By Douglas Noble
This is a collection of strips, from the Secret Cinema series first published online, all done by Douglas as he watches films, postulating on what might have been. Or as he puts it:
“After the projectors have been shut off and the TV screens have dimmed, unwatched films dream. It’s there in the crackle of cooling reels, in the butterfly trembling of DVD cases, the aching sigh and shift of elderly video cassettes. Images sputter and reconfigure, they warp and merge into new and secret shapes. Stories burst and scab over, scripts flutter and flame. Unwatched films dream new cinemas, stories hidden in shivering loops of celluloid.
Drawn as I watch films, I tease new stories from the images that I’ve taken down, transforming familiar narratives into something new and strange. It’s fun. Try it.”
Now, I really enjoy Noble’s work, and at least two of his most recent comics (Sightings Of Wallace Sendek and The Complex) are quite magnificently brilliant. But Noble’s work is far from easy. It’s confusing, intricate, deliberately complex and unashamedly so.
The Dreams Of Secret Cinema is more of the same in many ways, as Noble’s selection of films is esoteric to say the least; Alfie, Bandit Queen, La Strada,Nights Of Cabiria, Purple Rain, Solaris, Viridiana and more. So any exploration of the films and Noble’s further interpretations and transformations does rather rely on at least a passing familiarity with the film in question. In fact I’d like to have the time to sit and watch the films in question with the relevant strip to hand. And that may be the problem with Secret Cinema – it’s so reliant on having that connection with the films, especially as it’s Noble’s reinterpretation of the films as he’s been watching them.
I’m not a film buff. Give me two hours and the choice between reading or watching a movie and I’ll always take the book or comic. So it’s all rather lost on me. I know enough about Noble’s work to think it’s going to be good, but not enough about enough of the movies to really understand enough. To be honest I’m feeling a little self-conscious about this, as if I should be getting it yet haven’t because I’m just not enough of a film buff to follow it.
But here’s a couple of the strips from the Sequential website, so you can make your own mind up and laugh at my ignorance…..
(Douglas Noble’s Dreams Of Secret Cinema – Alfie)
(Douglas Noble’s Dreams Of Secret Cinema – Bandit Queen)
What I will say, from a comic point of view is that Noble’s art, with his deliberately obtuse and stark imagery within a strict 4×4 small panel grid, is very nice. When I first looked at Noble’s work last year I didn’t get that much from this small grid panel artwork he utilises frequently, but it’s definitely grown on me and in the context of using the artwork to intrigue, to tease and to capture a snapshot of a moment it’s a simple yet very effective device.
As for the narrative, it’s all a little too obtuse, too fragmented. Working within a longer form Noble’s complexity has chance to grow and develop, whereas here, taking the narrative on it’s own, divorced from the actual films it’s just too much like cut up lyrics, these very short stories that don’t really make too much sense.
The Dreams Of Secret Cinema just didn’t work for me. It’s an intriguing idea, well executed artistically, but loses me narratively. In some ways I feel I’ve failed it somewhat – maybe I need to watch a few more films?