DVD review: 23 Seconds to Eternity (BFI)

The BFI with director Bill Butt present a new film collating the music videos and films of the Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu (JAMs), KLF and the Timelord, enhanced and presented in chronological order from “Doctorin’ the Tardis’ to the unreleased ‘KRASH’, after which the duo left the music business.

Three of the pieces within 23 Seconds to Eternity are longer than ten minutes, with The White Room lasting over forty, with a new score. Watching all the work presented in a two-hour block enhances a sense that this is a chaotic yet cohesive body of work.

Supplemented by extensive supporting features and a booklet (in the limited edition Blu-Ray/DVD release), the KLF phenomenon is given its proper place and context in the 1990s pop culture landscape.

Whether you understand (or even care about) the background of Mu Mu Land- the newly restored Rights of Mu here is narrated by none other than Martin Sheen – there is a sense of trance, metal and house weaving into cinema.

The duo also reassembled and reused material: after 1989’s The White Room was left unfinished, some footage was included in the video for ‘Kylie Said To Jason’. The Stadium House Trilogy is the closest to traditional performance, but utilises earlier motifs.

For ‘It’s Grim Up North’ a poetic litany of Northern are invoked against a musical track, and both ‘America: What Time Is Love’ and the collaboration with Tammy Wynette, ‘Justified and Ancient’ use movie soundstages to create artificial landscapes.

The highlights of the special features include This Is Not What The KLF Is About, a newly remasted ‘making of’ for Stadium House Trilogy, and a lengthy interview with Bill Butt about the project which became 23 Seconds To Eternity.

Aside from the videos for ‘Doctorin’ The Tardis’ and ‘Justified and Ancient’, these films have either been out of circulation for many years or not released at all.

Jimmy Cauty aka Rockman Rock and Bill Drummond aka King Boy D created the JAMs to use sampling and tech to create music alongside a subversive approach to art as a whole.

Bill Butt, an experienced music video director, knew Drummond from art school, and proves a key and essential collaborator to the duo’s aesthetic and career trajectory.

23 Seconds to Eternity is released on BFI BluRay/DVD on 6 Nov, and will be launched with a screening and Q&A with Butt at BFI Southbank.


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