Mini reviews of Television seasons old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional bunnies.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Blackeyes (1989)

Apologies for the blurry picture used above, but in some ways it emphasises a point about the availability of Dennis Potter’s 'Blackeyes' miniseries: no proper box art exists because it's been denied a commercial release. It's been hidden away in the BBC vaults for twenty-six years. An image search returns precious little other than a bootleg DVD and the covers of Potter’s original novel (1987) to work with, hence my crude cut-n-paste job from a VHS copy.

The story's typical of the author's work, which is to say it's a complex arrangement of layers presented in an unconventional, creative manner; a non-linear narrative that ebbs and flows; a sensual tide that takes as much as it gives.

The titular character is a representation of a writer’s fascination with his niece’s past profession, unattainable except in fiction. He takes parts from her time as a fashion model and creates a tragic, self-reflective, male fantasy that walks off the page. She's a sullied depiction of reality whose very existence taunts.

Her blank slate personality is being written and rewritten by more than one author at any one time, from various perspectives, including, but not limited to, ownership and revenge. Some of the character types are lifted piecemeal from other genres, further blurring the lines between what’s written and real, what’s imagined and what’s being or has already been lived. Nothing is simple.

The unseen narrator—the voice that critiques even itself—is the voice of Potter, uncredited in the role, but inherent, more than just a passive element in his own fairytale playground. The shifting voyeuristic and intimate commentaries are by turns enlightening and disturbing, but always controversial.

Potter was also the director, so the camera is his eye, a part of the space it helped create, moving god-like through it and inside of it. In that, he also excels.

Many critics of the era panned it. The need to label it as either misogynist or satirically damning of misogyny placed them on an uncomfortable fence. Perhaps they recognised elements of themselves in it or it highlighted their own slavish failings? It's even possible that the dislike was unconsciously fuelled by a sociopolitical consciousness change that was happening at the time. But most likely—in not having the benefit of hindsight that we have now—they simply didn't understand it. That's nothing of which to be ashamed. Achieving complete understanding isn't a prerequisite for viewing. I suspect Potter is the only one who ever really could've comprehended every daring facet of it.

4 episodes, approx 50 minutes each.

4 tangles of prose memories out of 5