Today I’d like to comment on an obscure student-film by someone who became famous for something else - ‘Man Alone’ is an ambitious piece of juvenilia directed by Jonathan Higgs, lead singer of British art-pop/electronic-rock band Everything Everything. If you’re not familiar with the band, I can only recommend them: I harbour a burgeoning enthusiasm for their three albums, and I was fortunate to get along to one of the concerts of their current tour this weekend. It’s prompted me to revisit this film, which my aunt passed to me about six years ago. In those days the band had only put out their debut album, the similarly-titled ‘Man Alive’ (2007).
The director co-wrote this with Tom Astley, who I’ve found to be mysteriously ungooglable. It shares quite a bit with senor Higgs’s musical career: for one thing, it regards humanity’s violence, self-destruction and numbing materialism - familiar topics from 2009 single ‘My Kz Ur Bf’, (which juxtaposed the America of war with the America of soap-operas), and large tracts of their 2015 album ‘Get to Heaven’; for another thing, the film contains a number of songs, some of them featuring fellow band-member Jeremy Pritchard, (presumably on keyboards, bass and backing vocals). These songs are sadly few and far between, but they show off the singer’s ingenuity and falsetto, albeit in fairly crude forms.
|Some Scottish monks rebuke God's second son.|
Once the lost tune is found, it isn't really clear what we should hope for or expect from the remaining half-hour. The main character goes on a bloody rampage for reasons that I didn't quite grasp. Like a lot of the film, it reminded me of ‘Na Srebrnym Globie’ (1977), a bleak, violent Polish sci-fi - in both cases I didn’t really understand what was happening, but knew that was probably my own fault for not paying close enough attention, but that was the film’s fault for being very long and difficult.
|“Holy Hell! The goddamn mainframe laid out before me like a kids’ playpen area on the back of some Kellogg Seafood Matey Cakes circa 1978. Hell, a long time ago - but jeez! No time for reminiscing!” - the director, as Jean Baptiste de Golde|
The film does astonishing things, but rarely in a way that any audience would ask for. It achieves this on some fairly basic equipment - the sort of sound and picture quality you might expect from the end of the last century, compounded by some audacious colour-grading in post-production. However, in contrast to most student films, it’s all splendidly focussed. Individual shots show great promise and style.
|An immortal monk (Tom Astley) reveals the truth.|
I do think there's a fantastic shorter film to be had here feature to be had here. Jonathan Higgs went on to direct his own music videos, so we can be sure he has the necessary talent and vision, when he doesn't have to fill this kind of duration. If it had been made a bit later, further into the Youtube age, this could have been broken into episodes; it's a fairly episodic storyline, and would be easier to palate in smaller chunks, and it could have made a merit of its developing tone. Then again, perhaps I'm missing the point, and wanting an avant-garde film to be more accessible. At this level, it's hard to know what parts of the production are deliberate art, and which are just convenience.
|Mason Coop (Mike Carswell) plays out humanity. A little googling tells me Carswell|
put acting behind him and started making rustic furniture and besom brooms.
P.S. To the best of my knowledge, this film is available to watch nowhere. I've written about it here largely because it's a curio, and I think some people might like to know that it exists, or existed, even if they can't see it. There's little or no information online about this film - perhaps it's been deliberately blotted out. According to the closing credits, the soundtrack used to be available on CD.
P.P.S. I'm still unsure whether the film is 'Man Alone' because a man is alone, or because man, alone, is responsible for such depravity, or because the casting is overwhelmingly male. 'Man Alive' is much easier to grapple with, and much more rewarding.