Jun 21 • 1HR 2M

Ep 115: Beyond a Joke 6 - Brannavan Gnanalingam talks with Pip Adam about Kira Muratova's film The Asthenic Syndrome

We talk about this film and its relationships with Brannavan's amazing new novel Slow Down, You're Here.

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Brannavan Gnanalingam (Image by Lucy Li).

As you will know, in this series I’m asking guests to identify ‘something that has made them laugh’. Brannavan offered Kira Muratova's film The Asthenic Syndrome which, maybe, is not an immediately obvious choice. Well, it wasn’t to me. It is, of course the perfect starting point for a conversation about Bran’s compelling, disturbing, funny(?), romantic new novel Slow Down, You’re Here. Which you can buy from Lawrence and Gibson the publishing collective that has brought some of the best reads of the last 10 years.

Bran and I talk alot about tone and horror and humour. Bran has some really great things to say about pace and how to control tension. Slow Down, You’re Here is a book that just doesn’t let you go. I felt bodily anxious when I had to be away from it for any reason. In the end, I had to lock myself away and read most of it in one sitting.

What I’m thinking about most right now (having just finished editing this episode) is what Brannavan says about how this film never lets us be complacent. We are always implicated in the film.

I make a comment about Stuart Lee and the rythm of, ‘I am laughing at these areseholes. What about these arseholes. Wait … I am an arsehole’. It’s a structure I’ve always been a bit in awe of.

But I think The Asthenic Syndrome plays a slightly different game. The slam-changes in tone mean it is impossible to settle. What I experienced was this sense of relaxing into a laugh and then in that surrender being confronted with something shocking. Brannavan talks about there being nothing cathartic about the laughter of the film. And in this way the film made me think alot about ‘post-comedy’ - the way the release is never coming, the discomfort remains and there is nothing left to do but sit with ourselves and our discomfort. It’s an amazing experience and one that lends itself to making art about difficult poilitical questions.

You can watch all of The Asthenic Syndrome on YouTube - please be aware there is some pretty tough stuff in it - animals are not treated well, humans are not treated well and there is some explicit nudity in the film.

We mention ‘Murdoch’ - which is Murdon Stephens who also has an amazing new novel Down From Upland

Brannavan also mentions several other writers from New Zealand: Megan Dunn, Rebecca K Reilly, Chloe Lane

We talk about Stephen King’s novel Misery

There is a film of Stephen King’s Misery you can watch the trailer here

We talk about Kenneth Cook’s novel Wake in Fright

There is also a film of Wake in Fright you can watch the trailer here

Thanks again to everyone who has subscribed to the podcast here and thanks to the paid subscribers. I appreciate it a great deal.

I’m currently reading Middlemarch by George Elliot which I feel very odd about - very happy to talk about my discomfort about reading from the canon in comments. As I type this I’m listening to Jason by Perfume Genius (still feeling pretty lucky to have seen them last week - I won’t be the same again).