In the small courtyard to the rear of Pure Pop are assembled the lucky few who grabbed one of the 50 tickets made available for this unusual and special occasion. Famous for being a founding member of Magazine, short term member of The Birthday Party, long-term member of The Bad Seeds, but mostly renown for his solo and soundtrack work, Barry Adamson is an unpredictable creative force. Tonight he’s showcasing the first Australian screening of his directorial debut Therapist, a 40-minute short film that, true to form, is dark, bizarre, difficult to explain and totally compelling.
Once the schmoozing dies down and MC Dave Graney takes to the stage to introduce the film, we go from boozy hubbub to reverential silence. The film itself concerns a filmmaker seeing a therapist to help with his suppressed fears, while the film he’s writing (entitled The Gemini Complex) or flashbacks he is having, are playing out between these highly stylised scenes. About 20 minutes into the film, during a scene in which a traumatic rape may or may not be happening, a woman in the front row collapses with a heart attack, is lead out by her neighbour, and followed by most of the front row. In this alternate psychological reality Adamson seems to broadcast from, it seems a reasonable response to the questions raised. His musings on memory, identity, duplicity, how a character is created and how they splinter under analysis is done in using lingering shots, stilted dialogue, chiaroscuro lighting and his trademark neo-noir moodiness. It’s powerful stuff.
While no one pretends to understand it (in a pre-screening interview Adamson states: ‘it’s a hard story to explain, that’s why I made a film about it,’) we’re all rapturous in our appreciation. It is incredibly stylish, well acted, and Lynchian in its obsession with the extrication of the macabre from the mundane, which, as one audience member points out ‘is great, because David Lynch hasn’t made enough films, so even something like one of his films is a good thing’.
Following an illuminating Q&A, Adamson performs three songs acoustically, all of which are featured on the forthcoming album I Will Set You Free that he’s promoting in May with a backing band at the Corner. Irritating feedback aside, The Sun and The Sea is a song that doesn’t relate to any previous concept you may have about Barry Adamson. It’s a sprightly pop number concerning optimism and transcendence of the mundane and, like the following songs, highlights his wonderfully warm, expressive and remarkably young-sounding tenor. A powerful instrument that occasionally slips into a near-vampiric basso profundo that Dario Argento could base an entire film around.
Which is nothing compared to the song he is most proud of, a piano ballad entitled If You Love Her, which Seal could probably cover and make Adamson a millionaire from if he so chose. Hearing this sort of naked emotional soulfulness that has previously been channelled into complex arrangements, crafted into the soundtrack to a fictitious film or used to offset some frantic chase music, is a revelation. Quite how his following takes it is another thing, but it’s unlikely he cares, or should care. True to the form of an auteur, he’s already drawing from the next creative well and it’s bound to be just as fascinating, personal and bizarre.