Jah Wobble - Blow Up

Jah Wobble - Blow Up

Marc Arsenault

A little birdy in a strange land known as “the List” passed on this sweet tidbit to us along with a detailed explanation (after the jump). It’s new. It’s Jah Wobble. It’s awesome. These little one-off releases (like last year’s massive dub rendition of Get Carter) are making me want more of this heavy stuff. Word on the street is that the Blow Up track is one of 21 on the forthcoming LP called Welcome to My World. Jah Wobble makes his web home at 30 Hertz.

For many years I have fancied having a stab at directing a short film. I wanted to make a piece that ‘stood alone’ and was not just a vehicle for promoting one of my tracks. (I think pop videos, in this post modern age, are such ‘old hat’). My initial thought was to honour Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Winter Suan,’ which is one of my favourite films. I quite fancied myself playing the part of a priest having a melodramatic crisis of faith. I envisaged a stark black and white affair set in contemporary inner city setting. Don’t get me wrong, along with those two other iconic existentialists, Jean Luc Godard and Michelangelo Antonioni, Bergman’s movies delight, depress, confound and irritate me in equal measure; having said that, I respect the three of them enormously, both for their dazzling radicalism and sheer directorial skill and vision.

Without a shadow of doubt Andrei Tarkosvy picked up their mantle a decade later. It’s the new wave of Turkish and Iranian directors, along with HBO, who are now most likely to make beautifully crafted studies of lonely intellectuals having spiritual crises’. (I would particularly recommend Ceylan’s ‘Uzak’).

After pondering the essence of the three directors’ works, I decided to change tact. Rather than go with Bergman I decided to focus on, a particular part, of what I feel is the Italian member of the iconic three’s tour de force, ‘Blowup’. My change of heart came whilst watching a ‘you tube’ clip of the brilliant vintage short, ‘London to Brighton in 4minutes’. I was playing the clip, of the speeding steam train, over and over, whilst composing a frenzied ¾ time signature drum and bass rhythm to it. Suddenly Antonioni’s ‘Blowup’ popped into my mind. This may at first, seem a strange association for me to have made, but please bear with me.

‘Blowup’ is, ostensibly at least, a murder mystery, but to be honest that aspect of the movie is no more than a side show for me. The film features a day in the life of a ghastly narcissistic (and desensitised) fashion photographer, ‘Thomas’ (played superbly by David Hemmings). ‘Blowup’ is set in, and feeds off, sixties swinging London. It was itself inspired by a short story, first published in 1959, called ‘Las Babas Del Diablo’, by the Argentinean author Julio Cortazar. Both films compress and play with time; ‘London to Brighton’ in a very straight forward fashion, the other, ‘Blowup’ in a much more subtle manner, using the vehicle of photography to freeze and replay time. In any case, both films, when all is said and done, make you feel as though you are recklessly speeding through time and space, whilst continuously surveying the same ‘narrow’ (and tedious) scene. (Perhaps we will now begin to view ‘London to Brighton’ as an existentialist classic)! Ironically it’s the train that stops in time, whereas ‘Thomas,’ in a metaphoric sense at least, hits the buffers (of amorality).

I decided to utilise the scene in ‘Blowup’ where ‘Thomas’ photographs the model Veruschka. My pounding relentless, restless, ¾ rhythm suited the self concerned and conceited Thomas character to a tee. When I first saw this photo shoot scene I was still a teenager, and I absolutely hated it. In fact at that point I despised just about every aspect of the film. I found it ludicrously decadent. I thought that Hemming’s character was a very nasty bit of work, to the point of being an over the top caricature. Well before too long I was cracking on in the music business meeting people like ‘Thomas’ on a pretty regular basis, especially around the Chelsea and Notting Hill sets. From record company executives, through to lead singers and photographers, there were plenty around. I think that narcissists (and their close cousins the sociopaths), really started to come to the fore in the hedonistic ‘me first’ sixties. They have been multiplying exponentially since then. They often come in the form of celebrities. Many in our society are fixated upon them. I think that people with narcissistic personality disorder tend to have a ‘black hole’ like quality. Everything and everyone in their orbit, who lacks a good instinct for survival, gets sucked in and sucked dry.

I decided to revamp the ‘Thomas’ character and jump him ahead into middle age, where he is still bored and contemptuous of everything that comes in his path, only he now has an added quality of bitter disappointment and fear of aging. I had a very clear idea of how he should now look and behave. (Ok ok I admit it….it afforded me the opportunity to wear ridiculous blond wig and get sprayed a fetching shade of orange. I must admit it was fun playing the aging narcissist, driving around in a flash motor. I found it hard to get out of character once shooting was complete. My face was stuck in ‘contemptuous and disappointed’ sneer mode).

I thought it fitting to put him in a swanky dockland’s penthouse apartment, with a gorgeous young wife (who he treats with disdain), and a vintage Aston Martin. But of course none of this brings him any degree of happiness or comfort. He has no empathy for anything or anyone around him. Everything and everyone is a commodity, purely a means to an end. He is still living in an entrenched state of ignorance. I wanted the finished film to look like a million dollars. I wanted it to have the production values of the best ads. I wanted it to have the same seductive quality that car ads and perfume ads display….as they lead us by the nose into a false world of illusion and permanent dissatisfaction.

-Jah Wobble

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