Mouth to Mouth: too late for Alison Murray…

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Just saw the film Mouth to Mouth

– a disconcerting piece of right-wing propaganda, some utterly unrealistic realism. This sums it up pretty well:

We laughed on the way out that this movie is practically designed to innoculate the viewer against anything collective. If it’s a collective, it must really be an authoritarian cult. In that sense, it is a straightforward attack on the possibility of breaking free of this society, reinforcing the larger right-wing discourse of the past decades that argues the “sixties” were just a childish diversion, hopelessly trying to create false alternatives, that when really examined are actually authoritarian nightmares.

The most disconcerting thing about the film is that it shows that Ms. Murray has insights into alternative environments – the clothes, the hair, the vans and the classic rave in Portugal, the connections between London and Berlin and so on.

She has been there, it seems, but then proceeds to present a completely distorted picture, vicious even:

“[F]ollowing this portrayal of the first encounter with a radical communal group things quickly go sour, though our protagonist doesn’t withdraw in disgust as we might expect her to. The real “leader” of the group, another shirtless guy named Harry (one of the most bizarre aspects of this film is the absurdly unrealistic portrayal of Harry and the other guy NEVER wearing a shirt at any time, regardless of circumstance or weather or anything!), grabs her bag and empties it out on the street, and claims all her personal possessions for the collective. Soon we see him alternately inspiring and browbeating the former junkies and even his own associates in the collective (one of whom is a street medic, and the only woman of color in the group).

The patricarchy exhibited in the character of the leader, and those who follow like sheep, do no justice to the alternative scene that the film is supposed to be set in. Not that there are no problems in radical and anarchist scenes, not that patricarchy -and hierarchies in general- are not problems for many radical environments, far from, but they are most often much more complex matters, more hidden, and the characters through which it is primarily expressed much more ambiguous. After all, most people who flirt with socialism and anarchism do so out of some sort of empathy with the world and other beings – on the basis of a social and environmental consciousness.

Mouth to Mouth shows no ambiguity – just a horrible shirtless yank arsehole mistreating weak people. What does she want to show? What is the purpose of this portrayal?

It leaves you thinking it was produced by Rupert Murdoch – simply the worst film I have seen in ages. Whatever experiences Ms. Murray must have had in the streets and the squats where she gathered intelligence for this film must have been pretty nasty for her to turn around in such a back-stabbing way. Film making really is no place for self-therapy (Sophia Coppola should listen in here, too!) and vendettas. There is only one excuse possible for this film and that is that the writer and director is actually of an ultra-right-wing persuasion wanting to undermines alternative thinking and acting.
The leader of the group is such a disgusting character – and the whole thing with all its crude punishments would have been placed well in an extreme right-wing environment. It’s like a “Romper Stomper of the left” scenario – one that simply rings no bell with me at all – and after all, the characters are my friends in real life and the scenarios in the film are where I have spent more than a decade of my life.

Had the film, however, portrayed the leader as hidden in a messy net of social relations and shown how others in the group follow him blindly in a sophisticated ambiguous manner it could have been a great film, a critical film that is perhaps needed in a marginalised culture, but no one needs this kind of mis-representation.

Just to reiterate, there are certainly problems of the patriarchal kind in radical circles – where are there not? – but they do not manifest like Ms. Murray presents them; not at all. In fact, there is a strong current of feminism and serious anarchism in most radical scenes of today – not always realised, but always there are ideals and they severely contradict this entire film. Mouth to Muth is completely besides the point.

Nevertheless, the film shows that Ms. Murray has “been there” and that she “knows” or should know better – and that remains the real point of contention here: she must deliberately be misrepresenting matters leaving us with the question, probably best addressed to a therapist, why?


2 thoughts on “Mouth to Mouth: too late for Alison Murray…

    Jacqueline said:
    Wednesday, May 23, 2007 at 19:07 (838)

    Just saw the movie too, and just wanna say; Thank You, can’t say it any better than you did.

    rosanne said:
    Wednesday, June 4, 2008 at 08:23 (391)

    You write: “Whatever experiences Ms. Murray must have had in the streets and the squats where she gathered intelligence for this film must have been pretty nasty for her to turn around in such a back-stabbing way.”

    I’ve not seen the film myself, but I knew Alison in Brixton in the late 80s/early 90s – in fact, I shared a house with her at one point. She’d been involved with the Shocking Pink ‘zine and another that a group of us put out called Feminaxe.

    There was a kind of anarchist/feminist squatting community in the area. It had its faults like everything else, but it certainly left a good impression on me and I learned a lot from it. We had some great times. I didn’t pick up on anything cult-like about it. though it did get tiresome if you weren’t particularly good at manual trades :).

    However, getting more into the 90s, it was a time of backlash when the cultural/political consequences of Thatcherist economics were exerting their influence throughout alternative communities as well. Almost overnight commitment to collectivity and collective struggles were deemed most ‘uncool’ and those who tried to uphold them derided as ‘losers’. In other words, a number of people around at the time were starting to put on airs and graces. So maybe that’s where the reactionary current you picked up on came from.

    Since I’ve not seen the film yet I hesitate to say more than that.


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