side of London I never thought existed, it almost reminded me of a Los Angeles feel because of its oddness.
 I love the line "...where the comic and the dangerous go hand in hand." poetic, lyrical, visual, surreal acting...Art, that's all I have to say.
Even though they weren't attempting to be actors, the Pet Shop Boys have the talent naturally.

Catalogue have images of the two formats and Annually have good photos from the movie.