Movies 2005: "Not My Blood!"

Love and Anger

Review by John Demetry

Part I: The Battle of the Bushes

Armond White’s annual presentation of the best in recent music video art lived up to its paradoxical-poetic title: "Music to My Eyes." He closed the evening – the year’s peak for art-discovery – with a video from the past to exemplify the themes and achievements of music videos present (and Movies 2005, in general). That work of art: the 1990 music video – Love and Anger – directed by (and featuring the song by) Kate Bush.

Only the divisive bugaboo constructed – through the exploitation of contemporary Anger and stifled need to Love – around another Bush (George W.) stands in the way of feeling and applying the achievement of this video and song. Kate Bush and her images sing directly to the pain prevalent in the contemporary culture. She fulfills the duty of the poet.

To quote Paul Murray, OP, in his essay "The Fourth Friend: Poetry in a Time of Affliction" in the latest issue of Logos:

"By naming, through poems and stories, the black stone of affliction – the stone that had no name, perhaps, but that weighed heavily on our hearts – the weight of the stone is somehow lifted. We are touched by God’s grace, and healing begins."

Murray suggests the social-spiritual genesis of the great pop hope that Bush miraculously realizes with Love and Anger. (I think it might be the greatest music video I’ve ever seen.)

Love and Anger addresses the audience with the healing – transmogrifying, redemptive, and revolutionary – force of pop experience. The video ends with Bush on stage with her rollicking band. She throws glitter into the camera. It constitutes a baptism – danceclubs! disco! punk! glam! rock concerts! youth rebellion! sexual experimentation! gender-bending! – inducting the audience into a new social potential, a pop community. It turns out to be the definitive post-postmodern gesture. (Music to my eyes, indeed.)

Post-postmodern: Following the liberation of the "sign" in the postmodern era came the profoundly expressed need to redefine community and spirituality, to revitalize the "sign" through a radical conception of faith. The media curtails this evolution (occurring at the vital base of the culture) from entering into the mainstream (and academia).

Fearlessly, Bush offers the blessing of glitter and dance: vernacular means of celebration (and photogenic, no less). Love and Anger begins with Bush isolated. A spotlight defines the limits of her space – a circle of light etched on the stage. This staging illuminates the means of her physical expression, her face and body – dressed in a black leotard. In the pose of prayer – contemplation and humility – a shower of glitter falls on Bush as she sings/intones/moves:

"It lay buried here / It lay deep inside me / It's so deep I don't think that I can speak about it"

That glitter signifies so much – and it falls upon pop (music, film, music video) artists 2005 like Peter Pan’s fairy dust (pace the national/pop-cultural quest Bush outlined in her song "In Search of Peter Pan"). The glitter crystalizes the central theme and challenge of movie-going 2005 (self-definition through capacity for empathy, for aesthetic engagement):

1. It gives form to the dazzling light of an individual, of a soul.

2. That spiritual core – the essence of personality, of humanity – is witnessed in relation to the social and the cosmic.

3. The spiritual reveals itself in relief to essential innocence and the experience of grace.

4. The presence of grace is understood through shared expression – a delight in beauty upon which community is formed and through which healing is performed.

Without the profound humility Bush displays here, one cannot get outside oneself to see oneself. As she sings variations on the following chorus, Bush expands the space (and the tropes) to include troupes performing Western and Eastern forms of dance:

"Two strings speak in sympathy / What would we do without you? / Take away the love and the anger / And a little piece of hope holding us together"

During the early renditions of this refrain, Bush displays the Sovereign Scepter and Orb – the historical-religious symbols of her beloved "Lionheart," England. In a powerfully generous (and liberating) gesture, Bush extends across the frame these totems of royalty (a sentiment later enlarged in the offering, from the stage, to the spectator at the end of the video). Bush relinquishes these symbols – from faith to faith – to the dancers: "A little piece of hope holding us together." This moment in Love and Anger proves as awesome as the compassionate gesture (society’s neglected - an artist - confronts the floating head from John Boorman’s Zardoz) in Justin Pandolfino’s music video: Dreams. (I’ll say it again: "The Land and the King are one" – Excalibur.)

Consequently, Bush opens those wide eyes of experience and hope (mirrored across time to Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning – agape – in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds). She revs up to an energetic dance – what White compares to Pentecostal ecstasy. Further expanding the multi-cultural sources of her pop expression, an inspired Bush takes to the stage with her band. Bush executes another extension of space (a philosophical leap), from individual to communal celebration. Bush takes advantage of music video’s pop base (the song!) to make this meta shift in the mis-en-scene. The literal process of music-making becomes, itself, another metaphor. Doing so, she concretizes the process behind the sonic element of the call-and-response ("Two strings speak in harmony"). The dancers dramatized the support of an East-West beloved community during the chorus.

Glitter is everywhere.

Check out the significance of these dance steps:

1. Individual pain is defined by the spotlight and Bush’s movement – and then recognized by that distinctive voice (note the song’s move from "I" to the universal, yet intimate, "you").

2. The symbols that reveal and ameliorate that pain are identified within the individual’s heritage (the scepter and orb): embraced and shared (metaphorical gestures).

3. The universal expression of dance reveals the process of healing, the revelation of beauty, as a cross-cultural one, communal and artistic (political and religious).

4. Bush’s wild festivity on-stage with her bandmates leads spectator savvy to a pop revelation – baptizing the audience in glittered possibility.

Through the sensitivity engendered by personal torment, Bush celebrates the presence of grace in pop:

"Don't ever think that you can't change the past and the future / You might not, not think so now, / But just you wait and see – someone will come to help you"

In the context of the video, that "someone"represents the artist – specifically the pop artist – drawing upon resonant rituals of perseverance and unifying symbols. Thus, "someone" represents the cultures of the world that offer the surprise of continuity in experiences, striving through creativity. Such discovery inspires the artistic (curious, openhearted) mind. "Someone" can also refer to a "friend" who provides compassion and sympathy – "a deeper understanding." God – the great "someone" – inspires "artist" and "friend" alike: that is the truth revealed by the phenomenon (undeniable!) of shared understanding. Bush defines the post-postmodern by inspiring audiences to take the imaginative trek through the end of contemporary sophistication to pop faith.

The other day, I saw a t-shirt worn by a New Yorker. It featured a picture of President George W. Bush. The caption read: "The reason I will never vote again." It signifies phony "liberty": the appropriation of the symbolic figurehead of the nation (the President) to justify a cynical dismissal of ritual participation. It amounts to one’s willing exploitation. The relinquishment of citizenship, a betrayal of the democratic dream, represented by that t-shirt establishes "power" as the basis of value. What is citizenship but the enactment of one’s spiritual potential? George W. Bush, Fox News, The New York Times, and The Village Voice benefit equally from the culture’s abandonment of faith.

Every person experiences the truth of grace in the existential quandaries of life, in the desire for intimate relations. Only Kate Bush’s pop baptism of glitter, however, can inspire the audience to extrapolate the truth of that experience into a relationship with art, politics, and Love. Reflecting the light of Bush’s glitter, Movies 2005 attempt to restore our lost faith. Through these artworks, one repeats Bush’s philosophical – post-coital! – affirmation at the end of Love and Anger: "Yeah!"

Experience that special joy with the film reviewed in a piece coming soon: Gael Morel’s beyond magnificent Le clan (a.k.a. Three Dancing Slaves).


from the top:

Kate Bush  (EMI)