Sunday, October 24, 2010

Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (2010)

Assembled with a few other comic geeks at the Magic Room Gallery, a mysterious performance space and art gallery in a hipstery area of Boston, I took in the brand new documentary Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods, which profiles seminal Scottish comics writer Grant Morrison. It incorporates a number of clips from comic artists, writers and publishers, multiple insightful interviews with Morrison himself, detailed panels from his comics, and some convention footage. As the filmmakers move from the events of Morrison's activist childhood, to his experimental and flighty early adulthood, to his spiritual and more settled present, they focus on how his work of each period parallels his own personal experiences, resulting in a sort of dual story of development.

Lover of comics that I am, I have been familiar with Morrison's name as a significant writer for some time, but had actually only read his work on New X-Men, which is far from his most influential contribution to superhero comics. This documentary opened my eyes to a complex and unreal figure, whose work is intriguing and groundbreaking. He has been influenced by his pacifist/activist father, quiet, escapist years at private school, and several intense spiritual moments that have led him into a lifelong flirtation with magical practices. It is this last factor that informs much of the dialogue and events of the film, as Morrison explains his beliefs in the extraordinary and his friends and coworkers insist that he has indeed tapped into a certain paranormal mode of thinking. It's pretty weird, but he makes it so believable.

While I do feel like I learned so much about Morrison's life and outlook, there were certain things that were glossed over or not elaborated in favor of the focus on magic. I understand that that was the angle the filmmakers chose to take- and indeed the subject on which Morrison himself tended to dwell- but it became a bit repetitive at points. I wanted more information about the context of his works; there's little about what his contemporaries are doing in comics (except for a short aside about Alan Moore being a dick, which is not news). I was also surprised that his wife/manager wasn't interviewed, since I imagine she could have given interesting personal insight.

Still, it's a really compelling documentary, and generally put together very well by director Patrick Meaney and cinematographer Jordan Rennert (who were both in attendance at the screening and gave a good Q&A). Some of the stock footage they employed was over the top or unnecessary, like a blurry black and white shot of a phone being picked up while Morrison talks about a phone call, but for the most part the visuals are pretty cool as they throw in shots from his comics, original art, and trippy video to illustrate points about his magical experiences. Talking With Gods is a sharp film that does well to focus almost completely on the man himself, as Morrison is an engaging and forthright speaker whose ideas are as fascinating as his life story.

Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods is available on DVD but it's also still screening in some places. Check out the official site and facebook page for more information if you're interested!

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Turns out that The Matrix stole from Morrison's comic The Invisibles (as well as Dark City, of course), so pair it with that to see a much more well-known story about a dude who likes to wear black leather outfits and do magic! Also you might be tired of the chattiness of the documentary, so all the fighting and slow-motion will be a good follow-up.

2 comments:

  1. Interesting. I haven't seen this, but Morrison is one of the best non-artist writers in comics, he's got quite an amazing catalog of brilliant work. The Invisibles, in addition to "inspiring" The Matrix in very obvious ways, including at least one scene that was directly pilfered for the movie, is a dense and exciting comic that deals with Morrison's characteristic concerns of human freedom, capitalist/government exploitation, secret conspiracies, and consciousness-expansion.

    As that summary might suggest, though, it's maybe not the most user-friendly introduction to Morrison's work. He's done other comics that are perhaps better entry points into his unique sensibility. Seaguy, consisting so far of two three-issue miniseries, is a more humorous and succinct take on similar themes, while The Filth does a great job of condensing the density and lunacy of The Invisibles into a comparatively compact 12-issue series. His early superhero reinvention sagas, Animal Man and Doom Patrol, are also worth a look for the best of his relatively mainstream work. I'm not as big a fan of most of his more recent mainstream work, though his run on Batman is pretty fun (not to mention confusing as hell).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ed: You should definitely keep an eye out for this film, sounds like you'll enjoy it! I am definitely going to read The Invisibles and Doom Patrol after seeing them detailed in this doc. I hadn't heard of Seaguy but I'll look into that too!

    ReplyDelete