Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Alcohol Years - Carol Morley

It’s been a bit of a pop memoir kind of week so far. I'm currently reading ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’ by Tracey Thorn, and then stumbled upon Carol Morley’s film ‘The Alcohol Years’ pre-dating the brilliant 'Dreams of A Life' and definitely worth a mention.

It’s a tale of five years of being quite lost yet right at the centre of an emerging music scene, hob- knobbing, quite literally, some of the movers and shakers and some not so, in and around The Factory of Hacienda. There’s a lot of mythologizing of said Madchester, the town you’re most likely to bump into someone buying Custard Creams at a corner shop, then see slumped in their own vomit outside a club and end up on Top of the Pops a week later. This film however is much more real, more interesting for me than '24 Hour Party People', which really did just send me to sleep if I'm honest, and as Morley points out in this interview, 

So what did I like about this? It’s a bit uncomfortable to watch in places, a bit like her other docufilm ‘Dreams of A Life’; some of the people interviewed kind of make you cringe, particularly Alan 'club owner man' who talks of her pretty face and big breasts, just too many times really. Then there’s 'I'm still mad at you eyes' man who clearly still has anger issues firing in Carol’s direction, he’s basically tired of talking about her, gets interviewed by her to tell her he’s tired of talking about her and effectively wants to say ‘shut up, we don’t need to talk about you any more’. So he’s in love with her then.

Then there’s her best mate and on/off partner in crime on the promiscuous front, ‘Debby’, who’s debauched revelry (basically carrying on like most men which means some adore her and others hate her) involved picking up people here, there and everywhere and spending quite a lot of New Order’s money in hotels. And then there’s an ode to her band 'ToT', they had two songs and couldn’t play anything. Win. Here's a fab interview with her explaining her inspiration and influences, very much centred on the word 'actuality'.

How did this film start? Well mostly after a chance meeting with someone from her past who told her stories she could not remember happening that led to a journey of, well let’s see what else I’ve forgotten. This transgressed to an advert in a paper that said ‘if you knew me between 82-87, please get in touch’. The docufilm of  ‘Dreams of A Life’ came about with a similar advert asking for anyone who knew the mysterious Joyce. These films do link for me as it’s as if Carol is the missing or dead person in her own film, a tale of a young woman, bleached hair, red lipstick, infantilised and playing with rubber ducks and train sets in nightclubs before preying on men and women alike to take to bed relentlessly. There’s hints this is due to the suicide of her dad when she was 11, a drinking habit that took hold by 12 years old, and a growing obsession with missing persons as he was known to ‘wander’ through her childhood.

'The Alcohol Years', as did 'Dreams of A Life', feels like the script emanated from a social network wall of comments and albums of images of your worst and slightly better moments #confessional. Yet Carol professes not to like that word, it seems she is one for putting her own life under a difficult microscope. It did come across as the unromantic unravelling of the myth of Manchester that left her with enough people to want to say something about her years and years later after she escaped, you never see her as she’s behind the camera, but at times you hear a snigger.

Doesn’t everyone wonder how others see them, and especially in their darkest hours and in a *shudder* reunion kind of way? I reckon my equivalent ‘ The Liebfraumilch Through a Straw in a Spar Car Park Years’ wouldn’t be half as rock n roll though. It will be interesting to see where her filmmaking goes from here on, it's already evolving with 'Edge'...and will big brother Paul be dragged in at any point, seeing as he’s always got plentiful to say for himself. Not a beautiful film in a mainstream kind of way, but definitely worth watching; a reunion with a realistic difference in the construction of memory... by another brilliant lady.

In The Alcohol Years, one interviewee recalls a heartfelt letter from the young Morley bemoaning her "floundering". At the screening, the director explained her motivation in making Edge: "Something I am fascinated by is how, as a collection, a collective, we can make something of our lives beyond the isolation. So, I guess I always want to make some attempt in my films to bring people together."

Related Post: Dreams Of A Life

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