Something Concrete At Last?

Reading & Writing, The Arts

Finally, a film to get excited about!

As usual the summer cinemas will be awash in the amiable biff-bang-codswallop of superhero movies and and talking animal flicks for the attention-challenged, so when I saw this poster my dark heart leapt. Brad Anderson is one of my favourite directors. Let’s forgive him the misstep of ‘Vanishing On 7th Street’ and remember the terrifying ‘Session 9’, a disturbing thriller set in a decommissioned asylum, and ‘The Machinist’, a modern noir which Christian Bale lost an insane amount of weight to star in, making his non-CGI appearance all the more alarming. Anderson’s ‘Transsiberian’ featured a murder on a Russian train with surprising consequences. The director favours real locations to add verisimilitude and seems ideally suited to adapt JG Ballard.

Who better, then, to turn Ballard’s ‘Concrete Island’ into a film? We’re still waiting for another terrific director, Vincenzo (‘Cube’, ‘Splice’) Natali, to bring us the ill-fated ‘High Rise’, a book which has been through many filmmakers’ hands without results. Ballard is hard to adapt – how do you keep his ideas and the flavour of his writing intact? After the travesty of Cronenberg’s hopelessly misguided ‘Crash’ it might be felt that no-one can do justice to Ballard’s words. The genius of his subversive text is that Ballard makes you care about unpalatable ideas. Instead, ‘Crash’ turned a genuinely horrific idea – that sex would become fetishised with death – into a miserably drab and prosaic experience.

‘Running Wild’, ‘High Rise’ and ‘Concrete Island’ came from this period of Ballard’s writing, when the writer seemed to be accurately predicting the future in his novels. In ‘Concrete Island’ a man crashes his car over the side of the motorway and finds himself in one of those dead areas beneath the tarmac where no pedestrians ever venture. But he discovers that others are trapped down there, their cries having gone unnoticed by the cars overhead.

Ballard makes the impossible believable. In ‘High Rise’, internecine warfare break out between the social classes in a tower block. Such high concepts throw up all kinds of logic challenges to a film-maker. You can read more about some of his ill-fated projects on the excellent website ‘Ballardian‘.

In a time when even Philip K Dick’s pulpiest jottings get made into movies, it would be good to see Ballard’s politically-charged SF ideas brought to the screen.

5 comments on “Something Concrete At Last?”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Ballardian is quite an interesting site. Enjoyed the visit; great places you guide us to. Sort of like following that fellow with his lantern hunting for an honest man (well, site). Still love The Pothole Gardener, by the way.
    What I also found interesting at Ballardian is the tracking service it subscribes to, or promotes, which not only records your visit, but posts it in a visible box. I thought all this went on behind the touchable screen, down in the chips, wiring and works, hidden behind the curtain of Oz and through the locked door labeled Neuromancer.
    And what I found interesting is that it, too, didn’t get me right.
    I live in plain sight, surrounded by good neighbors, but my postal code isn’t where I live, GPS systems come up well short, guests, emergency services or repair men have to be talked in (or we wave a bedsheet from the roof, kidding)and when the regular postman’s sick one of my neighbors gets my mail. Google Earth has to be heavily fine tuned, too. But of course I can be found, I pay taxes and the UPS man knows. Still, it’s very HG Wells, HP Lovecraft,PK Dick, perhaps especially, JG Ballard.
    Didn’t realize I’d be living in a data “not spot” when we loved in and it wasn’t until I came up the drive after a short summer walk, through three administrative areas, and saw the air behind me shimmering. Then I knew I’d passed through a Star Trek portal and lived in an alternate reality. Right, I’ll write it first, well that finally explains your posts.

  2. Mal Dando says:

    A great film about concrete Jungles is the Italian movie Gamorrah, about a high rise estate in Napoli. Hard hitting stuff

  3. Helen Martin says:

    I imagine you moved in before you loved the place, Dan, but isn’t it marvelous to have a place that is not on the data map. I would make sure never to have to move.

  4. Gretta says:

    See, I knew you didn’t really wave bedsheets at people from the roof, Dan. You flash mirrors at them, don’t you?

  5. Helen Martin says:

    We just came home from a visit to the town of Concrete in Washington State. It is a small place, although a sign on the police station says it’s the center of the known world. They’re working hard to stay viable in spite of losing the main employer some years ago and still have a dentist, medical clinic, hair dresser, tennis courts (under construction) and so on. Just saying.

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