The film that made Mark E. Smith “physically sick”

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There’s misanthropy, and there’s whatever the hell you’d call Mark E. Smith. If the late frontman of The Fall gave any less of a shit, then he’d be in dire need of a colonic. He was a monolith of sadism tearing down the icons of all the filthy Bolshevist and backstabbing bastards that he perceived to be in his merry way as he went slashing through the norm like some drunken demented daemon.

That being said, there would be absolutely no point in eulogising his wild ways if there was no substance to prop them up. What separated him from the average wayward wayfarer traversing the cobbled streets of Salford was a style of poetry akin to Charles Baudelaire after 12 pints of super-strength lager, with the kaleidoscopic colourings of a particularly caustic John Cooper Clarke and the biggest fuck-you attitude that the world has seen since John the Baptist.

In his career, the irascible cult hero catapulted his band, The Fall, to… well, certainly not to stardom, but to the mid-latitude heights of purgatory, too original to be permitted entry to the commercial stratosphere and too big for the leaden boots of the doldrums of ‘cult’. From The Fall’s formation in 1976 up until Smith’s death on January 24th, 2018, the band produced 31 studio albums and a further 51 live records, with more still being released, all while Smith burned through over 60 band members and discarded like tab-ends in a constantly shifting line-up of which he was the tyrannical king.

Over the course of The Fall’s back catalogue, they achieved more returns to form than a tricky South American winger who dies off a little bit during the winter months. Through the highs and lows, they were always nothing but interesting, and since he departed this plane, God knows where there has been a gaping, hunched-shaped Smith-shaped hole. And one thing lost in the wake of this hole that goes unnoticed is just how future-gazing he was. This strange tenet to his work was inspired by one of his favourite writers.

Although he was devoid of praise for just about anyone and anything, he had an often-covert passion for literature and admiration of the works of sci-fi writer Phillip K. Dick. When The Guardian asked his opinion on cinematic adaptations, he replied: “I think the original Blade Runner is the most obscene film ever made; I fucking hated it. The Man in the High Castle is one of my favourite books; how they fucked that TV show up, I don’t know.”

He continued: “The only good Philip K Dick film is Total Recall; it’s faithful to the book. Arnie gets it. I was physically sick watching A Scanner Darkly; it was like an episode of Cheers painted over, except they all smoke dope and imagine women with no clothes on.”

The 2006 movie was directed by Richard Linklater and starred Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Jr in an odd blend of animation and reality. It covers Dick’s story of “an undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his own identity as a result.” And for Smith, it scanned very darkly indeed.

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