It Felt Like a Kiss

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Promotional image for film event, 2009
Curtis's use of typography

It Felt Like a Kiss is an immersive theatre production, first performed between 2 and 19 July 2009 as part of the second Manchester International Festival, co-produced with the BBC.[1] Themed on "how power really works in the world",[2] it is a collaboration between film-maker Adam Curtis and theatre company Punchdrunk, with original music composed by Damon Albarn and performed by the Kronos Quartet. The visitor is immersed in sets based on archive footage from Baghdad, 1963; New York, 1964; Moscow, 1959; in the Amygdala, 1959–1969; and Kinshasa, 1960. The title is taken from The Crystals' 1962 song "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)", written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.[3]

Production[edit]

The production was staged at Quay House, in the disused former offices of the National Probation Service on Quay Street, central Manchester. The production ran between 2 and 19 July 2009, as part of the second Manchester International Festival. It Felt Like A Kiss won Punchdrunk the Manchester Evening News Theatre Award for Best Special Entertainment.

Imagine walking into a disused building. You find yourself inside a film. It is a ghost story where unexpected forces, veiled by the American Dream, come out from the dark to haunt you…
 
— Manchester International Festival, [3]

The film and event makes extensive use of archive footage. Upon arrival at the event groups of nine[4] visitors are taken to a darkened sixth floor. The 54 minute film (available for a limited time online in the UK)[5] is only a small section ("the film club") of the event.[6]

Featured in the story are Eldridge Cleaver, Doris Day, Little Eva, Philip K Dick, Enos (a chimpanzee sent into space), Sidney Gottlieb, Rock Hudson, Saddam Hussein, Richard Nixon, Lee Harvey Oswald, Lou Reed, Mobutu Sese Seko, B F Skinner, Phil Spector, Tina Turner and Frank Wisner.

I wanted to do a film about what it actually felt like to live through that time ... Where you could see the roots of the uncertainties we feel today, the things they did out on the dark fringes of the world that they didn't really notice at the time, which would then come back to haunt us.
 
— Adam Curtis, [7]

Unlike Curtis' earlier work which prominently feature the Helvetica typeface, Arial is used for titling. Also, Curtis' trademark narration is absent.

Genesis[edit]

The production started life as an experimental film by Adam Curtis, commissioned by the BBC. Curtis approached Felix Barrett of the Punchdrunk theatre company, with the proposal that a production could be created "as though the audience were walking through the story of the film".[8]

The film was shown to Damon Albarn, already associated with the Manchester International Festival through the productions Demon Days Live in 2006 and Monkey: Journey to the West in 2007. He agreed to write a score for the production, which was then recorded by the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet.

Themes[edit]

According to Adam Curtis the production is "the story of an enchanted world that was built by American power as it became supreme...and how those living in that dream world responded to it".[8] He has also said; "it’s trying to show to you that the way you feel about yourself and the way you feel about the world today is a political product of the ideas of that time”.[9]

"The politics of our time," according to Curtis, "are deeply embedded in the ideas of individualism...but it's not the be-all-and-end-all...the notion that you only achieve your true self if your dreams, your desires, are satisfied...it's a political idea".[7]

Felix Barrett has stated that the production was influenced by his love of ghost trains and haunted houses, and by the idea of blurring fiction with reality: "It takes the idea of the viewer as voyeur and asks at what point are you watching, inside or even starring in the film".[8]

The development of new techniques of interrogation by "everyone over Level 7" in the CIA during the 1960s is a theme of the production, and the suggestibility of human beings is something that the production seeks to highlight.[citation needed]

Music[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]