Hidden Flick Turns 50: A Celebration

Flash 2: The downstairs backstage area at the Beacon is a hellacious environment out of an Indiana Jones film—you know, the bad one about the occult and the blonde chick screaming while East Indians eat monkey brains. You make one wrong move downstairs at the Beacon and you’ve either dislocated your shoulder, sampled some cat’s beer or accidentally corn-cobbed a publicist’s wife. “Sorry, ma’am. Thanks, though.”

Which brings us to the best film about the Stones, the 1970s rock lifestyle and the unusual chemistry between Jagger, Richards and the dark angels of their twisted natures. Mick was equal parts vaudevillian, transvestite and cock-of-the-walk poseur and he’s still one of the best frontmen in rock. Richards is a different breed altogether—his songwriting is unparalleled but his playing and singing are more of an acquired taste and a transition point mid-live set more than anything else. However, his solo projects in the late 1980s still stand as raw and powerful, emotionally-accurate soul music. Captain Jack’s Old Man doesn’t have to hit the notes or sing in tune. He just is and every Jack Daniels-wielding rock gunslinger is merely a pale rider on the tail of his staggering grace.

Cocksucker Blues…that is the title…and it isn’t an easy film to find but that’s what this whole weekly column is about. Let me give you a brief rundown and then…well…do your homework…I’ve given you enough grease to get these wheels down the road…Cocksucker Blues is a film by Robert Frank and it isn’t a slice of celluloid to be viewed with any young or old faint of heartists or just about anyone that gets uptight over rampant female nudity, male masturbation, heroin spiked in arms, coke snarfed up noses, joints sucked, cigs fagged, and liquor bottles sloshed and fondled like surrogate dildos.

Flash 3: To be, always be—that is the question here. How does one deal with eternity? Cosmic tic-tac-toe on a scale one cannot imagine, or does the challenge of maintaining and juggling order on many levels, within numerous dimensions, satisfy the Eternal One(s)? Climb aboard as we venture out there with a journey into a study of a film which occupies the second spot on my all-time favorite film list, hidden or otherwise, Andrei Tarkovski’s Solaris.

Flash 4: Well…let’s look at that concept, with a nod back to the FEAR that gripped this nation for nearly the entire decade, and think about what it is to be a HUMAN, and what motivates them, and what strikes deep anxiety within its mortal frame. Yes, let’s gander at, well…I suppose it isn’t a stretch to describe the chilling film, Fire in the Sky as a subliminal holiday tale.

The one thing humans fear the most is not bankruptcy, blown relationships or opportunities, whether or not George Steinbrenner bought enough talent for another World Series win, or explaining the tragedy of Coventry, yet again. Furthermore, the greatest fear of all mankind is not fear itself. Their greatest fear is the UNKNOWN. Humans fear the unexplainable, bizarre imagery, and that which towers above everything, toys and experiments, and then discards the results for another species all together without even a basic ‘bye: “this has all been wonderful, but now I’m on my way…”

Flash 5: In The Burmese Harp, a group of Japanese soldiers are sent to tell another group of Japanese soldiers that the war has ended. Instead, the soldiers fighting this final, and pointless (at least on the surface) battle refuse to surrender as it would tarnish their honor and besmirch their collective character. Well…the war’s over, and sometimes YOU are the one who lost, and dealing with that hard fact isn’t an easy thing to do if you have been trained for nothing short of victory. Surrender or quitting, or, again, giving up those dreams of a Greater Glory, is not something that one can easily embrace. These Japanese soldiers, fighting that one last Burmese campaign don’t stop—because to stop means that they betray their original commitment, their original promise to themselves, a promise which is always kept, right?

Hidden Theatre Intermission I: He seemed to get misty eyed when he spoke of how long he had owned the tiny outdoor venue—it had been used for concerts by no name acts for years, with seats up front, and then a lawn which stretched out far and wide in the back, all leading up to a lot where patrons could park, walk through the entrance booth, and go find a seat, a seat on this night, not to catch a concert, or hear any music whatsoever from any band, but to see a series of films in what is now known as “my little Hidden Theatre at the end of the road,” according to the owner, a gracious chap on this refreshingly mild pre-summer eve. There was never a cover over the seats, just one over the stage, so if it rained, the show would either go on, with fans getting drenched, or it would end if the owner felt the band was at risk of electrocution, or worse, an inability to play along with the music of the water slicing through the sky en route to its final destination on this sacred ground.

Subliminal message IV (page turner): An always radiant and welcome Stash and an intense Vultures, with its early notes nodding back to old school Phish as penned by leader/guitarist/frontman/vocalist/future fall guy/scene figurehead Trey Anastasio with a hard rock motif pounded home with emphasis by Mike Gordon on bass, Jon Fishman on drums, and Page McConnell on piano and keyboards. For those who may have caught Phish in their latter years, Walnut Creek documents a strong group performance. McConnell is perfect, especially emphasizing his dynamic ability to anticipate, enhance, and play off his band mates, and, if the moment calls for it, an epic thunderstruck storm which hits the venue during Bye Bye Foot, a rarely played Fishman original, and takes a colossal role during Taste, as the DVD shows McConnell’s reaction to the storm, the thunder hitting the amphitheatre walls, and pushes the entire band to deliver one of their finest performances of the song. Phish ride the weather and the jam rises and falls, escalates, bends, shoots outwards, and fluctuates the tempo based upon the massive thunderstorm. Suffice to say, the film presents a band finding a way to make transcendent music during what 99% of other bands would call a hellacious shit storm that screamed: “Get the fuck off the stage!”

Hidden Theatre Intermission II: This evening was the first experiment, the first chance to see if his venue could still be useful, and the first chance to go outside of the box and present some other form of entertainment. Sure, it had been tried before, but this little Hidden Theatre was special, and he thought he could get the weirdoes and odd balls and the just plain strange to come out and chew on some cinema. BYOF was painted on the entrance booths, and when I asked him what that meant, he looked at me with a silly grin as if I should know the answer to that question. Indeed, it rang true as I looked around: “Bring Your Own Freak.”

Subliminal message III (treyprise): Indeed, Phish would cut the set short after Taste, but not before delivering nearly 60 minutes of tight improvisation that had the audience huddling in the dark and waiting for an even better second set during the break. And that, in the end, is what made Phish great. With the massively obvious exception of Coventry and a handful of other smaller gigs, Phish took challenges and spun them on their head to their overwhelming advantage. But, you know, the same could be said about their often beleaguered lifelong fans by the uninitiated—and I used that “lifelong” term because if you spend five minutes with an old head, one gets the feeling that the twinkle in the eye is never quite going to go away, no matter how much you disliked certain stretches of their post-first-hiatus 03/04 shows. When the Circus Comes…IT is ON.

Hidden Theatre Intermission III: The owner had taken the cover down that had once protected the stage, and had put up a fairly large screen—almost IMAX-like height and width—in the back of the stage to show films that he thought were fairly interesting, flaky, and eclectic. Unlike me, he didn’t care if his selections were obscure, once praised but soon forgotten or, in many cases, hidden and lost in the vaults of time. He just picked things that he liked—some new, some old, some better off dead—and away we went.

Flash 6: La Science des rêves plays with the notions of creativity and madness. The film toys with the idea of relationships between others, time and space, and that girl across the hall. If one has ever danced close enough to those flames, it can burn for quite some time after the whole thing blows up in smoke. Sure, yes, the Great Went. But the Great also GO, and what one captures at the time, can often appear to be a load of shite in the rear view mirror. So…lesson learned. Get the work done. Let history decide its fate.

Subliminal message I (the phantom bassist): I walked out after a few minutes, catalogued its cinematic greatness, saw some stairs, and hoofed it up the daunting flight and into the first room on the right, which had yet another television showing a horror film. This one was Spice World, which I quite liked because of it’s…it’s…uh…keen editing, action-packed scenes, witty dialogue, and five well-trained performers at the peak of their rein over the Attire Empire. I feel the hippie had chosen this selection in his running theme of Halloween classics because it featured a character called “Scary Spice.” Dunno. I left the room after several minutes, noted the film’s similarities to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, and wandered down the hall.

Hidden Flick Rock ‘n’ Roll Drive-In I: Hidden on the outskirts of town is another nether region, another place where mystery resides within riddles, a place so obscure and strange that one is tempted to call it the Twilight Zone, or the foggy sections of space best left unexplored, or uninhabited. Cars race by with their excited cinematic travelers, eager to drive through the gates.

Lucky 7 (trey): Ahhh…yes, Vegas. We were somewhere outside Lemonwheel when the chaos took hold. In the Court of the Crimson King as Big Red bends our collective noodles, I turn down: Wolfman’s Brother> – 10/31/98…

I had no great need for the almighty Bug to Come. But here, HERE, I find it appropriate to check out Eight Legged Freaks, and an homage to all that is unholy about old school horror cinema. All right, take the foot off the pedal (or is it pedals?). Put the vacuum cleaner down, and listen up, forgetting the circus music offered by a board chairman. Alas, the intro to a song that will not get played tonight is side-stepped as we take a look at our little treasure directed by first-time New Zealand director, Ellory Elkayem.

Hidden Flick Rock ‘n’ Roll Drive-In II: We dig a little deeper into the shadows, ponder the sights, ingest the sounds, eat a pizza slice or two, gulp a soda, catch some clips, and find that this isn’t exactly a foreign place at all, but instead, a friendly little gathering place we call the Rock ‘n’ Roll Drive-In.

Flash 8: The Wall, Pink Floyd’s landmark album of loss, depression, and, ultimately, total isolation from reality. The seminal work featured Roger Waters at his zenith as a conceptual artist and also, sadly and inevitably, brought an end to the band, lumbering on for just one more album, The Final Cut, with their leader. Of course the Floyd continued on without Waters, but that is an old story for another time, and one that was rather appropriately amended by the Live 8 reunion in 2005 of the classic quartet one last time before Richard Wright’s passing on September 15, 2008.

Alas, this column is not completely about Waters, Gilmour, Mason, Wright, and Floyd, nor their fictional wall for that matter. This is really about a 2001 German film called Der Tunnel, and it is based on a true story about those that constructed a tunnel underneath the wall separating a divided Germany so citizens could escape from the Soviet regime governing the East. It is also about what it’s like to be an existentialist who hasn’t faced

such horrors, and yet one still feels the deep pain within.

Hidden Flick Rock ‘n’ Roll Drive-In III: Yes, an intriguing location, indeed, that is marked with an ‘X’ on our Flick maps, the Drive-In has four screens with double features playing each night. At its central hub is a circular snack bar/munchie haven/hang out place for the ADD-adled, socially-minded sections of the crowd, the key meeting place for cats after a long week of dodging assignments, phone calls, and text messages, and a sane hang out to get away from it all.

Number 9, Number 9, Number 9: Alas, Gilliam has struggled on the creative side, as well. Which, finally, brings us full circle to the matter at hand—The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Much has been written about the fact that Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell took over for the deceased Ledger to complete his role as Tony, and the film for Gilliam. Ledger’s character is the member of a traveling imaginarium, and one of the magical props on the stage is a mirror. When the customer walks through the mirror, what is in their imagination drives the imagery, which enfolds like a real-time acid trip flash-sideways. Gilliam found a way to deal with Ledger’s passing by showing shots of him walking through the mirror, but another actor, i.e. Depp/Law/Farrell, comes out the other side, exchanging their face for another in a clever nod to dream imagery, as well, where the original portrait is but a fleeting choice.

However, beyond the imaginative Gilliam/Ledger/Depp/Law/Farrell quintet information, not much has been written about the merits and subtext of the actual finished piece of celluloid outside of that initial hook based on the Ledger Legend. The late Australian actor is predictably sublime in his brief scenes as the tortured post-Joker, sideshow freak/con artist, and while Depp and Law are adequate, yet not quite noteworthy, it is Farrell who explores the role to its full potential in a dark and haunting performance.

And therein lies the problem. The film is really about the duel between the forces of light and darkness (sound familiar former LOSTIES?). Christopher Plummer plays Doctor Parnassus, an ancient storyteller in the grand and circus-like manner, who is involved in a critical game with Mr. Nick (the devil in one of his many masks), played by Tom Waits.

Hidden Flick Rock ‘n’ Roll Drive-In IV (The Runes Album): As usual, as is this case with most of these lingering outdoor joints, the double bills feature a weird blend, a marriage of celluloid opposites, but it is the music blaring from within the snack bar that seals the mood—it is someone’s mixed tape, a burned CD of favorites that veers from Little Richard to the Clash, from Nirvana to Opeth, from Wilco to The Egg…guitar and laptop sounds slash through the air, blended into a seamless whole as Nachos, popcorn, chocolate bars, and ice cream are purchased and devoured while gazing at walls containing old movie posters—Night of the Living Dead rests in a sacred spot next to PHISH – IT, Rust Never Sleeps wedded with a Phantasm poster. Somehow old school horror is associated with rock music, and that’s alright, mama.

CODA (the fisher queen): And all of that animated random history brings us to Magnetic Rose. Set in 2092, two men aboard a deep space freighter respond to an abandoned space station’s distress signal. Only, it is not devoid of life, as one expects, and exists in some sort of metaphysical region bereft of the normal laws of time and space, offering hallucinatory holographic histories which impact and intertwine an elusive AI and Future Man. And oh yeah, the station scenes feature absolutely stunning sequences of operatic grandeur that leave one awestruck and spellbound. Literally. A floating diva, appearing to be from a distant past, is actually an opera singer delivering her lyrical tale to those who come to visit; music weds with pathos, and the hidden thoughts of ‘when are we?’ aren’t as tantalizing as ‘who are we?’.

Subliminal message II (the wrath of jon): Sometimes, things aren’t so complex, and one just needs to take to the proverbial air to see what is possible on the ground below and in Sky Riders, you’ve got a little minor gem of a film worth the time while pondering that next move into the Great Unknown.

Closing Credit…(Albany’s Seven Below>Ghost comes to its conclusion)

At journey’s end in the surreal search for La Montaña Sagrada, the Holy Mountain, one is no longer thinking of the Shock and Awe sequences as scandalous. The Alchemist has gathered his tripped-out tribe based upon a meticulously calculated group of symbolic individuals, and the answers…yes, those answers to Life’s Little Tricky Questions aren’t as interesting as Jodorowsky’s unexpected yet poignant monologue in the closing scene. One is forced to think about man’s place in the universe and why, incredibly, one truly needs to forget all of the philosophical adventures and “What does it all mean?” ignorant posturing, and just get on with Life. Enlightenment and Immortality aren’t goals; they are merely signposts on the path towards the Holy Mountain, and one must eventually, always, inevitably, head back home to where existence is defined.

End Game.

Randy Ray

    Related Content

    One Response

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    Recent Posts

    New to Glide

    Keep up-to-date with Glide