Tuesday, 23 November 2010

PLAYED YOUR EYES (Jim Hertz-Tanning, 2006)

The following is an extract from an article written by the director Jim Hertz-Tanning in The Guardian, on Saturday 28 October 2006:

'I am overjoyed to discover that my latest film, Played Your Eyes (a catchy and fashionable title) was released at the end of September in a deluxe 2-disc DVD package by Warner Brothers. It is a bargain at £25.99, for over four hours of movie plus out-takes and trailers. How do I know? Amazon have emailed any of its customers who previously bought my films on DVD. The world's largest online retailer is offering a persuasive 'Unique Price' discount. The truly impecunious, it suggests, can wait until September 2007 when, evidently, Played Your Eyes comes out in a humbler package, stripped of extras, at £15.99.

During that time, no doubt, the film will have been entered for prizes, presented at festivals and will have attracted the usual batch of mixed reviews, including the customary splenetic rebuff from the Daily Mail's Chris Tookey.

During the few minutes it took me to access Played Your Eyes' details on Amazon's web pages, the movie's sales rank jumped from 70,301 to 69,844. It jumped another 60,000 places when I submitted my own order. Sadly, sales have tailed off a bit in the last few days - down to 219,986 at the last check. Maybe Amazon have sold out and Warner Brothers are reprinting. But my DVD must be on its way by now. As the named writer, director and producer of Played Your Eyes, I'm looking forward to my first sight of it.

The only hitch is that Played Your Eyes is a phantom film - and its not even a phantom of my own creation. I have in the past acquired a reputation for crediting non-existent actors, writers and sources, and for placing fictional figures in biopics: My first three films (Seven Bridges of Königsberg (1997), The Suslin Operation (1999), and Sham Epigraphs (2002) were all 'remakes' of works by non-existent foreign filmmakers, Georgis Fickl-Adonis, Gustav Stuck and Sir Maxi Beardsley.

It always cheered me up when my films were badly received to learn that the scholarly critic was nevertheless more than familiar with the works on which they were based, and even favoured the originals. The Los Angeles Times informed me that Fickl-Adonis was "the premier German-Greek film-stylist", while Total Film, as you'd expect, considered his work to be "arcane and irksomely septimal". The Washington Post judged Stuck to be "a sadly neglected amorist, film-maker and photographer" and the New York Times swallowed "the real archaeologist, movie-mogul and bon-vivant Sir Maxi Beardsley" hook, line and sinker. Even Frank Kermode (in this paper) fell for "Max" (evidently believing that as a fellow knight he could abandon formality and drop the "Sir"). It was only after I succeeded in seeing reviews of the non-existent Beardsley's non-existent canon in Movie Hound 2006, The Guinness Film Bible 2006 and Time Out's History of Film 2007 (the latter giving Utter Hinten a three-star review, and decrying its 'gorgeous but dreary sunsets' as 'uglier than Beardsley's more substantial films') that I decided critics were too easy game and that I should direct my mischief elsewhere. But Played Your Eyes is not another of my spoofs. It's little more than a slip of the tongue.

I do have a new film in the wings. It is called Plagiarize but it won't be released until next March and by EM Media and Film Four rather than Warner Brothers, who held the rights to the original script. It's set in an ancient future and is an inquiry into our relationship with originality and art. When Warner Brothers contracted about the script a few years ago, I had not yet decided on a title. But the first line of dialogue was going to be "I Plagiarize." It was convenient to use that as a working designation. Nobody would know or care except me and my co-writers.

Now we are in the world of guesswork. When the film was "announced" all those years ago, someone at Warner couldn't type, possibly, or someone at Amazon was hard of hearing. "Plagiarize" became "Played Your Eyes", an amusing error. But an error with a life of its own. The Amazon computer sucked the information in, fleshed it out, nurtured it, gave it provenance. It was for me a disconcerting error too, because while we were writing Plagiarize I became overly self-conscious about upsetting the art world in this timid, post-art climate. I pulled my punches a bit. There was the script we wrote, and there was the more discourteous script we might have written had I been more thick-skinned. Played Your Eyes would have been its perfect, hazy title, with its visual and game-playing suggestiveness (like a near-invisible sight-gag, the poster haunts the back of my eyelids to this day). The Amazon computer knew that, of course, and must have simply completed the film that I was too pusillanimous to attempt.

Is this the future? It certainly might indicate a grim future for cinema, one in which the pigmies - independent theatres and discerning video-rental spots- are finally edged out of business by the computer-driven amazonians that cannot discriminate between hard copy and a slip of the tongue. Anyway, Played Your Eyes, complete with its own barcode number, is now available for purchase. I am almost certain that not a frame of it exists. Order your copy, while stocks last.'

Played Your Eyes does not exist. Plagiarize was releasd in the UK in August 2007.

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