I’ll be writing a post soon about the last ten years and the effect they’ve had on me. One of the very many things I have to be grateful for during this decade is discovering the films of Adam Curtis.
Curtis’s documentaries focus on the political and social history of the 20th century, criticising much of the psychological methods of power employed during those years. In The Power of Nightmares, Curtis illustrated how governments learned that the best way they could explain their worth to us in a post-cold war world was by building a new culture of fear directed at enemies which could never be defeated. The Trap investigates the various definitions of freedom and how these contrary views impacted on societies.
It Felt Like A Kiss is instantly recognisable as a Curtis film (the Helvetica typeface, the often shocking archive footage, the powerful soundtrack). But it is significantly different to those I mentioned above. Detailing “how power really works in the world”, IFLAK eschews any narration beyond occasional visual prompts. The film is instead a tapestry of powerful images played over a soundtrack of some fantastic music from the 50s through to the 90s. Like some kind of amazing, extra-long pop video.
And in It Felt Like A Kiss, it’s the music that I most adore. Ranging from Roy Orbison to the Velvet Underground to the Phil Spector-produced title song, Curtis selects a phenomenal playlist of well known and more obscure pieces. The soundtrack reminded me of how much I loved some long-neglected albums, and finally got me to listen to a ton of ‘Wall of Sound’ records, many of which are of unimpeachable quality and beauty, however mad their producer is.
The film cannot currently be obtained legally, so you’ll have to download it. I’m hoping that Curtis will release his documentaries on DVD some time soon (a box set of those would be fantastic). If you’d rather not download a film illegally, you can listen to much of the soundtrack on this Spotify playlist.
3 thoughts on “Adam Curtis: It Felt Like A Kiss”
The Parallax Brief loves Adam Curtis films. Even if one disagrees with much of what he says — although the Parallax Brief suspects there is more than a grain of truth in some of his documentaries — one still has to concede that he’s a master documentary maker.
I like his film making style but I do think that in many of his films, he rarely tackles the root source of much of his subject matter i.e. the marriage of state-corporate power. He prefers to attribute too much to individuals (such as Edward Bernays) who although important, aren’t ultimately as influential as he makes out but are useful as a vehicle for absorbing story telling.
@Nick – you’re right: he’s no Marxist. I think his approach is more psychological, in the sense that he examines what he considers to be the desires and fears of society, how these are manufactured for them by the state and corporations, and how these desires and fears are manifested in popular culture.