Saturday, October 11, 2008

Smoking the Bible

When Bobby Sands smokes a fag rolled in a page of Revelations in Steve McQueen's Camera d'Or-winning film Hunger, it's a profound and blackly humorous act, a gesture that compactly communicates a whole series of ideas about faith, religiosity, the Word, the body, hunger, narcosis, desire, addiction, pleasure... Such a telling gesture, original and pitch-perfect.

And then it cropped up again, in another film at the Toronto Film Festival: Maria Govan's Rain, a less austere film, but equally as much about bodies finding new configurations of pleasure and self-expression onscreen. Set and shot in Nassau, is no cultural tourist checklist of Bahamian culture - but the film wouldn't be complete without a sensi-smoking scene, here in the safe hands of Magdaline, who invites Rain to smoke up with her under an outrageous and beautiful painting of a black Jesus. Naturally, her skin of choice is Revelations.

Twice is a co-incidence. But thrice is a meme: today's Guardian Review helpfully (because the book sounds like laboured Fischer-by-numbers) reveals that a DJ-ing monkey with a sidearm rolls itself a Bible-skinned spliff.

Which makes me wonder, as Hickling writes of the monkey, is smoking the Bible now "a comic device that has so outlived its useful purpose you want to borrow [the monkey's] gun and shoot it"

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