Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Art Will Save The World: a Film About Luke Haines" (2012)

Back in 2007 Luke Haines played Dublin. Two civil servants attended the concert. One of them went up to Mr Haines after the show and said, "I would like to make a film about you". When that fellow revealed his status as a civil servant, Mr Haines laughed in his face and told him to fuck off, but the fellow persevered - dropping out of the service, going to film school and finally securing the funding to make the film, eventually winning over Luke Haines' support for the project. As a result, he made a film which I then saw at a Sunday afternoon screening in the Irish Film Institute. No one knows what happened to the other civil servant.

In some respects this film follows the usual music biopic model. There is a bit of narration form Mr Haines telling the story of his amazing career in music. Archive footage shows his past bands appearing on television and stuff. Various people appear and talk about what they think of Luke Haines and his music (sadly there is no appearance by Metallica or Steve Albini). But it also does a bit of deconstructing he documentary, man, bringing home the blah blah blah artifice of the form, with some people saying things they affirm not to be true. There are also scenes where a load of chancers are auditioned for the role of playing Luke Haines (sadly there are then no scenes of any of these people being Luke Haines, perhaps with one of them fighting Luke Haines to establish which one is the real deal and so on).

I enjoyed this film, particularly the archive footage and any of the scenes were Haines was talking to camera, but I also found it a bit disappointing. Some of this I think comes from the inevitable disappointment of seeing a documentary about a subject you already know a lot a about - I was sorry they did not include more of this or highlight the importance of that. The fairly low budget of the film was a factor here too - the filmmaker attended a talk afterwards and said it was all shot in a couple of days or something, and it does rather show. I suspect, though, that these are the quibbles that come with too much knowledge of a subject - if you just knew a couple of songs by Luke Haines (or less) and were curious to know more about him then this would be a great film to see.

Another problematic feature of the film was that it seems like it came to the cinemas last year but was made some time before that, so events had passed it by somewhat. Obviously the film could have done with an in-depth discussion of Mr Haines' concept album about 1970s British wrestlers and an Irish audience may have been interested in some coverage of his recent collaboration with Cathal Coughlan on the uncovering of the North Sea Scrolls. But the area where the time lag seemed most of a disappointment was in the film's lack of engagement with the whole Jimmy Savile business and the rounding-up of every man involved in the entertainment industry back in the 1970s. The seedy side of the music and entertainment business back then seems like a real concern of Luke Haines in his songwriting, to such an extent that a lot of the Savile and related stories in the papers seemed like the coming to life of Luke Haines lyrics, and it would have been interesting for the film to touch on all that.

The PoMo deconstructionist elements did not annoy me as much as they might have done - indeed, some of them were actually funny. However, I think this drawing-attention-to-the-artificiality-of-the-documentary is something that documentary makers should stop thinking of as in any way big and clever. I am media-literate enough to be aware that there is a certain amount of artifice involved in making documentaries and it really is not something I need to be reminded of when watching them. Unless I am watching a documentary about documentaries, obv.

One final point - Luke Haines is joining that select band of men who looks better as they get older. The contrast between the shots of Young Haines, with his long indie hair as opposed to the dapper chap that is Old Haines is very striking.

LATER - I wonder if I am being insufficiently enthusiastic here? I came away from the film wanting to re-listen to all my Luke Haines-related records, thinking also that there are still nuggets out there on those of his records that I have yet to acquire and listen to properly. This, surely, is a key sign of a successful music documentary.

That concert in 2007

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