Saturday, 2 July 2011


My dreams are gone. I awoke with a phrase in my head that I knew was the key to unlocking a whole narrative, and repeated it to myself many times. I came up with an abbreviated set of codewords to help me recall the phrase, and an acronym of those words.

But it has all gone.

I first heard about Chocolate Cassette from David H, who (among many things) was the cultivator of a collection of anecdotal evidence of the wonder of pop culture's hidden corners. He had tracked down rumours of the film's existence across playgrounds and video shops of the West Midlands. His vivid descriptions, over several weeks, of the film's plot, dialogue, decor, acting nuances, and grand themes were, I knew, too complex to be completely true. His enjoyment of the telling was too obvious, and he would string us along at the end of a lunch break, withholding details until next time.

I stuck to him closely, convinced that he had seen the greatest film ever made, and that we, by being proxy witnesses, were glimpsing gold. And the more he told us, the more I knew it. I was sure it was a film pulled from my consciousness, and when the others lost interest (long after the most salacious details had been spent, their power rubbed out through repeated retellings), I hounded David H into further examinations, even prompting him when he forgot his own lines. Disappointed at his own waning absorption, I began writing down everything I could about the film. Before long I stopped bothering David H to check my work, and spun out alone.

By now, no-one else cared about the film, and only the curious insult taken from it lingered: Me? well you're as out-of-date as a chocolate cassette! My immersion into the world of the film I hadn't seen continued, to the point that I was certain that I had, after all, seen it. Hadn't I? In the time since I'd got a television for my eleventh birthday a couple of years earlier, I'd seen countless films. (In a way all of the entries in Fictional Film Club evoke a feeling in me, a feeling of falling asleep late at night close to my 14 inch portable television (in one of many possible bedrooms it lived), and waking up a little later to find a film underway. The sound levels of a film are vastly different to other television shows, and sometimes the drop to a quieter level wakes a dozer. In this particular scene and hundreds like it, I awake near the beginning; the protagonists are already involved in their story, but not so much that I can't keep track. In the days when more movies were on tv and less was written about them, you could stumble over them. B movies, classics, all treated equally, shown after hours. I saw many this way, not knowing until several days or years later what they were. Some are still lost, just vague structures of image and plot, evoking that Edward De Bono line about memory being that which is left when something happens and doesn't completely unhappen. There's the one where the kids break into what turns out to be a horror house, with the emaciated fella living in the walls (The People Under The Stairs, Wes Craven, 1992), or the man with nine lives performing dangerous jury duties in mob-ridden Chicago (Disclaimer, Tommy James, 1954), or further examples, on the tip of my-)

Chocolate Cassette lingered on the periphery for years until a recent visit home turned up some old diaries. A phone rings. Out of shot, a memory gathers. I knew nothing of this film until it popped into my head one day, sent there by a thousand ghosts. My writing from then is its own world, quite separate from the film. I quote:

'Sept 16, 1990.

I was about to go to bed last night when a film began on Channel Four. I idly watched the opening scenes, recognising both the father in the family who had played not only the leader of an unruly band of warriors (who also included an actor from an Australian television soap) in a lesser piece of sci-fi, but had been the host of a daytime gameshow in more recent years. The actress playing the mother I also recognised, but I couldn't place her. Their son found a diary, anyway, a plot point that seemed somewhat buried, and so I was subsequently baffled when the film swung on it. Anyway, grandparents loft, dusty light, treasure chest. Kid smashes the lock, finds nothing inside but shreds of newspaper. He thinks. But at the bottom is a diary. He takes it out. Leaves it in his room. Mum finds it one day. She opens it. Reads a random page:

'Dear Diary,

I cannot gather enough prose to talk about this. But I can put a clipping from the local rag below:

'Local Man Invents Chocolate Cassette'

[The following passage is highlighted.]

'....the ephemeral nature of song. You can record a tune which only plays once. A song that melts upon completion. No one can really remember it. It is a romantic one-off that you give to a loved one. They can eat the delicious mess. Ingest your melody.'

The distortions, from the real film, through David H's exaggerations and my own appropriations, only expand in time. Lies grow and grow, echo and echo. If I saw the film now, I'd probably overlook it, another face in the crowded station, so different it would be from my idea. Chocolate Cassette is my favourite film, at least until I see it.

1 comment:

  1. Your little spot on that Internet thingy is simply fascinating. What an interesting point of view & voice you have, young man!