Why You Must Watch The New Luke Haines Film, By Jude Rogers

Jude Rogers gives us several pertinent reasons why you should watch Art Will Save The World, a documentary about Luke Haines

Redchurch Street, London’s Shoreditch, Tuesday morning. Outside a pearly-grey cafe, a grown man in denim shorts and Playschool glasses barks into his phone, man, about the social networking prospects in the next quarter. In front of a wood-and-glass coffee shop, a grown woman in a child’s collar cheeps about the property market pound, then shouts through the door at a waitress because her flat white isn’t right. I feel the bile rise through my intestines, my stomach, my oesophagus, as I run into the Aubin Cinema, and throw myself fearfully into an armchair. In times like these, we need you more than ever, Luke Haines.

If you ever feel sensations like this, and certainly if you happen to be a fan of the white-hatted, ginger-whiskered gentleman of Buenos Aires – a place which, if you squint at it, looks remarkably like North London’s Kentish Town – then you’ll need to see Art Will Save The World, a 70-minute documentary about the former Auteur, Baader-Meinhof operative and Black Box Recorder button-presser. It screened for press a few days ago – the morning of my Redchurch Street dystopian odyssey – and it premieres next week at the East London Film Festival, before starting to tour.

Coming out soon after a rated documentary about another indie outsider – Saint Etienne-associate Paul Kelly’s film, Lawrence of Belgravia, about Lawrence of Felt, Denim and Go-Kart Mozart – a first reaction might be to sniff at the familiarity of such an approach. But sniff not. Snort neither. Inhale deeply through those nostrils and hold your dirty breath instead. This film is bloody brilliant. And this is why you should see it.

It’s the work of a first-time director who pushes the boat out

Funded by the Irish Film Board – bless you, Ireland – this is the debut feature of Niall McCann, a director about whom you can find precious little online, not even an IMDB entry (although Mr H has one which mentions his soundtrack work and an appearance in an Adverts documentary). McCann’s film nails Haines. In form, it’s a chronological romp through the life of its subject, full of literary and philosophical quotations, talking head slots (including Jarvis Cocker, writers John Niven, David Peace and Stewart Home), tours around Haines’ birthplace (Walton-on-Thames) and elsewhere from the "unreliable narrator" himself, and occasional appearances of hatted, whiskered sorts turning up to audition for a starring role that isn’t up for grabs.

This sprawling, unravelling stuff shouldn’t work, but it does. And it does because it treats Haines’ mind as it’s always been: disturbing, intelligent, darkly curious without qualms or apology, and very, very funny.

It’s full of lines you’ll want to use after you’ve left the cinema

"I’m not still not frightened of the flashers in the park." "My conceptual terrorist funk experiments were surplus to requirements." "I’ll be breaking into the world of sport, as a commentator or a trainer." "These people are music journalists, they’re not Mossad."

It reminds you of all the great things Haines has done, that you may have forgotten, or didn’t know in the first place

Be reminded that Haines was featured in a 1996 Select Magazine feature about reactions to the Stone Roses’ second album. He was pictured removing a copy of The Second Coming from an oven, burned to a crisp. Also be dazzled by on-screen captions that point out brilliant coincidences in his life: "1996: Backstreet Boys release debut. The Auteurs release After Murder Park."

It doesn’t just let Haines write his own story

We hear that he’s nicer in person than he would like us to think. How being an only child of older parents had an effect on him. We hear his friend, film director Grant Gee, say that Haines deceives and distorts as much as the other pop stars "only the politics are different". And John Niven suggests a career direction which just might have its day: Haines should write the Fred and Rose West musical.

It reveals just how nuts the music industry used to be – and still is

In 1999, coming back from a flop third album that included songs like ‘Light Aircraft On Fire’, and ‘Unsolved Child Murder’, The Auteurs are given £50,000 to make a video for their single, ‘The Rubettes’. Six years later, the video for ‘Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop’ – produced by man-of-the-moment Richard X – is given £50.

You don’t have to know who Haines is to watch it

You’re given enough background to approach Haines, fresh and new, from the very beginning. Although you’ll probably be bloody terrified within twenty minutes.

It offers some nice insights into Haines’ big old brain

He would prefer we laughed at his jokes about Russian futurists in Bad Vibes rather than his comments about Blur and Oasis. Britpop didn’t exist anyway. Although he has perpetuated the term by putting it in his book title, of course (he adds, cackling quietly).

A few minor criticisms. There’s not enough Black Box Recorder in the film – but, yes, it’s about him as an individual, not his bands. And readers of Bad Vibes will know big chunks of this story, although they’ll get much more of a rounded vision of it than they did from the book. They’ll also be lucky enough to get monologues at The Walton Hop and the forest mentioned in Unsolved Child Murder’, images of a man falling off a wall, Jarvis Cocker talking about Swervedriver’s second single, and a 45-year-old man in a hat, with ginger whiskers, making you want to leave the cinema, and head out into the world, shaking your fists at all and sundry, going thank fuck for that, hooray.

You’re here for us, Luke Haines. And if art won’t save the world, at least we’ve got this.

Art Will Save The World premieres at the East End Film Festival, Friday 6 July at 7pm, followed by a Q&A with Luke Haines and director Niall McCann.

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today