In 2002, this film-obsessive turned 30 and my then boyfriend had the brilliant idea to hire a rushes cinema at the BFI to screen a film I’d never seen but people in the know had told me I’d love. In September me and about 30 friends went into a tiny screening room to watch ‘Wings of Desire’. It was a 35mm Presentation and about half way through the film broke. I remember this happening at the exact point Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds roared onto the screen. It was the first time I’d ever seen Wings of Desire but it was also the first time I saw Cave on the big screen. I hadn’t even realised he was in it so the Birthday Party’s performance in Wings of Desire stuck out for what felt like two reasons. Though my boyfriend pointed out later on the film hadn’t actually ground to a halt when the Birthday Party came on screen – it was just my ever-romantic-seeking-a-narrative-brain doing bad remembering. Again.
Genesis is screening an absolute treasure trove of Nick Cave films this month – including live shows and films from his Berlin stint, as well as the quite incredible 20,000 Days on Earth (a film that frankly would have bugged me to death had it not featured Cave but some of the tropes were over-shadowed by my fascination with him and his art-making). It is also screening ‘Once More With Feeling’ a film I’m still in two minds whether I should see – I anticipate I’ll be a blubbing mess throughout – it’s inevitably going to be a tough watch. I’m not in London for that though so it is a decision I get to side step for the minute. And yes, it also includes Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. You would a fool to miss these opportunities if you are anything of a Cave fan.
German angels standing around in libraries might have been something I’d watch in delight at 30, but as a kid, I was sat in front of very different kinds of films – Second World War films and Westerns, due my father’s love of John Wayne. To this day I can’t really bear war films – but I love the Western format, from seventies ghostly High Plains Drifter or cheery existentialism in Paint Your Wagon to a reworking of Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Mayor of Castlebridge’ in The Claim to robot genocide on repeat in Westworld. I am always slightly astonished not only that I love Westerns, but how MUCH I love Westerns.
The Proposition is an Australian Western – and although I’m not going to be around for much of the Cave season at the Genesis – I refuse to miss the opportunity to see this on the big screen. This is pure Cave – the Cave who wrote “And the Ass Saw The Angel”, the Cave of Old Testament dark tales, the Cave who revels in the blood and guts. And boy does the Proposition have blood and guts. It has gallons of the stuff, a stickily visceral film. It also has an incredible cast. There’s Guy Pearce playing Charlie, of the infamous outlaw Burns family facing down the titular proposal made by policeman Ray Winstone. Charlie can save his younger brother Mikey from the gallows if he kills his own deranged violent brother Arthur played by Danny Huston, as scary as he ever gets. On the route to fratricide, we see John Hurt as a down and dirty bounty hunter and Emily Watson as a London rose, suffering in all the horrific heat to foster a British garden in the Outback. The Australian landscape is the central figure though, a fierce place of fire and dust that resists any attempt to tame it. Creating a contrast to all that burning sun is a dreamy soundtrack from Cave and Warren Ellis – all mournful strings, ominous percussion and Cave whispering in your ear like a preacher man burnt mad by years wandering in the sun. After The Proposition, I wanted – for the first time ever – to go and spend some serious time in the Australian desert. I’ll probably have to make do with BBQs in London Fields for the foreseeable, but I’m looking forward to ramping up the heat and blood in the interim at the Genesis.
By Sarah Wishart