In “Remembrance of Things Fast,” video artist John Maybury creates a darkly alluring queer-nation landscape and populates it with enough questioned norms, challenged preconceptions and inescapable associations to more than justify the Proustian allusion of his title. This witty barrage of sexual diversity and media mayhem should energize gay fests and experimental skeds.
Subtitled “True Stories Visual Lies,” pic juxtaposes gay self-perception with the view from outside. The control exercised by the media over all aspects of contemporary society is cleverly lampooned via a computer-generated terrain of news flashes, commercials and scrambled soundbites. A merciless stab at U.S.-style, twin-anchor newscasts is especially funny, reducing the format to a duel of gossipy vilification.
An even more tangible presence is AIDS, though like every ingredient in Maybury’s food-for-thought smorgasbord, it’s dealt with in unexplicit terms.
One of pic’s chief strengths is its ability to throw open debate by means of abstract reference. Drugs, sex, rape, gay-bashing, race riots, (dis)education, thought conditioning, transgender experience, S&M, technology and war all surface and ricochet off one another, interspersed with shadowy flashes of homoerotica.
Maybury toys with the star charisma of thesps Tilda Swinton and Rupert Everett by labeling their frequent direct-to-camera discourses with the caption “uncommercial presentation.” With a virtually shaved head offsetting his pampered good looks and sleek intensity, Everett shows a decidedly new side to his screen personality. Swinton’s chameleonlike gifts and archly humorous intonations are perfectly attuned to Maybury’s pursuits, as they were in his previous feature, “Man to Man.”
Technically, the film (mostly originated on video, apart from some use of Super 8) is keen, from its brooding, abstract expressionist look to its dazzling use of color, complex soundtrack and Marvin Black’s hypnotic music. Production tab, per director, was $:25,000 ($ 37,000), funded by the U.K.’s Arts Council and Channel 4. Pic won the special jury prize in the gay Teddy Bear Awards at this year’s Berlin fest.