Pip Adam is a writer who lives in Aro Valley. Her first novel, I’m Working On A Building, was published by Victoria University Press in 2013. Her first collection of short stories, Everything We Hoped For was also published by Victoria University Press in 2010. Her work has also appeared in Sport, Glottis, Turbine, Landfall, Lumière Reader, JAAM, Hue & Cry, Metro and Blackmail Press. She is the host of the podcast Better Off Read. Here are five films that have stayed with her…
I found it ridiculously hard to work out which ‘five films that stay with with me’ to talk about. Then, I realised there are a few films which I’ve been thinking about a lot recently because of the thing I’m trying to write. So this is the list of the pictures and sounds that are circulating in my head at the moment.
1 – Kitchen Sink: I first saw this film very close to its release in 1989, at a cinema. I have no idea which cinema or how it came to be playing – I have this memory though of the ‘80s being an exceptionally good time for feminist film. I have this other strong memory from the time of being at a premiere of Mr Wrong in what felt like a cinema full of women. Mr Wrong was another scary film so was Trial Run and I think that’s why women and horror have kind of melded in my mind a bit. Last year was a good year for horror films made by women. I have this idea that women have a very special relationship to the genre. I show Kitchen Sink to a lot of people when we’re talking about story, I think the control of tension in it is so good – the knock at the door! At the moment though the part that keeps playing over and over in my head is the final scene and not so much what happens in the final scene but the way the soundtrack (that creepy, creepy Headless Chickens track) just rises and rises and then is gone and then comes back again over the credits. I was never a great Headless Chickens fan but they seem to be the only soundtrack for the thing I’m writing which makes any sense and I think it might be because of this film.
2 – The Bling Ring: I’m obsessed with what happens when things are written or made very close to the time they’re set in. I love this film so much because it seems to mimic the chaos and weirdness of celebrity and privilege. There’s something so odd about someone freezing the current moment, at the moment, and playing it back to us. It always reminds me of the camera at the party at the end of Carl Shuker’s The Method Actors. Like we get accustomed to things, things seem normal and uncharged then they are played back to us and we can’t look at them the same – I think it’s got something to do with the uncanny. I love the scene in Paris Hilton’s wardrobe where everything looks cheap, like $1000 handbags just look like junk because there are so many of them. I love excess. I feel like we are drowning in all the stuff we are making and buying and eating. I’m always obsessed with excess and this film just bulges. I love the way it seems to bulge so much that any concern for plot seems to sort of get buried under the weight, I love a wandering film, the film that doesn’t quite hit the marks of traditional storytelling, a film that’s slightly unsatisfying, that eats away because it doesn’t feel quite coherent or complete. Like there’s a car crash in this film and I was like, ‘Oh here we go,’ and the film goes on regardless – it hardly makes a dent in the story, which is so perfect for the way the characters don’t seem to suffer consequences. I also love anything about Los Angeles, Somewhere is another film I think about a lot. I really like the new season of True Detective, which I think puts me in a distinct minority. There is such a pull for me of California Gothic. I just fucking love it. When we were in Los Angeles I just got this sense that it was a city in decay, like the end of the world had started there, you can’t breathe the air, and I love that it feels like a kind of plasticising hell. The skies in the finale of the new True Detective are exactly what I’m talking about.
3 – Wendy and Lucy: I kind of pretty much worship at the feet of Kelly Reichardt. She’s massively talented and I love her films so much. The first one I saw was Old Joy and it just blew my mind. It’s so quiet but it rips you apart at the same time. I love the way Wendy and Lucy shows the fragility of our financial positions. A friend said to me the other day that really most people are just a few events away from being homeless. Like everyone. I love the way this film uses that old scriptwriting trope of chasing the protagonist up a tree and then throwing stones at her, but it’s so real and so heart breaking and just, yeah, I love art like this because I think it makes it so much harder to look at people who are having a hard time and say, ‘I don’t know you’, or, as seems be more the case here, ‘I’m better than you because I am not having hard times’.
4 – Coffee and Allah: I’ve been thinking a lot about how to write about people that aren’t me and a few weeks ago I got to see three of Sima Urale’s films in a row and I was just like, ‘Holy shit! THIS is what film making in Aotearoa should be doing.’ They are amazing and Coffee and Allah in particular stayed with me because it seems to be exactly what we need to be making at the moment. I don’t know if art has a purpose or a moral agenda but fuck this film is so good, I love the way it shows us to ourselves. I saw an interview with Sima Urale where she talked about recognising in the main character some of this things she felt and I wonder if that is a way into writing people who aren’t me.
5 – I Shot Andy Warhol: I really liked Mary Harron’s American Psycho but there’s something about this film that, like as soon as Simon asked if I wanted to do this, this film started scratching at me. What I remember about it was that for years, ever since I heard of him, I had worshipped Andy Warhol but there was something about this story that made me think, Man, there were other super interesting people who just didn’t get a look in. Oh and Jarred Harris plays Warhol to a tee. I love thinking about this film at play with American Psycho like the male killer and the woman with violent motivation, and the way the former is so stylised but in this film we get quite close to Valerie Solanas and we’re not allowed to think of it as economic symbol. Also, Society for Cutting Up Men is just the best name ever and I always think of it.