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    Malcolm McLaren — Not For Sale

    Declaration of independents

    Three films celebrate alternative visions for Bush's America, including one that catches up with Sex Pistols organizer Malcolm McLaren on his quixotic but inspirational campaign for mayor of London.


    There will be fireworks of another kind at the Anthology on Wednesday, as the New Filmmakers series celebrates democracy with three medium-length independent films for Independence Day.

    Directed by: Nancy Cohen and Andy Lee.
    Featuring: Malcolm McLaren.
    Shown with "amBushed" by Jared Katsiane and "Not My President!" by Charles Krezell.
    The main feature is an American's look at Britain — specifically the London mayoral campaign of Sex Pistols organizer Malcolm McLaren last year. He admits that he isn't even trying very hard to win, but fortunately filmmakers Nancy Cohen and Andy Lee were really after a good chat more than a campaign chronicle. She gets it — eventually.

    But not right away. McLaren misses a couple of meetings with the film crew, and so the film starts as a sort of "Malcolm and Me," tweaking McLaren for repeatedly eluding the film crew. Meanwhile, they talk with average Londoners about the Sex Pistols' endurance as symbols in the life of the city, and whether they'd actually vote for the offbeat punk impresario.

    When they finally catch up with McLaren, he's become a kind of armchair punk — with wild red curls piled atop his head and looking quite proper in a suit, tie and overcoat rather than dangerous, he calmly and smartly dissects the state of political affairs in England.

    Malcolm McLaren — Not For Sale  
    A few of the many bon mots:

    He sees the seeds of a movement toward authentic living and authentic culture as opposed to what he calls "karaoke" living. "It can all be summed up very simply in saying, people are beginning to think they could wave a banner or print across their brow or literally just have the thought, 'I'm not for sale,' living in a world where it appears everybody and everything, including your mother, is for sale."

    And what do the Sex Pistols have to do with running for office today? They're part of the inspiration of McLaren's campaign for the authentic life — they were amateurs who were unafraid of becoming "a flamboyant failure" rather than pursue stardom in the corporatized music business.

    "We have a world that is totally immersed in everyone being professional. You have to be professional in order to appreciate the commodification of the planet. You have to be a professional, really, in order to work in it, succeed in it, gain from it, orchestrate it, defend it — and sell it," McLaren says. "The notion of being an amateur goes hand-in-hand with someone who desires adventure and much prefers to be a flamboyant failure than necessarily some kind of benign success."

    This is hardly an acceptable political speech, even in England much less in the U.S., but clearly it's aimed at planting ideas rather than attracting votes. The idea is that a liberation of the mind and the culture is at the heart of ultimately remaking society. Even more than for Brits, it's a suitable message for Americans who have embraced the culture of mass entertainment and yet lost any sense of personal connection with their political system.

    Also on the program are "Not My President!" and "amBushed." "Not My President" is a documentary by Charles Krezell which turns the cameras on the street crowds being held off at the margins of the official Bush inauguration in January. It shows some Bush supporters and even exposes surveillance and incitement by undercover cops, but mostly focuses on citizens who felt the calling to come protest as TV commentators declared that Bush was growing into the unearned presidency on his very first day. And "amBushed" is a challenging 1992 short, setting a Bush (Sr.) speech about drugs against a narrative from the drug war.

    JULY 1, 2001

    Reader comments on Malcolm McLaren — Not For Sale:

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