Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Living louche with a beat

He’s back!

I’m talking about my prolific filmmaking correspondent, Pablo D’Stair. The man must not sleep at all. And given some of the darkness—chromatic as well thematic—in his work, maybe he figures he’s better of if he doesn’t.

Anyway, his latest project is quite the coup. He is working with the Canadian band Left By Snakes. No, I was not cool enough to have heard of them previously, but I was familiar with the name of one of the duo, Tony Burgess. (The other one is Charlie Baker.) Burgess is a writer whose oeuvre includes the Pontypool trilogy. The second of those novels, Pontypool Changes Everything, was adapted by Burgess into a 2008 film called simply Pontypool. Directed by Bruce McDonald, it starred Stephen McHattie and Lisa Houle. I have never had the chance to see it, but I have wanted to ever since I heard it reviewed and discussed on BBC radio. The premise is fascinating. In the tradition of 28 Days Later—not to mention endless zombie flicks—a devastating virus is infecting a community. The twist is that it is transmitted by language. Get your head around that idea for a while.

More recently, Burgess penned a screenplay for another flick starring McHattie, John Geddes’s Hellmouth, which I take to be an adaptation of the first book of the Pontypool trilogy, The Hellmouths of Bewdley. His other screenplays include Septic Man, Ejecta and the upcoming Cashtown Corners.

But back to the film we’re talking about now. It isn’t written by Burgess. It is written by Pablo and Sarah D’Stair and directed by Pablo. When I say “written,” that is not meant to imply that there is a lot of dialog. In fact, there is none, which is rather unusual—at least in my experience—for a D’Stair film. Usually, they are nothing but dialog. As per usual, though, his two favorite actors are back, Helen Bonaparte and Carlyle Edwards.

Honey Halo

So what exactly is this film? It’s a music video or, more precisely, is a short concept album accompanied by images. Viewers get nine music tracks—ten if they don’t make the mistake of bailing when the end credits start—one after the other. The first set of three is titled “The Boy” and comprises a series of vignettes featuring Edwards. The second set is titled “The Girl” and features Bonaparte. And the final trio is called “Girl/Boy.” (I’ll let you work out which actors are in that one.)

I suppose the music would be called punk rock. Sometimes it reminded me of maybe Tom Petty—after a really hard night. The tracks have titles like “People Are Alligators,” “Strawberry Bangstick” and “Children Are Falling.” None of them are very long. None exceeds two minutes, and the shortest is all of 40 seconds. To watch the whole thing takes less than 17 minutes.

As for the imagery, it is pure D’Stair. It is all, mostly, dim lighting with the shades and textures doing all kinds of weird things with the various shades of gray. They reek of decadence and bad habits. I nearly developed a smoker’s cough just from watching. As I told Pablo after an early preview, the videos “left me wanting to pour myself a good strong drink in a dirty glass” and are definitely “a worthy contribution to lowlife lit.” For some reason not too hard to fathom, the work of Charles Bukowski kept coming to mind.

The official title of the work is Honey Halo: The Left by Snakes Video Series and, if your curiosity is piqued, you do not have to be left wondering what it would be like to experience it for yourself. You can watch and listen to it by clicking this link here.

Mr. D’Stair is already hard at work on his next project, and it definitely sounds like a departure. His brief but promising description: “first one in color and utilizing more than one camera… progress.” Indeed. Cannot wait to see it.

-S.L., 31 March 2015

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