Ivor Cutler 1923-2006
Ivor Cutler: Looking for Truth with a Pin (2005)
Director: Paul Spencer
Time: 59 mins
Music: Ivor Cutler
With: Paul McCartney, Robert Wyatt, and many others.
Perhaps it is appropriate that a documentary on Ivor Cutler shouldn't focus exclusively on what made him relatively popular: his music. And, in fact, Looking for Truth with a Pin does not pay particular attention to any of the other fields through which Cutler mischievously exorcised his inner demons and dreams: drawing, poetry, film, radio, children's literature. Although these are all briefly touched upon, Looking for Truth is, first and foremost, an attempt at a psychological sketch vaguely veiled in the conventions of biography. His childhood traumas, including a now humorous fratricidal attempt, are revisited once and again by Cutler himself and several artists and companions (like Robert Wyatt and Paul McCartney), all of them trying to understand the "terrifying sadness of the comedian" and the sources for his sometimes bitter joie de vivre. Critical moments are discussed at some length, such as his teaching years in an alternative school for misfits of all sorts, his Magical Mystery Tour flick with the Beatles or his long-time partnership with poetess Phyllis King, but the easy temptation of linear life-narrative, in which A explains B, is fortunately avoided. What is offered instead is a multi-layered, direction-free diagram of Cutler's psyche, interspersed with live footage and archival material - one that seems to run in circles instead of dishonestly pretending to have found the truth. His pythonesque humour and and child-like mischievousness are gayly portrayed but there are also some snippets of the unforgiving ageing process and its effect on the artist and the man. Several excerpts of live and TV performances displaying his unique brand of surrealist folk and existential humour are presented, making Looking for Truth an invaluable document for Cutlerologists and a fine introduction for newbies. It may be true that "a Scottish jew is an unbelievably heavy thing to be", but not if you truly believe in bugs. -- Eye of Sound