The Surrealists of the 1920s created what they called “unfilmable” scenarios, marked by vivid and shocking juxtapositions (think the famous razor scene in Un Chien Andalou (1929)), murky longings taking on real-world manifestations, and a wash of subconscious imaginings — a phantasmagoria tugging at the edges of visual representation.
There is a movie unfolding in my head that reminds me of these unfilmable, if not unknowable, worlds. Ever since my first introduction to Neko Case (and Her Boyfriends), courtesy of Jon, I’ve had the not-so-secret wish to happen upon Chicago’s The Hideout one night and catch an impromptu performance. These things happen, I’ve been told, though now with the release of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and the much-deserved swelling in popularity it has unleashed, my guess is those days are long-gone. In my version, David Lynch-inspired crimson red curtains frame the crooked stage, creased and bunched like crushed velvet. Plastic lawn lanterns dangle along the walls, throwing rippled, multi-colored light over the shadowed crowd. Oh, and an air conditioner reliably hums and drips in the far corner, a few strands of tinsel from last year’s Christmas tree fluttering from its bent vents. You get the picture.
And now, with Confessor, Ms. Case has pointed out the glaring absence of, and at the same time delivered, the crucial centerpiece: “Star Witness.” It’s the perfect song for this movie in my head, gently but willfully rolling on and on, spacious and lonely, as if breathing in the humid air of a (doomed) mid-August night. From the first hesitant bars, through the lazy, assured swish of the snare and Case’s at first sharp and twanged then lullaby-ready vocals, right down to the last, pseudo-haphazard strains of a distant piano, each song element feels loosely joined, like memories themselves. And that’s to say nothing of Case’s quintessential lyrics: ripe with roadside pathos, everyday details (“there’s glass in the thermos and blood on my jeans . . . ”) and, yes, ineffable mystery.
Cross-posted to Shake Your Fist on March 17, 2006