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Monday, December 27, 2010


Ever since the failure of 2010’s general election to produce a clear winner and the unedifying sight of Gordon Brown desperately trying to cling on to power finally persuaded the Liberal Democrats to get into bed with the Conservatives and form a coalition, the country has been slowly and inexorably pushed towards collapse. Forces outside the government who see any cuts in state expenditure or the welfare state as an attack are rapidly forming allegiances with more militant groups to protest each and every cut. Those groups in turn are forming lose understandings with far more extreme antiestablishment individuals and collectives who see in this wave of protest an opportunity to create wider disorder, sow division, and to possibly bring down the government and with it the Establishment.
Ever since the first student protest and the taking of Millbank Tower caught not just the police, but just about everyone else by surprise, every protestor and militant grouping worthy of the name, from anarchists to the Socialist Workers Party, are seeing the coming year as a real chance to smash the Tories, kill a few police and really smash the rich. And I think that they might just do it, as for once the all the necessary ingredients for creating an explosive are coming together, and the students have unknowing lit the fuse. 
It was Gordon Brown though who set everything in motion and who is conveniently now out of the public eye earning vast sums of undeserved money giving after dinner speeches and writing his memoirs while others have to deal with the results of his profligacy. Brown mired the UK in debt and created a false boom in house prices and borrowings by consistently keeping interest rates at historic lows. He compounded this when things started to go awry by using Quantitive Easing to try and buy the government out of debt in the short term by printing more and more virtual money to purchase its own government bonds. 
The financial icing on the cake though was his ‘save the world‘ moment when Brown pumped billions of pounds into the banking sector in order to save key banks like RBS and Northern Rock from collapsing under the weight of their own financial indolence. In doing so he undermined any validity capitalism has in claiming that companies stand or fall by their own actions and those of the free market. He showed instead that greed. failure and incompetence, when on a scale of ‘too big to fail’, carried no responsibility and could actually be rewarded by unprecedented bailouts from the taxpayer.
The US and most of the West has in turn followed the same model and the world’s economies are now awash with QE and bailed-out bankers demanding enormous bonuses again. Yet such is the level of debt of banks, hedge funds and some countries who have mortgaged everything up to the hilt and then borrowed even more to pay the interest on the interest that someone has to take steps try and reduce it and start paying the debt off. At this point Gordon Brown vanished and the UK’s students lit the fuse that Brown had left conveniently out for them on a plate.
Cuts are never easy, particularly when for years the UK government has handed out money as if we had a limitless supply. Soon people take State spending for granted; their benefits, grants, health care, education, housing and so on is seen as a right yet where that money comes from is often overlooked. People understood that the country was in debt, people began to take on board some of the issues surrounding bonds, QE and so forth and yet as the cuts were outlined they also saw smug bailed-out bankers and the billions pumped into failed banks. Banks that should have been allowed to fail, with the shareholders and investors taking the hit instead of the tax payer. Instead the moral high ground has been lost. How can the government demand millions in cuts when they have just given millions to some of the very individuals and companies responsible for causing the financial crisis in the first place? The bailout of the banks is another ingredient added to the explosive. 
The Coalition is yet another ingredient. A weak union between two weak parties that oscillate between indecision and niceties and along the way try and sneak in some ineffectual savings has no hope. Government spending in November 2010 was actually up on November 2009. It’s as if the government has lost control and despite desperately trying to do the right thing is secretly wringing its hands in despair. The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is, according to some newspaper reports, suffering depression or cracking up and Prime Minister Cameron has yet to show he has the mettle to be as tough or as strong as he will need to be to stand up the coming storm. 
Alongside a weak government we have a dispirited police force that is disliked, maligned and restricted by politically correct dogma that has made its handling of anything from street crime to demonstrations the subject of discourse and remonstration. They are in effect damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Yet the police’s role in the coming year is crucial as they stand, often literally, between the force of the protestor and the Establishment. If they fall or fail then inevitably the Established falls with them. 
The protests themselves, the cuts, a weak unstable coalition government, bitterness at the bankers bailouts and the potential of a UK sovereign debt crisis; non of these in isolation would be enough to destroy the status quo, but combined they just might. 
Yet the Establishment as we know it has stood for over a thousand years and has weathered everything from the Spanish Armada and the second world war to the General Strike and flower power so why should this current situation be so different? Because the last ten to fifteen years has so changed both the make-up of the country, through immigration and social engineering, to the extent that nationhood nolonger binds the people together around a centre. Secondly the invasive and relentless attacking of the Establishment, by which I mean the State, Christianity and the values by which we live, have so undermined and devalued it as a core belief system that few would rush to defend it and many more would seek to destroy it. 
And then the lit fuse reaches its target and bang! No more Establishment, or rather the slow unravelling of our society and Establishment would begin. Some riots, some nastiness, some looting, some whatever .. And then what? David Miliband and New Labour? A utopian non-capitalist ideal where we trade sandals for lentils and plant trees in the City and sacrifice bankers on May Day? Or will it be a slow disintegration into anarchy, where the police force slowly crumbles, where the veneer of decency and morality decays bit by bit until finally its gone and a brutaligenzia reigns?
But have those wishing for the demise of the Established order thought things through? Smashing a window is easy, finding and paying someone skilled enough to replace it is harder. And who will invest in a Britain racked with civil disorder and strife. Who will pay the bills and who will govern? Left or Right, if those wishing for the destruction of the old order win, then whatever follows will, in all likelihood, be far worse. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010


When I head the news late on Wednesday evening, the 15th December, that film director and writer Jean Rollin had died due to complications brought on by pneumonia I felt a mixture of disbelief, something I often feel when I hear that someone I care for has died, and inevitability that the ill health that had plagued Jean throughout the nearly twenty years that I had known him had finally caught up with him. Ten minutes later it was all smiles again as I was informed that Jean hadn’t in fact died but that a museum curator with the same name had, and that Jean was alive and well. I decided to call Jean in the morning knowing that he would be amused by these untimely reports of his death. Sadly the initial reports proved to be true and Jean Rollin and his unique take on the vampire myth had gone forever. 
I first met Jean around the time I formed Redemption Films, 1992/1993, when having seen a selection of fabulous photographs from his films in the book Vampire Cinema by David Pirie I was amazed to discover his films just weren’t available on video anywhere in the world. I remember as well the sense of disbelief with which those who had seen Rollin’s work greeted the news that I was planning on releasing Rollin’s films commercially. 

They felt that it was wrong, that people wouldn’t understand Rollin’s films, that they might laugh at them or mock Rollin and his vision. What these people really meant was that they enjoyed Rollin’s obscurity and basked in a kind of elitist glory that only they and their selected associates had access to Rollin’s strange and unique world. Rollin on the other hand was delighted that his films were finally to be released commercially.
Up to that point I hadn’t met him and when he came to London, aged I guess about 53 or 54, he seemed older and frailer than I thought he would be, and certainly not what I expected. Not that I had an image in my mind of what Jean should be like, but the reality was quiet, not particularly friendly and to my mind a bit straight but nevertheless he was OK and he was Jean Rollin! From that point I met him in Paris, with my then girl friend Eileen Daly, at Cannes, in London and so on, and slowly got to know him. 
I can’t say that ours was the easiest of relationships, it wasn’t and at times it was almost war. Jean always needed money and I never had any and from that premise we somehow forged a relationship that saw, painfully and often through litigation, Redemption slowly acquire the copyright and ownership of most of Jean’s films and in doing I got to know Jean as man and eventually as a good acquaintance which occasionally tipped into friendship. 
I liked seeing Jean happy, and hated it when necessity on his part or our part, brought in lawyers and threats, and what made Jean happy was pretty women. I can’t remember why but sometime around 2004 or 2005  we had a Bulgarian girl helping out in the office whose main accomplishments seemed to be her beauty, her figure and the fact that she wore very little in the way of clothing. She also got on remarkably well with Jean on the phone. So as we had decided to film some interviews with Jean and were also in discussions to acquire another package of his films we decided to bring Jean over to London . 
This was also one of those happy periods when Redemption had some money in the bank and we were able to put Jean up at the very stylish and posh Charlotte Street Hotel whose English breakfasts Jean loved. As he was in London for a few days I decided to entrust Jean’s well being to our delightful Bulgarian and, shoving a load of expenses money into her paw, sent her off to meet Jean in her best non-clothes, clothes. Her mission to accompany Jean and show him the sights of London and to generally look after him. Later I took him to dinner to meet up with the highly exotic Dr Patricia McCormack, who had previously interviewed Jean in Paris for us and our then publication Rule Satannia, and I can honestly say that in all the time I have known Jean I had never seen him look as happy as he did during that visit. 
Yet aside from brief moments of happiness Jean to my mind was a tortured soul and a true artist, driven by the need to work, to be pursuing, and creating his artistic vision, regardless of what others thought of the results. For Rollin the sadness was that, like so many film makers and artists, he never had enough money and that, aside for a brief period in the seventies, he spent his time pursuing his dream rather than creating it. 
Yet he never stopped working, writing vampire book after vampire book, writing his autobiography and in his last years making two more films, Night of the Clocks and Masque of Medusa, which features a rare appearance by his charming wife Simone. Night of the Clocks was intended to be his swansong, and when I first read his original script it was like reading his epitaph. Centred as it was on a an old chateau where a young women finds fragments of films and strange objects and slowly they build up into telling the story of the previous occupier, a film director. These objects  and film fragments were his ghost, his memory, his life. The film as originally written was beautiful and its a shame to my mind that the budget restraints imposed on the actual film never allowed it to be the goodbye it could have been.
Yet still Jean worked on and following a successful heart operation he really seemed to have a new lease of life, making yet another film, The Masque of Medusa, which has real moments of Rollin magic within it. 
The one film Jean and I talked about making though was George Bataille’s Story of the Eye, Bataille’s transgressive, shocking, savage and overtly sexual assault on Catholism. Discussing it Jean’s eyes would light up and at the time (about 2006/7) he had befriended and worked with the French feminist philosopher and pornographic star Ovidie, and I often wondered if he intended for her to be in his version of the Eye? But like so many of his later projects it wasn’t to be.
What was to be though was Jean’s amazing body of work, and his vision of the vampire, of women, of the twin, of death, of colour, flesh, love and ultimately of Jean Rollin himself. A director and artist who was perhaps his own worst enemy, and who, had he stepped back occasionally and taken some advice might have achieved the commercial success and recognition he so longed for. As it is he died loved by his fans but unknown to the wider world and if ever there was a man who deserves to become famous in death its Jean, for to leave his work languishing in obscurity, would be to leave it to the few to paw over all over again and he would hate that.
Here’s hoping that the angels are serving you a good breakfast in whatever dream you’re in now.
Jean Rollin 1938 - 2010     
Rest in peace.

Monday, December 6, 2010


A few weeks ago some 2000 plus students supported by a few anarchist ‘black bloc’ foot soldiers broke away from the main student march, where some 50,000 of their fellow students were protesting the coalition governments proposed student fees increase, and attacked Millbank Tower where the Conservative Party have their headquarters. The ensuing battle, destruction of the first three floors, and the seemingly powerlessness of the police to stop them was the main news story of the day, with images of young students smashing windows and partying like its 1968 being flashed around the world.

Suddenly there was an energy and focus to anti cuts protests, to frustration at the state of the economy, bank bailouts and so on, but best of all a new new government was in power that had had nothing to do with creating the problem but which included the Conservatives and a few posh, vaguely right wing, mildly Thatcherite types. Marvellous. So when footage of the destruction of the Millbank Tower started filtering back to the BBC, The Guardian, Facebook, Twitter, Sky and a myriad of other news sources the left suddenly sat up and took notice. Though none more so than the old-chardonnay-quaffing-Hampstead-socialist-handwringing-luvvie-activist types that usually regale anyone who’ll listen to them about their battles on behalf of the miners, CND, and of course fighting the great Thatcher evil!

It’s as if England’s legions of left-leaning luvvies, trade unionists, self-styled radicals, May-Day-Stop-the-City-Reclaim-the-Streets-Anti Poll Taxers and failed revolutionaries had heard a sirens cry and woken up from a hibernation that had set in some time in the early 1990’s. Suddenly the sight of a few thousand young students smashing windows and scrapping with the police whilst chanting “Tory Scum, Tory Scum, You’d Better Run”, (this winters equivalent of the miners ‘Here we Go, Here We Go”), had acted like a mass dose of viagra and woken up the Left’s long dead members.

Yet just as a man who as been pretty much sexually inactive for years can be embarrassing if he suddenly starts showing off his new drug-induced prowess by chasing young girls, so to is the zeal with which the nations aging radicals have jumped on the students bandwagon, desperate to be ‘in’ with the kids. On the 10th November, the day that Milbank Tower was trashed, Michael White, the Guardian’s political columnist, could barely contain his excitement, “Right on cue, exactly six months into David Cameron's premiership, the ancient British roar of "Tory scum" echoed across central London again” he squealed.

More predictable was the reaction of rich radicals like Tariq Ali who described the government cut backs as ‘atrocities’ and linked the student protests to those in Greece, France and so on. For the Ali’s of this world exploiting any situation that threatens to destabilise the goverment or destroy his adopted country is di rigueur of course, particularly as Pakistan, the country of his birth, is such a shining example of democracy, fairness and social cohesion.

Equally predictable was the reaction of the ‘radical’ folk singer Billy Bragg, who, when he isn’t singing to ex miners, donating his guitars to prisoners or running the Tooting Popular Front, is frantically Tweeting his support and excitement at each new student action and no doubt penning some catchy ‘Tory Scum’ ditties for his next greatest hits album.

Bragg’s enthusiasm was as nothing though compared to Britain’s Polly Toynbee who has, in keeping with the excitement engendered by the current wave of protest, reinvented herself as Che Guevara. For on the 4th December comrade Toynbee, no doubt inspired by the students successes, led a charge of UK Uncut protesters into Oxford Street’s branch of Top Shop. Pictured online afterwards looking suitably disheveled, angry and somewhat confused, the Guardian’s answer to Rosa Luxemburg was at least showing her fellow Guardianistas that when it came to protest Toynbee was in a league of her own...

The most alarming and damning support for the students though has come from John Pilger, one of the left’s ghastliest and most egotistical grandees. Pilger, who like Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, has a ridiculously inflated opinion of his own importance, has decided that the coalition is undemocratic and that the students represent the will of the ‘people’. Maybe they do, though I doubt it, and typically of Pilger he has now elevated the  lamentable coalition of the Lib Dems and Conservatives into a dictatorship.

He writes, tears swelling up in his eyes;

Your action, and the action of your fellow students all over Britain, in standing up to a mendacious, undemocratic government is one of the most important and exciting developments in my recent lifetime. People often look back to the 1960s with nostalgia – but the point about the Sixties is that it took the establishment by surprise. And that's what you have done. Your admirable, clever, courageous actions have shocked and frightened a corrupt political class – coalition and Labour – because they know you have the support of the majority of the British people. It is you, the students on the streets – not the Camerons, Cleggs and Milibands – who are the authentic representatives of the people. Keep going. We need you. All power to you”.

Actually he needs you, and thousands like him need you, to live out their failed dreams, to fight the battles they never did, and just like the old man with with his memories of the women that might have been, they clutch at the students like a man clutches at his viagra for they both offer a chance to rekindle and reenact the failures of their youth.

Unfortunately for the Toynbees and Pilgers of this world there is nothing more embarrassing than the parent that wants to be ‘in‘ with kids. The father that wants to join in, the mother that wants to a ‘friend‘ to her daughter and her friends. The awful moment someone’s parent turns up at your club, or bar and sits down with you, because they want to be cool, to be young, to be ‘in’. But it can never be, the spectacle of sixty something Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, leading a charge of Tax Avoidance protesters into Oxford Street’s Top Shop store was the ultimate embarrassing parent moment and for the first time held the new wave of protest up to ridicule.

The anarchist blog, ‘Anarchy in the UK’, wrote “Having Polly Toynbee on your side is worse than shooting an albatross. She supported the SDP….New Labour….Tony Blair………..Gordon Brown……Lib dems…………AAAARGH She’s a JONAH – we’re finished!”  Whilst umpteen other more radical sites are running caption competitions for the funniest speech bubbles to accompany the numerous pictures of the ‘revolutionary’ Toynbee in action.

What the students erstwhile supporters are doing is seeking to impose, exploit and interfere with the protests for their own ends and for their own gratification regardless of the consequences for the students. Many would as soon hand out petrol bombs and guns as they would advice if it served their purposes and helped bring about the revolution they have dreamed about for so long. The only likely result though of all this sexagenarian interference is not the collapse of the great coalition dictatorship, but rather that Toynbee, Pilger and co’s support will prove to be so ghastly that no self respecting protestor will want to be associated with them. In which case we can all shout “I’m a counter-revolutionary capitalist pig-dog get me out of here!” and go home.