Friday, 13 August 2010

BOXES (Vincent Leighton,1996)

When a thirteen year-old boy is killed by a train, his friend explores his belongings for clues about his death. Based on his findings, he accumulates evidence all around his small hometown, becoming ever more convinced of a cosmic conspiracy that his friend may well have been in on.

Pages and pages of detailed sport scores, both fictional and real; detailed accounts of both the England football team's defeat on penalties to Germany in the semi-finals of Italia '90 and their hypothetical counterparts' fictional fate, winning the trophy outright with a 2-1 victory over Yugoslavia in the final (Platt 68, Lineker 83), all played-out in vivid detail in the Little Park, and recorded herein for prosperity. Other scrap and crap: dirty books covered in wallpaper, the Penthouse he got one Christmas, when after opening all his presents his Mum leaned in and whispered 'don't go and look now, but there's something extra under your pillow for bedtime', and which we, incredulous, took turns in taking to the bathroom, to do what with we knew not what; fabulous contracts, IOUs, wrappers of chocolate bars with details of expired competitions, badges with his own face on, drawings, hundreds of them, poor in execution but with an unquenchable zest. Each one looke as if it had been drawn at great speed, and that wasn't some style he had cultivated, but was emblematic of the fact that always the idea was more imoprtant than the presentation, often to its detriment, as many of the pictures are indecipherable. Often, the artist clearly loses interest as he composes, the initial excitement failing to sustain the technique long enough to see the picture through, another idea exploding already on another piece of paper.

Ideas as far-reaching as designs for weapons, sports equipment, confections, video games, board games, houses, secret houses, secret girlfriends, shadowy backstories, egos and alter-egos, cartoon characters, carton charters, novels, novellas, ghost stories, menus, record sleeves, sleeveless outfits, bands, graphs of pocket-money spending and savings, dozens of illustrated pool trick shots, entire league seasons of invented sports with invented teams, a fake police report for a child Tony had known before he moved to our school who he claimed had been hit by a bus and killed, to whom he dedicated some of his better battle-scene sketches of Americans in the Burmese jungle or Lancaster bombers over Dresden or Space-Orks on a sinking Bismarck. Most are barely fascinating in themselves, containing the thinly-veiled plagiarism of a normal thirteen-year old. But as a demonstration of a fickle and searching spirit they are illuminating, if only in sheer volume. Most are dated and accompanied with a small 'TC' in the corner. There are some pages which are only this small 'TC' repeated over and over, like practice or lines.

The amount of pages produced in any one day could be thirty or forty. On the 18th July 1991, when Carter was 12, he not only designed an electronic umbrella ('The Cartella'), an over-packed chocolate bar that would be all but inedible ('The Tony Bar') and seven cars, but also all manner of gun and knife hybrids (none small), wonkily rendered warrior types and all manner of boat/shuttle combinations, each bigger and angrier than the last. (Assuming I'm looking at them in order- they may of course have gotten smaller and neater, as he dragged his fantasies down to the Earth; but no.) Rather than perfecting and honing designs, it seems that he was moving away from the original inspiration each time, as a character drawn on the 13th was less nuanced by the 15th, growing and spitting, deeper indentations into the paper, as if his flighty fighting spirit was unable to or could not cope with cohesive and finite versions of anything. Suggestion was key, scale implied, rarely measured.

Always, always huge.

And then: Thirty-line limericks or one-hundred-line haikus, enough spent ink to give a bionic giant a transfusion, enough paper to house the cuckoos of the planet. The lids and labels from prescription pharmaceuticals, his mother's, cut and pasted into a dictionary. Prototype dialects abandoned, reams of babble, nothing ponderous or overworked. careless cacophony actually displayed great interest in its desire for the new. His fertility, its teeming, spouting at the mouth. But poor Tony, can't find the spunk to strike the egg, or the notch to set it all off, just morass of hot potential. His starts now seem like sullied canvasses, rotten fibres.

I flicked through the pages quicker and quicker, losing interest in the designs, when I came across one that made me stop. At first I didn't think it was a Carter drawing, as its subject matter wasn't one that might concern him, and its execution too careful and, well, skilled. But the fizzing felt-tipped colours were his alright, leaving their margins like immigrants in search of a new life, unmoored from the page. A train, a man surrouded in bright colour. The usual signature and date confirmed: July 15th, the day after he died.

A message.

This metaphysical detective story was the only feature directed by Vincent Leighton, a veteran of the small-screen. He died in 2001, before his pet project The Infested Mind of Pat Phoenix: A Psychedelic Biopic could be completed.

The Box Directed by Vincent Leighton Produced by Coxy Written by Simon Home Starring Graham Mikl, Fred Savicevic, Pat Dancer, Tom Tarter Film Four Pictures Release Date UK: March 1996 99 mins.

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