Alan Moore is a comic book writer and magician from Northampton. He is bearded to mystical proportions and worships the serpent God Glycon, but is probably better known as the creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta. With the short films Jimmy’s End and its prelude Act of Faith, Moore has made the arguably precarious transition to screenwriter. What his debut would conjure has been eagerly awaited, especially since he widely repudiated the previous Hollywood film adaptations of his work, although admitting he has not and does not intend to see them. Moore has collaborated closely with photographer Mitch Jenkins as director and together they have produced some intriguing results.
In Act of Faith we follow a journalist with a kinky side, Faith Harrington (given a riveting performance by Siobhan Hewlett), who declines a night out with her friends to prepare for a special night in of her own that takes a turn for the worst. Shot on a Canon 5D for £11,000, with no guarantee at the time of funding for further projects, it is beautifully directed with a particularly effective use of colour-grading and soundtrack. A comment on contemporary decadence and debauchery, with its harrowing end Act of Faith would be devastatingly impactful as a stand-alone piece. However, then proceeds Jimmy’s End, set in a bleak and bizarre working men’s club into which James Mitchum (our baffled protagonist played by Darrell D’Silva) unwittingly enters after seeking refuge from the rain. Absurdly fitting, this strange place is a real working men’s club in Northampton that was accommodating the attendees of a wake during filming since it could not afford to close. It is here James has a series of disorienting encounters, from the sleazy owner Matchbright, to Faith, to tattooed burlesque dancers and a spiteful clown.
Presented is a disturbingly surreal take on the contemporary night out, where burlesque girls sit motionless on stage, at most holding their instruments like redundant puppets; recorded music of a carnival-esque string quartet hauntingly screeches over them while dreary couple’s slow-dance, entranced in a lobotomised sway. James does not understand the place or how he ended up there, but every attempt to make some sense is answered only in cross-purposes leaving him none the better off. From decades of writing comics, a medium that fundamentally demands conciseness, Moore’s skill for taut dialogue shows through. Jenkins’s sporadic combination of slow-motion, tilted camera-angles and extreme close-ups create a sense of dreamy yet dissonant detachment: stranded in some kind of personal, hellish purgatory we feel James’s dread.
Moore and Jenkins have produced a gripping and accomplished piece of work. My only gripe is, considering they provide somewhat of a build-up, following an unfittingly loose monologue from Matchbright’s partner Metterton (performed by Moore himself) is a rather trivial and disappointing ending. Hopefully, since these vignettes are supposedly only the first two segments of a five-part series titled Show Pieces (with talk of developing it into a full feature-length production), the forthcoming instalments will do justice to what on the most part is a promising beginning.