English New Right figure Jonathan Bowden is dead. The following, tearful tribute is stolen from the blog anti-fascists-online.
Bowden’s film/breakdown “Punch and Judy”. The icon says “High Quality is On”. It most certainly wasn’t.
News has emerged that Jonathan Bowden, often spoken of as the “Leading Intellectual of the Far Right” died at the end of March. Although he was no longer a member of the BNP (having been accused, at one point, of paedophilia by the Griffin Camp) and largely concentrated his political efforts on his and Troy Southgate’s tiny “New Right” outfit, Jonathan Bowden was still occasionally mentioned on the Talkboards as potential BNP Leadership material.
One-Time BNP “Cultural Officer” (which is a bit like the Morning Star employing a Society Columnist), he was variously described (usually by himself) as a Philosopher, Author, Poet, Artist and Filmmaker.
All of which he did badly. How badly? Oh, let me count the ways…
The first problem comes when we try to assess the evidence. It’s difficult to get a handle on what Mr Bowden was trying to achieve much of the time, because of the language he employed. Not that it was bad, or anything – there was just so damned much of it:
“It is clear to me that the New Right is diverse and diachronic in form. Like the refracted sides of a cerulean gem it casts many different slants afoot. All of these shimmer and break against a dark glass.”
See what I mean? It’s as though there’s someone out there who thinks “Call My Bluff” is a roleplaying game.
But that’s just the refracted tip of a cerulean iceberg.
He went on. My God, how he went on…
“there is a complicated interaction between post-modernist diction and historical revisionism over the Shoah. Its extreme relativism, metaphysical subjectivism and heuristic bias lends itself to micrological analysis, rather like Kracuer’s estimation of the German film industry. Nonetheless, the hermeneutical peasouper which clings to Paul de Mann’s Blindness & Insight definitely has something to do with his own partiality for writing on behalf of Leon Degrelle-like journals during that conflict.”
Still with me? You’re doing better than my local Professor of Philosophy, then. The cleverest person I know. The woman you want on your pub quiz team. (So long as there are no questions about Sport. Or Telly. Or Food. Or Geography. Or indeed any aspect of the Real World.) I once sent her the link to Bowden’s (also now defunct) website and she dutifully spent a couple of hours soaking in the Great Man’s intellect.
Her conclusion? “He’s a bit bonkers, isn’t he? Knows a lot of words but doesn’t know what any of them mean.”
But Bowden didn’t confine himself to writing and being an “Orator of great power” (his words). The World can give thanks that he spread himself around all the genteel arts.
He painted, too. With evocative titles like “All In Wrestling Fire Brain”, “Bivouac Medusa” and the ever-popular “Duchamp’s Slag Head”, Bowden seemed to be striving for the same qualities that Picasso might have achieved if only he’d had access to massive quantities of Crack.
And if he’d never bothered to actually learn how to paint.
In anyone else, such an embarrassment of talents would be enough; but Jonathan Bowden wasn’t anyone else.
He was also a Filmmaker. Oh yes.
I’m on safe ground here. Work in the Trade, don’t you know. Not only that, but I’ve long been an aficionado of bad cinema. The really bad stuff. I seek it out. Hell-sometimes I’ve worked on it. Not for a connoisseur like me, the merely poor – you can see Danny Dyer movies anywhere – but the hardcore: The notorious 1940’s Jesus movie shot with an amateur cast of Midwesterners and the immortal line “Which one o’ y’all’s gonna bee-tray me?”. The Hindi “Superman”. The North Korean Godzilla movie. I seek out my trash with the obsession and dedication of a Trekkie with Asberger’s.
So I’m pretty hardened to duff cinema (I also spent years assessing the output of Film Students, which helps – anyone who’s ever seen “Bollock, Cock and Two Smoking Tits: A Feminist Homage to the Mockney Genre” will understand), but even I wasn’t quite prepared for the spectacle of Jonathan Bowden’s “Venus Fly Trap”. (Directed by Andrea Lioy – the visionary behind the immortal “My Lovely Burnt Brother and His Squashed Brain”)
I’ll leave the synopsis to the Maestro: “Doctor Mordred wants to replace humans with plants. A misanthrope, he lures Dr. Falicia Fairweather into Venus’ trap. Represented by six incarnations, she wrestles with Mordred. Are they different versions of one another? We follow their battle via images of light, air, dance, horror, water, fire, tarot cards, masks and swords. Supervised by a Master of Ceremonies, each gender makes ‘love’. Who will win? Can you wait till the end to find out?”
Got that? Pretty straightforward, by Bowdenspeak standards. Doesn’t sound exactly mainstream, and there’s no mention of a car chase or a musical number to jolly things up a touch, but so far pretty much what one might expect from such a cerulean mind.
Besides taking on the Producing, co-Writing and Original Story credits, the latter-day Orson Welles also ACTED in “Venus Fly Trap”. In multiple roles. Sometimes wearing a bow tie, sometimes in a cravat and sometimes wearing a yellow tie. There’s versatility for you! But always, as with his painting, his writing, his politics and philosophy, displaying the same profound lack of understanding of even the basics of his latest adopted craft.
He gurned! He shouted! He did a ranty bit! He gurned some more! He did another ranty bit! He wore a ridiculous mask so we couldn’t see WHAT he was doing! And so it went on. For nearly an hour. And I watched every second of it. I’ll swear that “Sex Lives of the Potato Men” fair whizzed by in comparison.
I’m assuming that his female co-stars here may have the makings of half-decent actors. If their permanent air of frightened confusion whenever he came anywhere near them was actually in the script, that is.
And now he’s gone. R.I.P, Mr Bowden. You were as mad as an international convention of Hatters held inside a box of frogs suspended from a balloon, but you gave us years of innocent laughter, joyous merriment and wide-eyed, jaw-dropping, simply-bloody-amazed-at-the-sheer-extent-of-your-lunacy incredulity.