March 22, 2010

Patti Smith goes to the pictures

1. New York, 1967. "Robert [Mapplethorpe] was not especially drawn to film. His favourite movie was Splendor in the Grass. The only other movie we saw that year was Bonnie and Clyde. He liked the tagline on the poster: 'They're young. They're in love. They rob banks.' He didn't fall asleep during that movie. Instead, he wept. And when we went home he was unnaturally quiet and looked at me as if he wanted to convey all he was feeling without words. There was something of us that he saw in the movie but I wasn't certain what. I thought to myself that he contained a whole universe that I had yet to know."

2. Paris, 1969. "We saw Godard's One Plus One. The film made a huge impression on me politically and renewed my affection for the Rolling Stones. Only days later, the French papers were covered with the face of Brian Jones: Est Mort, 24 Ans. I mourned the fact that we could not attend the free concert the remaining Stones held in his memory for over 250,000 in Hyde Park, culminating with Mick Jagger releasing scores of white doves into the London sky. I laid my drawing pencils aside and began a cycle of poems to Brian Jones, for the first time expressing my love for rock and roll within my own work."

3. New York, 1969. "His [Robert's] first letters seemed a bit down but brightened when he described seeing Midnight Cowboy for the first time. It was unusual for Robert to go to a movie, but he took this film to heart. 'It's about a cowboy stud on 42nd street,' he wrote me, and called it a 'masterpiece'. He felt a deep identification with the hero, infusing the idea of the hustler into his work, and then into his life. 'Hustler-hustler-hustler. I guess that's what I'm about.'"

4. The three extracts above are from Patti Smith's Just Kids (Bloomsbury, 2010), a beautifully-written and carefully self-revealing memoir of Smith and Mapplethorpe, New York in the 60s and 70s -- or the straight-forward account against The Coral Sea's elegiac poetry. Movies as personal signposts, unconscious maps or guides to urgent self-invention. Wonderful Harry Smith scenes too.

5. Music from The Caretaker: long term (remote), from Persistent Repetition of Phrases (Install, 2009). Discovered via this invaluable link.