Avant-Popstress

This is no less than my third attempt to write about this week’s Sam Phillips experience.  In between new albums and tours it is easy to forget how utterly captivating she is when she’s standing on the stage in front of you.  Her songs are obscure and enigmatic and slyly suggestive and her live performances feel like one big wink to the audience.  Nothing is ever what you expect it to be and she does her best to keep you guessing as she knocks you off center again and again and again. 

The most striking thing this time around was the total stillness of her performance.  Every move, every expression was careful and deliberate.  My sister and I are big fans of her mute terrorist in Die Hard With a Vengeance and this week’s concert left me wishing she’d do more silent film work.  She has the same physical charisma that marks the very best silent film performances. 

Contemporary silent film has been on my mind quite a lot since my recent encounter with Guy Maddin’s amazing Brand Upon the Brain!  Though I do believe Sam could do good work with Guy, I also think Isabella Rossellini is his first and most fruitful muse…  And so it goes that Kenneth Anger directing Sam Phillips in a silent short of LA decadence is my fantasy collaboration of the moment.  Their respective works draw a similar portrait of that city in my mind – a city of dreams and disappointments and excesses and lots of good clothes.  Watching her performance this week, I could not put Anger’s Puce Moment out of mind.  Is it a similar brand of avant-art they’re selling?  Probably not, but I still hope for that glitterball of a film that’s playing in my mind.

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