Jack Bond's movies stand the test of time
- Eddie Harrison
- 3 August 2010
Celebrating the life and work of the veteran radical filmmaker
In 1965, Jack Bond, a young director freshly fired from the BBC for faking letters to Points of View, managed to persuade Salvador Dali to make a feature film with him. The result Dali In New York, screens on the art-house circuit to this day, and this summer’s multi platform release of Salvador Dali: A Tale of Two Cities features Bond using a screening of his earlier film to meditate on the nature of art, life and genius.
At 75, Bond is as loquacious, ambitious and hedonistically inclined as he was in his youth. A Tale of Two Cities shows him in his element – surrounded by high art, beautiful women and fast cars. It’s a combination, which has served him well, through tragedy and triumph alike. Yet despite his position as one of Britain’s most influential filmmakers, you’ve probably never heard of him, and there’s a compelling reason why.
Arguably, Jack Bond’s greatest achievements were the three features he made with writer and actress Jane Arden. Not content with her glamour girl image, Arden and Bond’s love affair encompassed the making of three feature films. Each of these films show radical intelligence from both Bond and Arden far ahead of their time, yet television, video or DVD never cheapened them. Devastated by Arden’s suicide in 1980, Bond ordered all three films to be locked in a vault.
In 2009, Bond was persuaded by Arden’s son to allow all three films to be released on DVD. Separation (1968) is the absorbing story of a woman pulled in two directions by very different men, photographed in the same inky black and white shades and with a Procol Harum soundtrack, it’s a startling rediscovery. Emboldened by creative success, Arden and Bond next collaborated on the ambitious The Other Side of the Underneath (1972) in which Arden’s attempts to represent the female psyche onscreen are expressed by bloody crucifixions and menstrual angst in full flow.
Watching these films in hindsight, Arden’s intense desire to understand her own complex, often fragmented and fiercely sexual personality is brutally apparent, but what’s also obvious is Bond’s role as a strong, yet tender facilitator of a revolutionary, feminist thinker. Their final film Anti-Clock is an examination of dream states and reality that predates Inception. Each of these films, like their makers, are brilliant and difficult and thoroughly deserve the re-release that the British Film Institute gave them last year.
Unlike Arden, Bond was a survivor. He contributed a series of brilliant South Bank Shows on everyone from Roald Dahl to Werner Herzog, including A Gift For Murder, in which he had an unwitting Patricia Highsmith stalked through the streets of London by an actor playing her own fictional creation, Tom Ripley. And his 1987 feature for the Pet Shop Boys, It Couldn’t Happen Here, brought a Dali-esque swagger to the pop video. Bond continues to search for meaning far beyond the mainstream.
Salvador Dali: A Tale of Two Cities is currently available on DVD and download from 3DD (www.3ddgroup.com). Separation, The Other Side Of the Underneath and Anti-Clock are available on DVD (BFI).