* * *
I was worried about my research spiralling out of control in the same way that Cansa’s obsessive nature seemed to have driven him mad. I decided to back off.
I wasn’t sleeping much, probably because I was staying up at night watching movies. On top of that, when I did sleep I had recurring nightmares where I was hunted by an evil clown, something which I could only put down to an unfortunate experience I had at the circus aged four or five.
It took me a few days to remember that the subject of one of Harry Rubik’s most popular films was an evil supernatural clown in The Clarifying (1980). I still find it hard to watch. Maybe that’s where the origin of my fascination with the man and his films came from – some of us are perversely drawn to that which scares us.
Ned wasn’t around much at this point, as I think he was going through some problems with his girl, Amy. We never talked about it, but I knew that two years ago she had miscarried, and that the emotional fallout that ensued had almost ended their relationship. I gathered that maybe there had been another woman involved. Ned wouldn’t tell me too much.
Autumn dragged on into winter, and finally I met Ned in the Bedford tavern, on the borderline between Brighton and Hove, late one Saturday afternoon.
I remember watching Amy disappearing into the rain behind him as he came in, and she went away into the early evening drizzle on her business. That was always the way she made herself felt – as a presence in the back that never came into focus. It’s hard to explain now, but you felt like you knew her even if you never said two words to her. I liked her very much.
My partner, Julia, had never been a fan of Rubik, saying that these were the kind of “serious” films she despised, pretentious, overblown, hard to understand. Long films gave her a headache, which made her talk through them. And there were so few good parts for women in Harry Rubik films! Bette Black, in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, is little more than a china doll to be positioned around one of H.R.’s infamously expensive sets. Nicole Weinstein, in Century, was criminally under-used. Sharon Polanski was apparently so traumatised by her experience with the director that she practically never made another film again. Rubik’s is an almost excessively male world – we never see a woman until the final reel of The War Pigs (1989), and then she’s a Vietkong fighter shot to death by an American sniper.
“He’s a nut,” said Spartacus, when I told him about my meeting with Cansa Varley. “Most of Harry Rubik’s really hardcore fans are insane.”
“What does that say about me?” I asked him.
“Completely hopeless case,” he agreed. “Next thing you’ll probably be telling me about the illuminati.”
“Ill-what?” I laughed. “Ill-looming-nasty?”
“Yeah, well. About that, by the way. You’re probably wondering why I asked you to come here today.”
We were in the back room of the pub and a football match was going on not far away on a big screen that hung monolith-like over crowded tables. I laughed nervously. “What do you mean, Sparky?”
“What if Rubik wasn’t one of Them – whoever They are – but he was trying to wake people up to something?”
I thought for a second. “I guess we’d know about it by now, there’s this thing called the internet…”
“Yes. But people can put anything on the internet. That’s the good thing about it – and the greatest weakness. Who’s going to verify all that information? In the days of the printed word we used to have editors, who were gatekeepers, that’s true, but some of them were good people. Information has always been controlled, but there were pieces that slipped through, small presses that were outside the usual systems of control. Now the information is free, but it’s all lost in the noise. How are you going to find what’s important? How are you going to find what’s true? Search engines already lead to things they want to show you. You need to be on guard.”
He produced a hotel bible sized parcel from his pocket and unwrapped it. A tape cassette, in its plastic wallet.
“C-90?” I asked him. “A bit old school, isn’t it?”
“I got it from a friend of mine who used to run a film magazine back in the day. And a massive Harry Rubik fan. Eye in The Pyramid, was the name of it. He had few interviews with the man that other people had done recorded, on second or third generation tapes, that were pretty eye-opening. Haha. As far as I know, none of this stuff has ever been released unedited. I thought you might be interested.”
“The eye in the pyramid? That’s the symbol on the back of the American dollar bill, isn’t it? A masonic symbol, it’s supposed to be the all-seeing eye of a benevolent creator – or malevolent, depending on how you want to see it… Funny name for a film magazine.”
He shrugged. “It’s about a lot of things. The symbol’s been around for a long time. So has film, when you think about it. Everything’s connected.”
“That’s all very nice,” I said, “but where am I going to find the equipment to play this?”
“Just make sure you listen to it,” he said, “You might find something important. We’re the last keepers of the old analogue media, you and I. Didn’t you know? The revolution will not be digitised.”