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ABSTRACT FOR A HYPOTHETICAL FILM

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  • ABSTRACT FOR A HYPOTHETICAL FILM

    "A FIGURE OF REVOLUTIONARY FERVOUR" - MICHAEL MOORCOCK

    A starting point for any novelist’s claim to higher significance is at least one �great’ work of commanding scope and ambition. The programme comes as Michael Moorcock is on the verge of publishing the long-awaited final volume of a huge four-novel cycle, the Byzantium tetralogy: perhaps his most personal, and most ambitious work.

    Born in 1939, Moorcock began his writing career by ranging himself against the conservative literary establishment of Amis, Larkin, Conquest et al. He has stood resolutely outside literature’s inner circle ever since, “a figure of revolutionary fervour in the British literary world…� (John Clute.)

    Along the way Moorcock has garnered a large following as a fantasy writer with a taste for playing rock guitar. But the sword and sorcery stereotype does little justice to a serious novelist whose fundamental aim has always been to confront the deep issues and problems of the age into which he was born.

    The programme takes its cue from the opening line of one of Moorcock’s own introductions (Like Shaw’s, Moorcock’s introductions form an integral part of his work.) He tells how as young writers he and JG Ballard would meet regularly to “plot the overthrow of English literature as we knew it.�*

    It was to be a revolution nurtured in the territories of genre fiction, the �hyper-realism’ of fantasy and sci-fi, but, as Moorcock himself says, one which “was making a conscious effort to look at the late 20th century in terms of its specific mythologies… We were trying to cope with the realities of life as we experienced them.�
    Interviews with Michael Moorcock to take place on location at Lost Pines, near Austin Texas, and London, various.

    Part One: “A Figure Of Revolutionary Fervour�
    Moorcock’s explosive views on Kingsley Amis and the prevailing literary orthodoxy of the late 50s set the tone: “…his rudeness in person and his idiocy in print… Amis and Co with their homophobia still have their gossip circulating.� (2001) Schooled in writing science fiction and fantasy pulp to demanding magazine deadlines, Moorcock took over the editorship of the speculative fiction publication New Worlds in 1964. Along with JG Ballard, Brian Aldiss, and others, he began to flourish in the revolutionary atmosphere of the 60s. Soon came his first major fictional figure, the mod anti-hero Jerry Cornelius, who straddles alternative or parallel realities (Moorcock’s concept of the “multiverse�) in the four novels that comprise the Cornelius Quartet (the last of which won the Guardian Fiction Prize.) Violent, and sexually amoral, Cornelius was banned in many countries, and became a major influence on post-punk culture – modern-day graphic novelists, iconic film figures such as The Crow, for instance. (Also: influences on Moorcock; his musical persona.)
    Interview: in study at Lost Pines. Vision: Amis and 50s scenes. 60s scenes, especially pop art (in particular Paolozzi, Aerospace Editor for Moorcock’s New Worlds), happenings, demos. Rock footage, esp The Who. Research footage of Moorcock playing with Hawkwind, Jet Harris, Peter Green etc. Footage from The Crow. Treated frames from suitable graphic novels. Costume an actor as Jerry Cornelius? – film moody shots against treated backgrounds reminiscent of dereliction or apocalypse? Soundtrack: use iconic 60s tracks from Hendrix, Hawkwind, The Who, Beatles, etc. Supporting interviews: collaborators, colleagues and associates from the New Worlds/ Cornelius/ Hawkwind days - esp Ballard.

    Part Two – Mother London
    Moorcock’s London is as vividly realised and characterised as any novelist’s portrayal of the capital since Dickens. The detailed topography of Mother London and King Of The City would be the exploratory setting for this part of the interview/programme, though London is a central motif in all Moorcock’s fiction. Moorcock would speak about the nature of its inspiration, its role in his own history and psyche, and its place in what is perhaps his major work, the Byzantium sequence of novels, to which the programme will return in detail in part 4. Among other things, London provides the key to Moorcock’s political, polemical persona – the Swiftian current running through his work.
    Interview: London scenes, roving locations. Vision: Location shots + poss recreated bar/asylum scenes from eg Mother London. Soundtrack: natural/recreated sound. Supporting interviews: assessment of Moorcock’s London by Peter Ackroyd, Iain Sinclair.

    Part Three – Alternative Realities
    The Fantasies. This section of the interview/programme deals with Moorcock’s huge body of fantasy fiction. Can fantasy be �literature’? Well, Moorcock's multiverse could, in print, be seen as the central battleground of the revolution to overthrow English literature. There is plenty of straightforward romance in the Eternal Champion series, if that is what you seek. Yet the hero Elric takes you to uncomfortable places, with uncomfortable consequences, as he lights the spark of the Champion within oneself. Further, in Nomad Of the Time Streams Moorcock explores utopianism, imperialism, scientific socialism. Von Bek is a dark and amoral take on the Grail myth. Gloriana is a luscious Theatre of Cruelty comedy of Elizabethan England. The Brothel In Rosenstrasse portrays the roots of 20th century European politics in a tale of decaying eroticism. Later works such as Dancers At The End Of Time and the dizzying multiverse of the Blood sequence form complex, hallucinated games with interlocking layers of time, truth and morality.
    Interview: Lost Pines, Texas, exteriors. Vision: Old airship footage, brooding forests, radically treated to recreate fantasy landscapes. Arthurian images. Location exteriors. Soundtrack: Hawkwind. Supporting interviews: Internet correspondents (the Web-verse)?

    Part Four - Dealing With Realities
    The Byzantium (Colonel Pyat) tetralogy. The three published, and long-anticipated fourth, novels (Byzantium Endures, The Laughter Of Carthage, Jerusalem Commands, The Vengeance Of Rome) deal through the experiences of a classic �unreliable narrator’ figure of Colonel Pyat, with the profound and disturbing themes of the last century leading up to the Holocaust and beyond. The final volume, many years in the writing, is said to have cost Moorcock a great deal of anguish. The sequence lays claim to be Moorcock’s crowning achievement. Who is Pyat, this resilient wreckage of a century’s psyche? What part of Moorcock, and all of us, is he? This part of the interview would provide the climax to the programme which, one hopes, would draw to the attention of millions of people this challenging work of fiction.
    Interview: split between Lost Pines (study) and Portobello Road/Notting Hill (the setting for the near-derelict narrator’s London home, and Moorcock’s West London origins.) Vision: Location, recreated London scenes, Byzantium, Jerusalem, Vatican. Holocaust, Russian revolution archive. Archive of key archetypal figures of the 20th century: Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Trotsky; and landscapes: the camps, the Wall, the gulag. Soundtrack: natural sound, period music including classical. Supporting interviews: Fellow-novelists (eg Ballard) and leading critics assessing claims for Moorcock as one of the century's major literary figures.


    *POSTSCRIPT. You could stage a face-to-face between Moorcock and Ballard, and build a different programme, around their discussion of what happened to that plot to overthrow literature. It could be made using two separate, intercut interviews, but preferably by actually bringing them together. (How long since they last met?)
    Within the work of both Moorcock and Ballard there are plenty of cues for good vision to drive and illustrate the narrative of such a discussion. Some suggestions from which to draw: Ballard - footage from the film of Empire Of The Sun, the film lots of Shepperton Studios, the concrete islands below the Hammersmith flyover, the outer reaches of Venetian lagoons, the anonymous suburbia of Pangbourne or Shepperton, the high-tec computer settlement of Sophia-Antipolis near Cannes. Moorcock - London scenes, particularly Portobello Road and Notting Hill, the dandified mod figure of Jerry Cornelius, airships, exotic locations like Odessa, Memphis, the Nile, the Camargue, footage of Hawkwind playing (research: one of their legendary free concerts beneath the Hammersmith flyover?), Moorcock’s Texan home “Lost Pines�, Bavarian castles, Japanese anime.


  • #2
    Intriguing, and temptingly pitched. But how many Swiss Rolls would the deal cost? :roll:

    Comment


    • #3
      Oh, believe me, well within the budget of a strand with such high-end production values as the South Bank Show, for instance. Proportionally, the most costly element would be any feature-film and music rights; and any re-created scenes, involving as they would the whole apparatus of filmed drama. With these, you would have to cut your cloth pretty carefully. Apart from that, you're into standard doco territory. Archive rights vary but both BBC and ITV have or have access to massive stills and film libraries that under the guidance of a seasoned researcher/producer, wouldn't overstretch the budget in the way that, for instance, in another context, using the Zapruder film would. Most of the supporting interviews would be with a one-man camera+sound crew plus producer asking the questions: only the central MM interview(s) would require more elaborately mounted production. Flights, hotels, exes etc - not much, within the scheme of things, and probably tax-deductable. Treatment of film: standard facilities-house/in-house graphics technology. You'd probably shoot on digi rather than film: you can 'grain' digi to imitate the look of film pretty closely on bog-standard Avid, these days, and you thereby reduce your costs hugely. Your researchers, crews, edits etc are all staffers or long-term freelancers. Guest participation fees tend, historically, to be on the mean side. Yes, it would be expensive, but we're not talking Spielberg here.

      Anyway, not really the point. Since neither the pitch nor the film will ever be made, I thought posting it here might give it a sort of "virtual showing" inside people's heads. For what that's worth.

      Christ, I do go on. Enough already. :D

      Comment


      • #4
        Well, when P-X TV goes live, I'm sure it will be one of our first productions... after the bawdy farce I've written, set during a zombie apocalypse, Ooops, there goes my brain!... and Perdix's sitcom about a young girl being raised by gay garden furniture, My Two Sheds.

        Sorry, Sundays have a strange effect on me. :D :( :?
        "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

        Comment


        • #5
          Ya got t love those plans already! I'm gonna dose up Lord Bragg and the rest of the krew with sugar cubes soaked in acid, that shd make the doco go with a zing...
          8O

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