Barnes and Barnes ... And Bill

Bill Paxton in the criminally under-valued Frailty.  His only directorial feature.
                In a previous regeneration, I used to teach Film Studies.  Stop snickering at the back.
                Among the many other edifying and life-enhancing lessons I bestowed upon my congregation, was one about ‘Experimental Film’.  It was just a single session, so I couldn’t get too deeply embedded in Kenneth Anger or Andy Warhol, Stan Brakhage or Man Ray.
                I tried to restrict myself to films that would be ‘fun’.  Learning needn’t be painful, after all.  Please bear in mind; this was the world before the global dominance of YouTube.  You can find most anything on there now, not so ten years ago.  Indeed, because of copyright concerns, there was one year when YouTube was blocked at my college.  So, some of these shorts were being played by me off VHS copies I’d recorded off-air, usually in the early hours, back in the 80s and 90s.
                We’re talking deep cuts, here.
                And, year after year, the experimental short that went down best, was an odd thing I snagged off MTV.  It was by a couple of performance artists called Barnes and Barnes and, at that time, I knew no more about it than that.
                I continued to know no more about it until this article appeared on the wonderful No Filmschool site last week.
                It’s a memoriam to Bill Paxton.  And what fascinated me was, not the baleful ‘game over, man’ tone that informed most of the copy following his shockingly untimely death.  That’s in there, but only after they’ve looked at some of his less-obvious work.  Including his video for Barnes and Barnes.
                Wow.  Mind = blown, as I believe the young people say.
                So, I started digging.
                Turns out that Barnes and Barnes were musician Robert Halmer and actor/musician, Bill Mumy.  What’s that?  The guy out of Lost in Space (1965 - ’68) and Babylon 5 (1994 - ’98)?  That’s the chap.
                Here he is talking about how the video came about.

                Fish Heads was directed by and ‘stars’ (in the loosest sense) Bill Paxton.  Some four years before he taunted a Terminator; seven years before he was assaulted by Aliens; a full ten years before his punch-up with the Predator.
                If you want to find out what a great director Paxton was (and what a subtle, nuanced performance he was capable of) then chase down his film Frailty (2001).  Watching it, one realises that he had so much more to give and, like Clint Eastwood, could very well have had a great late career behind the camera.  We’ll never know.
                But, for now, watch this.  It’s meant to be nonsense.  It’s meant to be fun.  Experiments needn’t be painful.

... And Billy.

Turns out, there's more. 

In 1974, when he was 19 years old, Paxton was involved in an art-house homo-erotic conspiracy kidnap movie.  Shot in Wales!  Of course he was.

The plot was largely improvised and, ultimately, the film wasn't finished.  Then, years later, it was re-cut and re-written by someone else, who was stoned, and who mixed in elements of the writings of William Burroughs.  Well, why wouldn't you?

But it all goes to show that Paxton was open-minded about his craft and his creativity, and wasn't scared to explore.

The story of the film's creation is recounted here, at Dangerous Minds.   And you can watch the full movie here:

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