Snakes and Mubi

This evening I was gearing up for another show. Not The Tempest. Now I’m back as a workhorse, puppeting dead mice for a single uninterested reptilian client. “The dance of the sugarplum rodent.

I got it all ready. Mouse out the freezer in the morning. Defrost naturally all day. Warm it up in the tap. The mouse is ready. I’m ready. Marigolds on, time to open the packet and release the concentrated “essence de souris”. I’m confident it’s going to be a good show.

I get to the venue and open the lid. My snakey client is lying in the pool. He literally couldn’t give a fuck about anything mouselike or creative that I’m planning. He’s not interested. He wants to lie in his pool and soak up the waters. I know he’s just going to sit there. If I start the mouse show now it’ll go for nothing.

Fine. We shouldn’t be precious. We have to play to the audience we can get. If Hex would rather soak up the waters than engage in my food-related puppet show then so be it. He deserves a break. He’s had two shows a day for three days, plus rehearsal. I’ll get back to him in a few hours for the tasty-mouse show. Right now he can soak.

There are more shows going online for The Tempest tomorrow. It seems this weird thing we have made is vibing with people so we get to do it for a few more weeks. Maybe until this lockdown madness ends.

I went on Amazon and ordered more home studio equipment as soon as they confirmed the fee. I’m getting stuff to make it better and also so I can make fun things that I enjoy, from home, properly – not just over this crazy time but going forward. It’s an interesting world to explore, working from home like this. I might as well bone up on it now and get some starter kit. My self tapes will thank me.

The rest of the day? Nothing. Why else d’you think I spent two paragraphs on Hex not being ready to eat.

The bath is running.

The laptop is beckoning.

My Mubi just renewed and reminded me I’m still subscribing. That’ll be the rest of the night, catching up on classic movies. In fact, gonna go. The Image Book by Jean-Luc Godard leaves in 6 minutes. If I start now they might let me watch it through the big telly on PlayStation.

That’s my mubi link. If you go through it you get a free month.

It’s a curated selection of movies from all around the world and different eras. One goes off every day, one goes on.

I caught most of The Image Book. 88 year old Jean Luc Godard spent ages before 2018 in his cutting room with old movies. I reckon he made a load of slates and narrated it himself. It’s made of cuttings of his selection of some of the greatest movies of the old era of film. He was at the forefront of “the new wave” in the 1960’s. 100% there’d be no Tarantino without Godard, not to mention many many other great auteurs.

He’s cut it out of film stock. He’s still at it. I hope he doesn’t get this shitty thing that’s going around.

It’s described as “an essay”. The subtitles are almost laughably incomplete so my half decent French was helpful. But God what a thing. Changed everything, he did.

Now of course he’s contemplating mortality and legacy as you would be if you were pushing 90. And delving into politics which you know you shouldn’t do, grandpa.

He’s thinking about new forms at one point, which resonated.

“When an epoch slowly dissolves into the next epoch certain individuals transform means of survival into new means. It’s the latter that we call art. (The only thing that will live from an epoch is the form of art it makes.) No activity shall become an art before it’s time is over. Thus this art shall disappear.” (Translation in brackets my own as they didn’t bother, the rest partly the atrocious Mubi subtitles and partly me adjusting them a bit in hopes of getting closer to the intention. I know it doesn’t fully make sense. I suspect that’s also intended.)

I wasn’t allowed to finish. At 1am Mubi interrupted me. Buggers. Still, I had a month to watch or download it.

“The living against the dead,” says Godard at one point.

One of the first images was from “Un chien Andalou”. Many were from great early examples of the “every fucking second of every fucking take costs a fortune” era of film. The opening character introduction of “The Berlin Express,” and fucking hell it’s wonderful but more so when you know how hard that must have been to do that in one take back then fucking hell just watch it!

These movies lose power as they lose context. As artists and makers we intellectually know what was possible in 1929 when Bunuel and Dali made something hard to make, mischievous and weird… In 1948 when Tourneur made that groundbreaking thriller on a train.

“The dead are sending the plague,” says Godard. He knows. He burnt the past and championed experimentation. He loves the new and the old too, but he seems to get that the world moves on. Still, there’s much to learn by looking backwards.

I’m glad I’m experimenting with new forms, when I hear his ancient Frenchman speak to me, and then read it badly echoed by the 16 year old subtitle intern at Mubi.

I still recommend a Mubi subscription. Frequently subtitles are not needed (either English movies or silent films.) And even when they are, it’s rare they’ve been done as incompletely as this.


Managed to get to stream the end of it. The last clip! I’m weeping. Two beautiful happy people dancing with life and vigour, so alive, so present. But footage so old we know the actors are both long dead. And then one of them pretends to die.

Ach. He knows what he’s doing.

All we makers can do is keep on making and try not to harden into bastards if it suddenly goes well for us – and to remember it’s blind chance if it does.

A Mubi subscription is an education and now is a good time for it. Nothing is there by chance, it’s curated. One in one out every day. Next one out is a Japanese piece from the forties. They throw in modern stuff too though, rest assured. It’s a cornucopia.

And if you’re a French translator with art in your heart, there’s clearly an opening for someone better at it.

Get your free trial. Join the weird indie film Covid revolution.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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