Review: Human Traffic Remixed (dir. Justin Kerrigan)

[Cross-posted from Kamera, and written in the early 2000s]

The DVD release of Human Traffic Remixed is, its title suggests, a remix of the 1999 original, with revamped visuals, a new opening sequence, an updated soundtrack, bolstered by extra features – an early short by Justin Kerrigan, another short by Allan Niblo, the producer, a Making Of… documentary, and a few deleted scenes. At face value, an interesting experiment: to try to repackage a film utterly dependent on a specific zeitgeist into a product ready for a new dance generation.

What is rather odd, and has created a bit of a spat around the release, is that Kerrigan had no knowledge of the plans to recut the film. Niblo, Kerrigan’s tutor at art school, retains the rights to the film (Kerrigan signed them away, as he didn’t have enough money to pay a lawyer to check over his contract) and somewhat disingenuously claims of the new cut – for it is his – that, as it’s not being branded as Justin Kerrigan’s film, but as a remix, there’s no problem. What must stick in Kerrigan’s craw is that it is such a personal film, so obviously the translation of a personal experience. The appropriation of his film by his erstwhile mentor, and the neat use of the term “producers”, implying Kerrigan’s involvement (or endorsement) without actually having to pay him, must be a severe personal blow. One has to hope it spurs him into delivering on the deal with Miramax that Human Traffic brought him.

The look and feel of the film are not significantly different enough to make the anti-ageing marketing schtick stick, as it’s still a authentically uncomplicated film, rightly unapologetic about its hedonistic (rather than epicurean) take on rave culture and recreational drug-taking (apparently most of the extras were E’d up), but let down by its off-the-shelf characterisation and cribbing. Judging from Kerrigan’s early short Pubroom Paranoia, while his style is full of verve, it’s reached its culmination in Human Traffic with its direct-to-camera addresses, flip voiceovers, and publand conversation. Compared with the range of someone like Shane Meadows or Lynne Ramsay, this is much more in the school of Guy Ritchie. The film is honest about its own lack of depth, for all Kerrigan’s and Niblo’s talking it up – as a “manifesto”, it doesn’t get beyond We will take E, We will dance (and the more E we’ve taken, the more slo-mo we’ll dance in), We will talk shit, We will come down (and go through what the Norwegians call fylleangst, and what we call “Tell me I didn’t…”), etc. It is hyper, heavily-styled and doesn’t leave a bad smell – it’s something for the weekend, even. Full of recognisable clubland types, and plangent Welsh dance-/hip-hop-/gangsta-speak, Kerrigan’s film offers an authentic vision of the hell of UK McJobs and the need for escapism, but the half-baked attempts to yoke it to a wider exploration of counter-culture should have been binned.

The DVD extras are generous, just about bearing out Niblo’s assertion that the disc is a “quality product”. Kerrigan’s short is pretty patchy on content, but points the way to the confidence of Human Traffic, Niblo’s short is good, if a bit rant-y (did he have a run-in with some squaddies?), the Making of… is insightful but not really that probing, and the deleted scenes throw up at least one amusing improvisation (Glassing Queers – riffing on a repellent Welsh couple). Overall, unmixed or Remixed, it’s fun, it’s loud, it’s two Aristotelian Unities for the price of one, and definitely worth renting. Just don’t get too monged to remember to give it back.


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