Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 9:35 am 
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A man of many fetishes and several lives, in his eccentric council flat

He's called Drako Oho Zarhazar, originally Tony Banwell. He's a portly, shaven headed gay man in his mid-seventies, once a handsome dancer into drugs and alcohol and motorcycles and fetishistic sex. He performed at the Lido and London Palladium, modeled for Salvador Dali’s painting Tuna Fishing (1966-67), is said to have been in films by Gerald Malanga (for Warhol) and by Derek Jarman. The maker of this film, Toby Amies, finds Drako in a council flat in Brighton, where he lives in partly beautiful, partly distasteful squalor. His rooms are chock full of memorabilia and highly phallic photos of nude men arranged like a giant walk-through mobile, perhaps a model of his exploded mind. This may be his memory bank, because he can't remember current things well at all after two major vehicular accidents and two serious comas that changed him in other ways. (Perhaps to some extent he deliberately refuses to remember.) After his second coma he tattooed on his arm the words to live by, "Trust Absolute Unconditional," which he says mean "faith" and "love." His sister, Robin ("Ra"), who comes visiting from New Zealand, their first reunion in five years, and gets him a new TV and fridge, likes him better now, though "how he lives" makes her uneasy. Wildly dressed with a big cape when he goes out, he is dramatically tattooed, has a mini-Dali wax mustache, nose ring, earrings, bright blue eyebrows, and much more, for "le théatre de la vie" (he lived abroad, and speaks French to his sister, at first, throwing around French phrases to everybody). He will not change his broken spring mattress or his sheets and strongly resists throwing anything out. Now, he seems happy, and laughs a lot. But he is unwell, in constant pain, his sister explains, from his second accident, and breathes with difficulty.

Drako has a female best friend, MN, and there is Marc, his nephew, who cares about him and has known him since he was a boy but knows him better now. After a while Amies tries to help control the filth and clutter ("foutaise" is the French word Drako gives for that), and sometimes his observer, more and more his carer, begins to lose his temper. Amies wants to protect him from social services, because he'd be institutionalized. He is obviously harming himself with his unsanitary conditions, but is stubborn and uncooperative. Yet he is is positive, happy. Everything is for the best because "I am in my seventh life. Two comas, two nervous breakdowns, two suicides. I'm in my seventh life. And I love it all," Drako says. It's mysterious, but fascinating, and certainly unique.

To describe his film, Amies says "Think Grey Gardens meets The Odd Couple." It's a touching film, a portrait of a unique character trying to survive alone, and also a portrait of the process of a documentary filmmaker who, in a good way, begins to lose his detachment to his subject. "Heartbreaking," "bring tissues," some have said. But I wouldn't. Drako lived his last days just the way he wanted to, and he was always laughing.

The Man Whose Mind Exploded, 77 mins., debuted at the Sheffield documentary festival, the Flare Festival in London, with a "secret screening" at the BFI, and opened in Picturehouse cinemas distributed by Succulent Films in the UK starting mid-June 2014. Available as VOD (iTunes).

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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