Sunday, 9 January 2011

Adam Curtis - "The Strange Death of Political England"

On the firing of automatic rifles: "It sounds like a guitar when they're playing it..."

Superb impressionistic history here from Adam Curtis, starting with 1970; he plans to do similar for each subsequent year since.

Curtis presents clips and music of the time largely unmediated - to give a intriguing impression of 1970 as it may have felt in the present-tense. We are not presented with the usual pop-history, but with odd and telling stories now forgotten. As ever with Curtis, there is dry humour and gravitas. Despite the lack of his usual voice-over, one can trace the main theme of individualism starting to undermine collectivism - of course reaching fruition in Thatcherism. More people are now able and willing to make the link between neo-liberal politics and popular culture: identity politics and the mantra of 'choice'.

Immensely affecting, incisive use of music - perhaps particularly the devastating opening use of The Delfonics' 'Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)' and the later use of Gavin Bryars' haunting piece of modern classical music, The Sinking of the Titanic. This 1975 recording was originally designed to evoke the Edwardian age receding, but Curtis places it in the context of his modern history narrative. Sounds like another world beginning to be submerged - living on borrowed time. This was indeed the year that followed the failure of Barbara Castle's "In Place of Strife" legislation and Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of The Sun.

Let us hope this epic undertaking will eventually make it onto TV as a series, as should Curtis' monumental material on Afghanistan's history, all contained within the same blog...

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