a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Pillado con Avant Pétalos Grillados

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This is number three of a trio of essays inspired by the work of César Velasco Broca.

Avant Pétalos Grillados  / 2006

Avant Pétalos Grillados opens up to shots of a man’s oversized thighs, veined like leaves being measured. A quick cut to an old castle – is this the place where Jesus holed up in L’age d’or? Cut back cleaved back and pinioned arms, puffed up to near bursting being measured. The measurements are dutifully recorded into a notebook. A close-up of a sewing machine shows hands beginning the process of making a garment for this strangely perverted example of the male anatomy.

The body in question belongs to Silvio Samuel Saviour, a record-breaking Nigerian/Spanish bodybuilder. He’s in jail now. Has been since 2011. For beating up his girlfriend. Whether through steroid rage or because of anger management issues has not been determined. However, this part of his story is just the tip of the iceberg. It seems that about a year before he began shacking up with his girlfriend, he had split with his wife. Again, whatever issues they had between them will probably always remain murky, but one thing is known. He claimed he was being poisoned by her. With strychnine in his food.

I can’t help but think of my favorite ode to the drug by the Pacific Northwest garage band, The Sonics.

Some folks like water
Some folks like wine
But I like the taste
Of straight strychnine

You may think it’s funny
That I like this stuff
But once you’ve tried it
You can’t get enough

Wine is red
Poison is blue
Strychnine is good
For what’s ailin’ you

If you listen to what I say
You’ll try strychnine some day
Make you jump, it’ll make you shout
It’ll even knock you out

Knock you out indeed. Apparently what Silvio did to his girlfriend. And then he beat her some more. And the monster has been put away for 5 years.

The Sonics (who may have invented the rock and roll trope of letting out a scream before the guitar solo), however, are on a roll, late in their career, with a new album and feted shows. Apart from playing great tunes that inspired the likes of Iggy Pop and punk rock in general, their name alone brought a vision of a noisy future. Postmodern, tribalist, coming from the stinky, dirty, shithole that was Tacoma. They brought home something more real and visceral than the traditional image of some modernist utopia. They infiltrated the airwaves and came pounding out of cheap transistor radios while the windows rattled from the booms of supersonic airplanes from local biz, Boeing. Two ways of breaking the sound barrier.

When thinking of whatever a modernist utopia may be, there’s the Miesian box. The image of a future designed by technocrats and architects. That’s where Avant Pétalos Grillados moves next. After a shortcut to a phone booth. A small Miesian communications box. It will soon be covered with alien slop – negating the man, the caller and the clean frame and glass architecture, now pretty much absent from our hand-held device colonized environment.

But soon we’re in a clean modern building. An old-fashioned phone rings. Remember that sound? Hands are busy at work, typing on a braille typewriter. An attractive woman (Bárbara Ming O’Costalls) reads out loud. We can’t hear her. Is this what she’s saying? One of her own poems?

Tengo frío en el pecho y me dolía
mucho el corazón esta mañana.
He pedido que cierren la ventana
para que no me vean los pájaros

But nobody’s listening. There’s a clean-lined modernist roomful of blind people, all with headphones. I like to imagine they’re listening to the Sonics. But they aren’t even reacting. A bell tolls. A radio broadcasts an un-understandable announcement. Perhaps a warning of the insect-headed, crustacean-clawed alien that’s been sighted skulking by, carrying a baby. Bárbara, seeing it from the window, freaks out. The blind workers take no notice in their safe confines. Modernism means blindness and deafness to the world outside. The alien, dressed in a lumberjack grunge plaid shirt tosses the baby from the building. Modernism equals death.

Later, back at the phone booth, it’s night time. It’s time when aliens roam the streets. An unsuspecting body builder calls. The molten alien slop engulfs the booth.

Cut to a suited Silvo, carrying a bucket of paint through a modernist plaza. It’s all concrete and serial architecture. He’s on his way to an ambush, where a shotgun-toting redneck alien will take him down, spilling the bucket, turning him white-faced. Red necks and white faces. White slop versus the black slop. Predators and prey?

He’s dumped into the trunk of a Seat, where he delivered to the aliens’ lair via a stop at some factory ruins. What will become of these works, ye mighty! This is where utopia leads. Ruins. They go deeper into a blasted landscape to a tower. This is where the spiral leads. A laundry room. Full of dead naked men. A lab-coated bug-monster dips out some slop to drip onto muscled flesh. Others press and iron garments. The ones made for these obsolete bodies? One of them uses a mangle. My mom had one of those, which she used to press sheets. Does anyone press sheets anymore? The monsters are just more cogs in the machine, workin’ for the man, whoever that man may be.

The film ends with an artist – you can tell because he has a white smock with pencils in the pocket – staring at a white plaster bust of a bearded man. The alien slop pours down like a waterfall on him. He takes a breath when his ordeal is over.

As do we, when our ten minutes of Avant Pétalos Grillados is over. The long dystopia of the modern dream – cool, clean-lined spaces, industry and technology as what will save the world. Yes, let’s throw the baby off the roof. Let’s let the aliens take over. Let’s inhabit the ready-made ruins. Let’s listen to the Sonics. And take a deep breath. It still ain’t over.


Written by Nicholas Vroman

August 24, 2015 at 9:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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