Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Bobby Hope (pronounced /huːp/, like hoop, but with a slightly Dutch 'y' sound in between the two o's, like a crooked nose being framed by two ever-open eyes) has made over a thousand films. He does so despite most having never been seen by anyone outside of his family. He also writes novels, cinema criticism and plays, shoots videos and documentaries, and hosts a cable access television show. He busks at at street fairs, dances at festivals, and takes photographs for exhibitions that take place on the side of the street. He does all of this despite being ignored. Talent be damned: Bobby Hope is a hero.

In Elvis Has Left The Bill (1982) he looped echoing fragments of Presley songs over images of an Elvis Impersonator in a diamond-encrusted coffin; this was punctuated by shots of a young lady at a table, her date keeled over on his plate, the raven-haired fatty possibly dead. Waiters pick their way through a mountain of peanut-butter-filled baguettes to give the girl a distressingly huge check. It seems li- [... And there I must interrupt myself.

I'm stepping from behind the curtain, breaking the performance to attempt a performance of a different kind: plain-speaking. Like any attempt to breach the fourth wall it will no doubt run the risk of seeming 'artificial' rather than 'honest' (the latter being perhaps the most misunderstood and incorrectly used word, with the most misunderstood and overpraised meaning), and that is fine too, because it has to be.

I'm momentarily compelled to explain myself (a rarity; I'm attempting to cherish it and embrace what comes naturally to others). Perhaps it was due to a concern that the Fictional Film Club, which may seem like a whimsical diversion, might need a defence, a manifesto, a stance to explain its significance to me. But here I am, on the stage, alone, facing the baited breath of both of the audience members, and I'm unsure. I clear my throat. 'So I'm speaking with some reluctance, knowing that there are at least twenty-four possible aspects of any single statement, depending on where you're standing at the time or on what the weather's like'. That's Harold Pinter. So is this:

'If I were to state any moral precept it might be: Beware of the writer who puts forward his concern for you to embrace, who leaves you in no doubt about his worthiness, his usefulness, his altruism, who declares that his heart is in the right place, and ensures that it can be seen in full view, a pulsating mass where his characters ought to be. What is presented, so much of the time, as a body of active and positive thought is in fact a body lost in a prison of empty definition and cliche.

This kind of writer clearly trusts words absolutely. I have mixed feelings about words myself. Moving among them, sorting them out, watching them appear on the page, from this I derive a considerable pleasure. But at the same time I have another strong feeling about wrds which amounts to nothing less tan nausea. Such a weight of words confronts us day in, day out, words are spoken in a context such as this, words written by me and by others,the bulk of it a stale dead terminology; ideas endlessly repeated and permutated become platitudes, trite, meaningless'.

Words lie. Especially those of other people. FFC fan William Self:

'I like the Fictional Film Club because I like the idea of a complete dictionary (with footnotes, and appendix) of something that cannot be complete; a dense map, thousands and thousands of hours of work, that is striking in its nonsense. But one that at any point may yield a dangerous clue or a few seconds of the most gorgeous melody you've never heard, before sending you stumbling down a dark passage again, lost.'

The FFC may be nonsense containing my deepest thoughts. It may serve as a diary written in a code that I do not understand, it may be a series of dreams that reveal significance seldomly. It may be a huge joke at my own expense, or an epic folly. Or a smaller, less glamorous one. (At this point, one of you might cough in the darkness, a cough that suggests that you don't come here for this kind of thing. In response, I might throw out a pun or fashion a balloon animal, but as you both are sitting in different parts of the theatre, your responses might be totally different. One of you might (might) laugh at the line, while the other mishears (mish-ears); the balloon animal from one angle might be a delightful puppy that enamours one of you, but it causes the other to leave, convinced I'd made a blasphemous shape. Which one did I make? I'll ask myself later and find out.)

Years end, and it seems right to mark them: I'm not superstitious, but I'm working on it. 2010 saw flickers of FFC in the real world: the unrighteously righteous Teeth of the Sea (and you should bookmark these boys and not only listen to their records but listen to the records that they listen to, read the books that they read, watch the films that they watch... recorded this piece of sublime madness:

After reading this:

An interjection into the real world, perhaps, or another layer of fabrication. Who can say?
My intent is vague. I'll continue faking an inner vision until I convince myself that I have one. Explanation, or lack thereof, is over. Now back to the picture. I'm sorry it's nearly over.]-eed, one would not quibble with the judgement. A. House Is Not A Homo (1984), his documentary investigation of self-described 'church leader and ambassador for heterosexuals' Andrew House (who was predictably arrested with five rent boys in Las Vegas in 1979) certainly brought him more attention. Since then he has fluctuated between iconoclastic surrealism (A Cake of Sleep (1987) and Jesus and His Apostrophes (1990)) and sober documentary (Dumb, Dumb and Full of Dumb (1988) and Charlie Sheen: Piss Factor (2007). What comes next for Hope? Who knows.

Elvis Has Left The Bill Directed, Written and Produced by Bobby Hope Starring Bobby Hope, Louise Hope, Johnny Hope Snood Films Release Date US: Oct 1982 26 mins Tagline: None.

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