Wednesday, 15 July 2009

It Felt Like A Kiss

Adam Curtis has been making programmes for the BBC since the eighties. The term 'political documentary' doesn't do them justice. They use fragments of archive footage to explore the kind of history that isn't taught in schools, but not conspiracy theories; more how the unintended consequences of people's beliefs and actions have shaped the world.

"The BBC has an archive of all these tapes where they have just dumped all the news items they have ever shown. One tape for every three months. So what you get is this odd collage, an accidental treasure trove. You sit in a darkened room, watch all these little news moments, and look for connections."

In The Century of the Self, he examines how Freud's theories were twisted to the ends of PR and consumerism. The Power of Nightmares looks at how fear has been used to control society, twinning Islamic extremism with the Neoconservatives. His most recent series, The Trap, is about what freedom actually means in a consumerist society. If all that sounds a bit dry, you may be surprised.

These series can't be released on DVD due to the impossibility of clearing all the archive footage, and perhaps because of this, Curtis's work will from now on be made available on his website. But his latest project is a bit, well, different. It Felt Like A Kiss is part of the Manchester International Festival, and it's on til the 19th. It's long sold out, but I really would recommend hanging around outside the box office for returns. It's what I did.

Curtis, along with the Punchdrunk theatre company, has taken over all six floors of an abandoned office block in the city centre. I won't say too much about it as it's still on, but it's about the rise and fall of the American Dream, how the US covertly abused its power, and a lot of other stuff too. Nixon, Saddam Hussein, Lee Harvey Oswald and Lou Reed are all in there. Curtis's usual film montages are incorporated into the... experience. They say it's "not suitable for persons of a nervous disposition". They're not joking.

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