Far From Curtains For Barratt
Following the recent airing of Julian Barratt’s Little Cracker on Sky TV, we thought it was timely to look at his directorial debut, the short film Curtains (available as one of the extras on the Journey of The Childmen DVD). Our resident film buff, Paulyne, immersed herself in its strange, strange world – and here’s what she had to say:
We’re guessing there will be a fair few of you out there who have a copy of the recently-releaesed Boosh DVD Journey of the Childmen. And we suspect a good proportion of you will have watched the documentary more than once already. But how many of you have got as far as taking a peek at the special features on the disc?
The bonus features are predominantly short films, and one that stands out as unexpectedly un-Booshy is Julian Barratt’s short film, Curtains. Written by Barratt and Dan Jemmett, and directed by Barratt too, this film follows the remaining days of an old man’s life as a Punch & Judy puppeteer in Great Yarmouth.
Darker than what you might expect from someone who co-invented the crimp, and at the same time hauntingly beautiful, the film is a study of an old man’s slow descent into madness. Fearing he will be blamed for the death of the B&B landlady he has enjoyed a wild night of passion with (yes really!), he takes her cadaver with him on an unplanned road trip. Then as he continues his journey (and against his better judgement) he finds himself with even more companions!
It’s Lizzy & Sarah meets BeetleJuice, its picturesque backdrop juxtaposing with the grotesque state of the old man at the centre of it all. Completely out of place in this family-orientated seaside location, it’s clear from the start that he’s hopelessly lost; his mind wearing away even more rapidly than his physical self, which is itself obviously weakening. With every new destination he reaches he still continues to put up his sad Punch & Judy show, and he treats the puppets like children, repainting them delicately and talking to them as if they are his own spawn.
This is a stunning piece of twisted visual art that puts Barratt on the map as a director. It’s dark with the kind of laugh-out-loud moments that make you wonder if you should be laughing. It’s the story of a man who’s left with no one in his life of any importance, drifting through an unfamilar town, constantly and still chasing up his ‘talent agent’ and trying to grasp onto any hope that he has left for the career that he always wanted.
We are also treated to some Booshniverse cameos in the film, including Steve Oram, Stephen Evans and the Ralfe Band provide the perfect-fitting soundtrack!
Curtains may make you question what stirs the brains of Barratt and his co-writer Jemmett, but I’d say it’s best not to question it, and instead sit back and enjoy what I hope is the start of a long and fruitful career behind the cameras for Barratt.
This is something I am looking forward to seeing. In Paul O’Grady’s book (the first one) he says that he belives comedy is formed in childhood. And I thought that was a very interesting observation. I mention this because you touch on (ever so slightly) what might motivate Barrett and thought it best not to question it! But somewhere in the sub-concious mind the childhood still lives and I think if you mix it with the experiences of adulthood and the darker realties of life it can be a potent mix! I loved a book called “The Magic Toyshop” by Angela Carter (she wrote surreal type novels in the 60’s) and this is a similar type of genre. It also brings inanimate objects to life – the toys in the shop etc and explores the burgeoning sexual life of our young heroine in the book. I think (well this is an obvious observation) that Julian Barrett is quite a complex character and yes, I did love him doing that funny little dance down the road dressed as the devil! Will definitely watch these short stories. Thanks Velvet Onion.
I can’t wait to see this!!!
I’m not surprised in the least at the extent of Barratt’s talent.There is obviously much much more to this man than meets the eye, but I don’t often hear/read a lot about him and his creative projects, so thankyou for this tasty tidbit, onion people!
I completely agree. His talent knows no ends and Curtains is just the perfect start to his Directing career. I’m glad you like the write up too. xo
Well I’ve watched it and I have to agree with Paulyne – Barrett is an immensely complex and talented man! I also loved HIV the Musical as well. I did not think it would be possible to find any humour in such a dark topic, but he managed it! Curtains is a fascinating piece of work, laced with pathos and a dark adult fairytale quality. The dreams seem to be his sub-conscious talking to him. I was fascinated by the fact that punch looked very much like the puppeteer himself. It’s interesting to see the creative force of the Boosh splintering in these different directions and coming up with such amazing, powerful theatre and films. I think it would be sad if they never worked together as a unit again because they all bring something to the party (metaphorically)! And in a way that’s what the Boosh was to me an amazing, televisual party! They sprinkled some psychic glitter in my mind and I was hooked!
That’s great to hear Susan! The film really does make you take a step back and open your eyes to what Barratt is capable of. Thanks for your kinds words too xox
I think Barrett may have taken some inspiration from Tony Hancock’s “Punch and Judy Man” an old black and white film made sometime in the early 60’s. This is where any similarites end though! Hancock’s Punch and Judy man is a married man living in Bournemouth (where he hailed from) and takes his Punch and Judy stand to the beach every day to perform to children. It is an interesting film and very watchable. Any fans of Tony Hancock might want to have a look at it. Most of us on here will have been far too young to remember him (even me!) He was incredibly famous in his time and the Hancocks Half Hour was legendary. I then watched “Joan and Tony” on you tube which is utterly brilliant although at times a painful watch as it re-enacts out his terrible addiction to alcohol and the self destructive streak that wrecked his relationships and in the end, his life. Ken Stott and Maxine Peake are utterly brilliant as Tony and Joan respectively. Such powerful and uncompromising performances just leave me awestruck. Hancock committed suicide at the age of 44, tortured by his demons. R.I.P. Barrett’s “Curtains” is a completely different take on the life of a Punch and Judy man – far more sinister, surreal and punchier. I look forward to more of his work. He has a sharp mind that he has honed into a comic tool to bring us these visionary pieces.