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Not long ago I published a piece on this blog telling for my glorious adventures fighting the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland in which I used a quote from the philosopher Jean Baudrillard.
“I hesitate to deposit money in a bank. I’m afraid I shall never dare to take in out again. When you go to confession and entrust your sins to the save keeping of the priest, do you ever come back for them?”
I really did USE this quote. I set it up to knock it down. I presented an image of myself bravely marching to my local parochial house demanding to take my own sins back to my bosom, humming Patti Smith’s ‘Gloria’ the while.
Of course I cheated. Baudrillard,no doubt, when he referes to sins is referring to the ghost of events and thoughts which you would yourself find genuinely shameful. The sins I was referring to were the memories of events and thoughts which a third party had tried, with some success I might add, to make me feel ashamed of but which I wanted to reclaim and rehabilitate in line with my own maturing morality. In other words, I wasn’t really ashamed of them so they weren’t really sins.
So I owe Jean Baudrillard some payback. I have a responsibility to expose something of which I am ashamed, confess a genuine sin…
As luck would have it, my friend Austin asked me recently if I had a copy of the film I made in his old flat in Dublin in 1997 as part of my final exams in film school. He wanted to have a look at his old flat, not the film. I don’t blame him, here was something that I am genuinely ashamed of.
I had wanted to make a short film version of the story told in a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds B-side called ‘The Ballad of Betty Moore and Robert Coltrane.’ I wrote a good script, I was particularly attached to an idea I had for a final shot where the heroine, leaving a bar full of dead bodies, breaks into a laugh and a run simultaneously as the line of half torn old posters on the filthy grey wall behind her bursts into flames. I believed that the best way to approach a short film was to think of it like a joke. It needed to express one strong idea with a twist or a punch line. On those terms this film would have worked well. I sent the script to someone official to ask for permission to use the story and I got a very kind letter back quite quickly saying that I could if I didn’t use the actual song without permission. The problem was that burning down walls costs money, however you do it. I didn’t have the money and I wasn’t going to give up on the shot.
I had become interested in the notion of Attrition through reading the autobiography of Nick Ray ‘I was Interrupted’. I decided to make a much cheaper film to express my thought on that concept instead. I failed.
I’ve never watched this film all the way through in one sitting. This is a sin I still don’t want to go back for. It has two redeeming features though. Firstly, Austin wants to see it and that’s ok and reason enough; secondly, it contains one really good shot.
Years ago the BBC broadcast a short series of interviews with the actor Dirk Bogarde. In one of them he told a story about working with Alan Ladd in Pinewood Studios. The cast and crew had taken against Ladd and would make fun of him when they gathered to eat. At lunch one day as Ladd came into the canteen one of the people at Borgarde’s table said, “Listen to this.” Then called to Ladd, “Hello Alan, how’d it go this morning?”
“Good”, Ladd replied, “I did one great look.”
Everybody sniggered except Borgarde who thought, “My God, that’s it, that’s film acting.”
I’ve never forgotten that; one great shot, one great look, that’s not everything but it’s the majority of film making. It’s everything you do until the editing and then you have to talk to Mr. Eisenstein.
So instead of making a good film without one great shot I made a bad film with one great shot.
A lot of people worked hard to make Attrition and whatever is good about it is down to them. Particular thanks are due to David O’Sullivan, Director of Photography, for the vision (and for playing the guitar piece that makes up the original motion picture sound track), my Mum for the food, Austin for the ready made design, Ivan for the editing, Ivora for working on the sound and everyone who worked on the film. Like I said, anything worthwhile is down to them and the sin, which looking back now is a sin against opportunity, is mine.
Special thanks to Matt and Debbie, who worked sincerely with the little I gave them.
Click on the link below, don’t judge too harshly…

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