HyperNormalisation (UK-only iPlayer) (region-free link), the new BBC documentary from Adam Curtis (previously), covers four decades leading up to today's seemingly inexplicable chaos - the Syrian Civil War, Brexit, Vladimir Putin, the Islamic State, waves of refugees, suicide bombs, and on and on. Curtis argues "all of us in the West - not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves - have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal." This version of normal, promoted by the Internet and 24-hour news cycle, is now under assault by forces that everyone from Patti Smith, Colonel Gaddafi, and Jane Fonda to Henry Kissinger, the Assad dynasty, and Putin's post-modern propagandist, Vladislav Surkov, has been trying to forget over forty years. (Youtube trailer) (Warning: footage of blood, dead bodies, etc)
Bitter Lake "is a new, adventurous and epic film by Adam Curtis that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can’t really see the world any longer." [available on the UK BBC iplayer for a month] [trailer with Curtis's preview]
Every month or so there is a new scandal - mass snooping by the NSA, allegations of price-fixing by giant energy companies, major banks corruptly rigging interest rates, giant modern bureaucracies like Serco and G4S ripping off the taxpayer, children's entertainers from the past charged with sexual abuse.Adam Curtis may be the only person who is able to use the ousting of Tamara Mellon from Jimmy Choo, the age of the American muckracking journalist and the light entertainment career of Diana Dors -- amongst other diversions -- to explain the need for a new journalism to investigate the new structural powers ruling us.
But these stories never seem to add up to a bigger picture. They are isolated events . And our reaction is always the same - shock and horror, and then it all subsides and we are ready to be shocked and horrified when the next scandal comes along.
At first sight the search for peace and stability in Iraq, and the search for physical and mental fitness in the extreme contortions of modern Yoga seem to have absolutely nothing in common. But curiously they do. Both the terrible structural problems and distortions that underly Iraqi society today, and the strange, contorted poses that millions of people perform every day in things like Bikram's Hot Yoga, actually come from the fevered imagination of the British ruling class one hundred years ago. As they felt Britain's power declining they wanted desperately to go back into the past and create a purer and more innocent world, uncorrupted by the messiness of the modern industrial world - a new Eden forged both by strengthening and purifying the human body and by inventing new model countries round the world. And we are still suffering from the consequences of that terrible nostalgia. BODYBUILDING AND NATION-BUILDING
Adam Curtis mini film on the modern hug on television. As originally featured on his blog.
It doesn't matter whether you hate the spies and believe they are corroding democracy, or if you think they are the noble guardians of the state. In both cases the assumption is that the secret agents know more than we do. But the strange fact is that often when you look into the history of spies what you discover is something very different. It is not the story of men and women who have a better and deeper understanding of the world than we do. In fact in many cases it is the story of weirdos who have created a completely mad version of the world that they then impose on the rest of us.—Bugger: Maybe the Real State Secret Is that Spies Aren't Very Good at Their Jobs and Don't Know Very Much About the World by Adam Curtis. It's about the checkered history of the MI5.
From the BBC blog of documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis: "Save Your Kisses For Me: How the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the Israeli Right became co-dependents in an abusive relationship." Includes images / film clips from the BBC news archive. [more inside]
I have always been fascinated by the way music can completely change the way you watch film - and how you feel as you watch the images. Adam Curtis [more inside]
How Colonel Gaddafi and the Western Establishment together created a pantomime world - new blog post by Adam Curtis
A documentary by Adam Curtis on Henrietta Lacks and HeLa cell line created from her cells. Previously. Previously.
Adam Curtis on The legacy of the Colonels Coup - "What is forgotten is that from 1967 to 1974 the Greek people lived under a harsh and violent dictatorship that tortured and murdered thousands of ordinary people. The Colonels also corrupted the society by handing out vast loans to individuals in towns and villages across the country - to buy their loyalty. At the same time the repression and torture bred a powerful resistance that finally burst out in incredible bravery in 1973." [more inside]
All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is the name of a new documentary series by Adam Curtis. The first episode, Love and Power [BBC iPlayer], draws connections between Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan, an experiment by Pixar co-founder Loren Carpenter, the Californian Ideology of Silicon Valley in the 90s, Bill Clinton's presidency, and the persistence of the global capitalist hegemony in the face of continuing economic crisis. Curtis discusses his ideas in the Guardian.
From the BBC blog of documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis: Experiments in the Laboratory of Consumerism 1959-67: "I have quite a lot of film from the archives that was shot in the Madison Avenue agencies in the mid 1960s, and I thought I would put some sections up. It is great because it shows some of the major advertising men and women of the time, many of whom are the real-life models for characters in Mad Men." Includes a 9-minute video interview with the late Herta Herzog. [more inside]
'BP And The Axis of Evil': Adam Curtis provides some historic information on the Anglo-Perisan Oil Company, later the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, later BP. [more inside]
"I am researching the extraordinary history of the West's relationship to Afghanistan over the past 200 years. It is a very complex, and sometimes weird, story. These are notes on some of the characters and episodes involved." A work in progress by Adam Curtis - Kabul: City Number One. Part One, and Part Two.
The entire sequence takes 26 seconds. There’s too much to take in. Or, you don’t know what you’ve taken in, and how deep the impression has been.
The Flow, by Paul Myerscough
That image gives way, quickly and successively, to a series of others: a young black woman smoking, smiling at the camera through a reinforced glass window; three teenage girls in a car, laughing, filmed through the windscreen; a whip-pan to the American flag, pierced by sunlight, drifting in the breeze; a DIY programme on a pixellated TV screen; a ride-along shot of a family in an oversized golf buggy; two different angles of a man alone in a lecture theatre; two more of traffic at night; a woman, suspicious of the camera, wearing a polka-dot dress and partly obscured by glassy reflections; a blurry shot of a long windowless corridor; a man wearing shades in a crowded street; a woman pursued down the cosmetics aisle of a supermarket; and, as Curtis comes to the end of his three short sentences, a woman seen jogging in the wing-mirror of a moving car. The entire sequence takes 26 seconds. There’s too much to take in. Or, you don’t know what you’ve taken in, and how deep the impression has been.
The Engineer's Plot To The Brink of Eternity The League of Gentlemen Goodbye Mrs Ant Black Power A is For Atom
The Mayfair Set [Google Video]. A BBC Documentary series on how City of London bankers systematically dismantled British industry from the 1960s-90s and removed the power of the state to protect people from the greed of the market A thought provoking documentary from Adam Curtis whose other documentaries The Power of Nightmares and The Century of the Self have been previously discussed and well received on Mefi. It is almost four hours long but well worth the effort.
The Century Of The Self. It's a documentary, and the four parts are available at archive.org  -- with a higher quality bittorrent option [via mindhacks]. The program is about the use of psychoanalytical techniques to manipulate and control the "bewildered herd", "engineering consent" in a world fraught with "irrational impulses" [more inside].