Jimmy Jones is a landscape gardener, constructor, designer etc. He arrived in Sydney 17 years ago via Dunedin, Nelson, Motueka and well NZ in general. He’s never written about music or played in a band but has been surrounded by music, musicians, engineers, producers, writers et al since he was a teenager. His brother Damian runs Café Meow in Wellington. Here are five films that have stayed with him…
1 – Fitzcarraldo/Burden Of Dreams: These two films really come as companion pieces much like Apocalypse Now/Hearts of Darkness. There are many parallels in the production between Apocalypse Now and Fitzcarraldo. Both films had problems with actors, nature, budgets, the directors’ sanity and very nearly never made it to screen. Fitzcarraldo stays with me because of the mad passion in this project. Klaus Kinski is outstanding as the flawed rubber baron that wants to bring opera to Iquitas, Peru. He plans to do this is by dragging his steamship over native rainforest to another valley gaining access to untapped rubber resources. Of course it’s doomed to failure, we all know that at the beginning. The relentlessness of nature beating back man at every angle is oppressive but still Kinski’s character Fitzcarraldo forges on. The movie lives and breathes with Kinski’s performance, he’s so far in it you can’t separate actor from character.
The companion piece Burden of Dreams shows how Werner Herzog mirrors the movie’s character Fitzcarraldo in his drive to get this movie made. There’s obstacles at every turn. At points both Jason Robards and Mick Jagger were signed on for the lead role and thankfully they never did. Two scenes always stick in my head. Firstly the scene with Fitzcarraldo on top his steamship cruising down the river with opera on gramophone at full blast. And secondly the scene where the steamship is halfway over the hill and natives Fitzcarraldo recruited to help in this endeavour cut the ropes holding the steamship in place and it hurtles back down the hill.
2 – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: I watched Bill and Ted’s three times the first day I saw it. Watched it with friends, borrowed it, hitchhiked from Nelson to Motueka, watched it again with my sister and then got our mates from the street to come watch it. It made me laugh out loud over and over. The ridiculous premise, the dodgy play-on-word puns for all the historical characters, the stupid situational gags, all of it. I loved all it. Still do. Although now I’d rather watch the sequel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, the writing in it is far superior but I would never have got to it without the first film. The catchphrase, Be Excellent To Each Other, is still one of my favourites. Words to live by Bill and Ted.
And I now realize that funny old mentor was one George Carlin.
3 – All About My Mother: Kika was the first Almodovar film I ever saw and after that I had to watch whatever I could get my hands on. And Kika is far from his best film but it had Rosy De Palma. One of Almodovar’s great skills is the female leads he casts. Kika was a bridging film between the John Waters style and counterculture films he had been making and the classy melodramas to come. All About My Mother is cinematic perfection to me. It has everything. There’s love, loss, redemption, reference to the cinematic past. The way it weaves All About Eve and A Streetcar Named Desire into the story makes you go back and watch or re-watch those films. Almodovar has a way of making melodrama transcendent. And the female leads, well it’s practically an all-female cast, are amazing. They all feature in multiple Almodovar films. Penelope Cruz, Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes star but its Antonia San Juan that steals the movie with her depiction of Agrado, the transsexual prostitute. The movie deals with complex issues with a sympathetic lens.
4 – Lost Highway: I could choose any David Lynch film they all stay with me, well I haven’t seen Inland Empire yet missed it’s blink-and-miss it cinematic release and just never got around to it. People spend too much time trying to unlock the mysteries of David Lynch films and what they all mean. Thematically they don’t seem that hard to decipher. Eraserhead’s obvious look at the fears of being a new father and Mulholland Drive’s a critique of the movie industry (which part was the dream which part was the reality). Why do we need more than that? We read books and poems all the time that take multiply readings and musing to come close to decipher. A good friend of mine suggested Lost Highway was about mid-life crisis and that seemed to fit most of the pieces to me. I first saw Lost Highway at Dunedin Film Festival at a cinema on Princes St with a whole group of people we knew. We all came out going what the fuck did we just see. Unforgettable. The horror and noir elements ran deep. It demanded to be watched again when it came to video and I did over and over. Bill Pullman is outstanding in perhaps the best role of his career, well certainly the best role I’ve seen him in. The whole cast is stellar except for a very wooden Henry Rollins in a bit-part. Well Patricia Arquette is pretty damn wooden too but it fits her role. So many memorable scenes. Any appearance of the ghoul, Patricia Arquette’s head impaling the glass table, Bill Pullman blowing that saxophone until his heads explodes, Robert Loggia’s tailgating scene and the highway always back to the lost highway.
Years later when I started reading Barry Gifford novels because of Wild at Heart I realised he was involved with writing Lost Highway also and it made me love it even more. Barry Gifford’s name is just not mentioned enough.
5 – Santa Sangre: A flatmate of mine told me about a first date he’d had to a film called Sante Sangre and he knew early on this was no film to take a first date to or maybe it is. Anyway he never got another date or the date may not have even made it through the movie. But he was telling me about the crazy movie with circus freaks and dwarfs and all that. I had to see it. This film blew my mind. It was so warped and beautiful. Like a black carnival. Freaks of all sorts. And throw religion into the mix and you can’t lose. Not until Carnivale came along did I find something that came close to this. More Fellini than Fellini. Jodorowsky’s early 70’s films are cult classics but to me this is his best and most cohesive movie.