What almost completely redeemed the blue-form suggestion process is getting a yes on the rather obscure collection of dance films by DV8 Physical Theatre.

I don’t know how everything lined up to make this happen, but one evening last century I awoke from a nap to find Jay Scott on TVO introducing some kind of movie. He was always doing that sort of thing before he had the bad taste to get the AIDS and die.

“Some kind of movie” here was Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men.

If you’re old you might admit to knowing nothing about dance but really liking La La La Human Steps whenever you see them on TV. Then you realize this is all from a previous lifetime and you should be using the past tense.

DV8 and (La)³ gave you the viewer a showy, raucous, unplodding kind of dance that, like a postmodern building, is easy to like. And easy to understand – or at least you walk away not feeling stupid or uncultured for having failed to understand it.

These two companies and a single quote from Morrissey have basically ruined my ability to enjoy a show like So You Think You Can Dance.

(With singers facing the audience) you see every emotion; this appeals to me… “This is the song, this is the voice, and this is the communication.” This appealed to me more than anything else.

I watch the usually screamingly gay kids on So You Think You Can Dance and I think, “What is the communication?”

The communication in Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men is ostensibly linked in some way to the true-crime saga of a British serial killer. (I later read the book about him.) But saying that is like saying Inglorious Bastards is about Nazi-hunters – partly true but irrelevant and deceptive if you keep repeating it.

This film gives a pessimistic view of the arc of the life of any urban gay man of the era. That era will die when we do, and “queers” not only are happy about that but are hastening our demise. But in the 1990s the life experience Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men presents was a real thing.

  • You start out in the bar. Again you could link back to Morrissey.

    Two men lean, elbows on wall, facing the same direction, with another man blurred in foreground

    Find me a better gay-bar sequence than this one here, with stunning music and a dance presentation so easy to understand you just feel good about yourself. That’s not gonna last.

    Four men, one just in underwear and shoes, dance in synchronization
  • This is dance theatre, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear dialogue or just be talked to, but you will be.

    Man in underwear sits on pedestal smoking a cigarette, while another man seems crammed into a closet-like illuminated space well behind him
  • We endlessly let each other down.

    Man hangs by one hand frmo overhead pipe
    Man in underwear looks apprehensively up at another man perched far overhead by a wall
  • And then, in the dark view of this film, we inevitably destroy each other and wind up as sad eldergays in bedsits listening to olde-tymey crooners on the Victrola. (Not pictured.)

I somehow remembered DV8 existed and somehow found two DVD compilations still in print and somehow TPL ordered two copies of one of them. I could say a measly two copies.

DV8 package

Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men is on the disc and confirms that the sole master recording of this film is in fact a standard-definition PAL videotape. Don’t expect much in the way of picture quality.

You’ll also easily understand and enjoy another film on the disc, Enter Achilles. I have a bang-up CBC interview with Lloyd Newson of DV8, in which he asks the remote camera crew some of the same question he’s asked, but that’s on an old videotape.

The third film in the collection, Strange Fish, was as unwatchable to me as Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men will be to most. DV8 cannot really do heterosexuality.

Bumping into Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men on TV led me to spend good money on admission tickets to the now-defunct Moving Pictures festival of dance films. I think you would also like the film by La La La Human Steps that I saw there, Velázquez’s Little Museum.

But gays, arts films on TV, and dance-film festivals are all artifacts from the past. Good thing we’ve got libraries.