The veteran filmmaker discusses his love of strong personalities as his new documentary on Adam Ant closes the East End Film Festival
“I suppose I love powerful beings.” It sounds like the kind of statement a glassy-eyed Elizabeth Taylor might have made at the height of her boozy pomp, or perhaps the words of a bloodthirsty political intern. Actually it falls from the mouth of veteran filmmaker Jack Bond over coffee in Fitzrovia. He delivers it with considerable modesty given his work with an assortment of huge, eccentric personalities since starting in television at the BBC in the early 1960s – Salvador Dali, Road Dahl and author Patricia Highsmith, amongst others. His latest film, The Blueblack Hussar, which closes the East End Film Festival this week, follows another – 80s pop star Adam Ant – as he attempts to make a comeback at the age of 56.
“Courage is not something he lacks,” says Bond of the former pin-up, born Stuart Goddard. “I saw a man at the bottom of a cliff as it were, giving himself the task of climbing to the top again. Some people change when the camera’s on them, but he always knew when it was on, to the extent that in the end I taped over the red light. He can be incredibly, intimately friendly and unbelievably warm, and he can be very standoffish at times and goes to this place where you can’t quite work out where he is. I put him up there, high on the shelves of the powerful personalities I’ve worked with.”
“I saw a man at the bottom of a cliff giving himself the task of climbing to the top again”
It’s a testament to Ant’s enduring star quality that in one scene, a two-person BBC team tasked with arranging a filmed interview with the ‘Prince Charming’ star become embarrassingly flustered in his presence. Ultimately, the comeback is a low-key success in relative terms. The real triumph of the film is Bond’s staggered sequencing that allows Ant’s personality to slowly reveal itself. At the beginning he’s a ludicrous character, a washed-up caricature. By the end, you’re rooting for the blue-eyed boy with a fervent and genuine love of music and encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture.
“That uncomfortable feeling at the beginning is due to the chasm between where he was standing and where he wanted to leap. It did seem unbridgeable and, therefore, the assumption that he could do it was perhaps unbearable. But he knew he was going to do it. He was unwavering. All you had to do was hold onto the train and tag along,” says Bond with obvious admiration.
Having previously worked with Pet Shop Boys on several projects, which musician(s), ideally, would Bond love to film? “Bob Dylan,” he says without hesitation. “I was the first person to ever turn a camera on him singing ‘Blowing in the Wind’ in ‘63. Years later, Bob asked me if I still had the recording because he was collecting for his archive. Of course it had been wiped to save storage space…”
What is there to say about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been said?
“Do you remember the album when he’s walking in the snow in New York, arm in arm with his girlfriend (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan)? It has to be the most romantic image ever. It just makes you wish that moment was yours, wandering in the snow in New York, looking so into themselves, absolutely lovely.”
Jack Bond still has a thirst for romance it seems and in Adam Ant he’s found a subject who’s still very much in love with his art.
The Blueblack Hussar closes the East End Film Festival, 25 June at Genesis Cinema, Whitechapel. Tickets available HERE