Friday, September 21, 2007

Dead yampy, but he baint 'alf bostin'

Mark Locke is a local filmmaker probably best known for his promos for Birmingham band Misty's Big Adventure and cult New York act Jeffrey Lewis. Locke has also made a string of shorts, and a feature film called Crust, about a 7-foot shrimp boxer. That's a 7-foot shrimp that boxes, not a boxer who fights 7-foot shrimp. Although I guess it is about that as well.

The promos are generally fast-paced and colourful, remaining faithful to the songs and allowing them to flourish while exhibiting a sharp sense of deadpan humour. The imagery is often memorable and subversive, such as having Will Oldham beat and rape Jeffrey Lewis, or the nightmarish, sexed-up images of Ten Benson's Tits. Still, that detached sense of humour is never quite lost. While professional, the promos are relatively informal; the handheld camerawork and quick editing maintains that sense of indepedence and freedom.

The shorts, while more structured, are similar. They all maintain a comic streak, often from gross-out or slapstick visual gags. Lube has been described as 'a love story with a difference' - it incorporates bats, popcorn and lubricant gel in a funny and strangely tragic tale of two cinema stewards. The Missing Link is a well-observed mockumentary about an arrogant filmmaker who considers himself saviour of the lower classes, and his inevitable downward spiral when he battles a smug businessman. All of the films are totally unpredictable, constantly taking the audience by surprise with a well-placed line of dialogue or visual punchline.

If there's any theme running through Locke's work, it's that particular Midlands viewpoint that life is rarely as cool as what we see on screen, due to the failings and disappointments of reality. Whether it's showing a pack of sexy vampires changing into sneakers for a chase, or the unforunate effect of too much fake tan, the characters in Locke's work are never quite as cool as they think they are. This is probably shown best in the brilliant promo for Blaze's Hollow Head - the song, a thumping heavy metal track, is mumbled by the vocalist, who does little more than watch the telly and drink a cup of tea in his spotless suburban living room.
Another common factor is the brummie accent; almost every character in Locke's films has a very strong one, making them seem that little bit more laughable. I know, I know. But come on. Time to face facts.

There's a DVD of Mark Locke's work available, but you can see most of his work at his website

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