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She managed to claim the most important entrance to Rotterdam's Central Station as her own pitch. With the most whining and nasal of begging voices, she attracts the attention of male and female commuters as they flee home. Her gaze is that of a startled creature from the nocturnal animal house at the zoo. An unwashed death's-head monkey. She is the proverbial junkie. A wandering and bleating warning against the addictive power of heroin. But equally the amazing proof that this unglamorous life of a drug addict can be maintained for an unbelievably long time. It is apparently possible to be very fragile and unhealthy. Not that I want to find out, but sometimes I wonder where are such an anonymous junkie came from and how long she can carry on like this.

by Gertjan Zuilhof

Ideologist of drug use
In the documentary produced by John Maringouin and shot by Molly Lynch called Gucci Crackheads Battle Nihilism, one of these creatures from the urban nocturnal animal house is dragged out of her anonymity. Our protagonist Julie is not yet a death's-head monkey.

She's a colourfully painted and dressed woman in her late 30s who roams the streets of San Francisco at night gesturing and talking noisily. She injects cocaine. Sniffing it is for snobbish weekend users. It's not heavy enough. It doesn't give you a hundred orgasms at once. Jenny is a kind of ideologist of drug use. That is her choice. She consciously turned her back on her glittering yuppie career and now occasionally writes her a narcotic insights on the walls and doors of the city. Julie and her shooting up and sniffing girlfriends are beyond shame. While she squats in the street to pee, she continues to chatter away.

Lynch turned her film into more than just a report about an unusual junkie by interweaving newsreel footage and fragments from anti-drug films in an ironic way through the film. The classic images of President Bush senior during a television speech about drugs as the greatest internal threat with a large bag of crack-cocaine in his hand that he seems to put in his desk drawer during his speech or pictures of Indians during a ritual coca intoxicationform humourous and effective contrasts with the chattering and self-centred Julie.

Breathless
After Gucci Crackheads Battle Nihilism, Molly Lynch produced another junkie film, now with her producer John Maringouin as director. Running Stumbled also seems to be a next step in its subject matter. The film goes deeper. Is more emotional. Occasionally even unbearable. Maringouin (still working under the name John Landrum) previously made the freethinking documentary Just Another Day in the Homeland, that was screened in the 2003 International Film Festival Rotterdam theme section 'Homefront USA' (Weblog Homefront USA 8).

Maringouin was already working on Running Stumbled at the time, a portrait of his father who has been addicted to heroin for 30 years, and interrupted that film to make a spontaneous reaction to the start of the war in Iraq.

John Roe Jr (Maringouin alias Landrum was born as John Roe III) was once a celebrated painter in New Orleans. Now he lives breathlessly in a disconsolate suburb of Terrytown. His house is full of paintings that he must have made in the 1970s (and that most resemble the works of Max Ernst or Francis Picabia from the 1930s) and it soon becomes clear that he has not touched a brush for years. He lived together with his umpteenth wife, who has also gone off the tracks. She functions unintentionally as a narrator in the story when, drunk or intoxicated, she rants on about all kinds of things and also provides some background information. The son and film maker seems struck dumb. He has not seen his father since he was an infant and so they are strangers to each other. Maringouin shakes his head as he sees how the life of the couple transcends Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Even the hell of the other by Sartre is too sweet and too respectable for the mess and permanent hatred of these two sad junkies condemned to each other. Selling papers for the homeless in Rotterdam is considerably more glamorous than this nocturnal animal life.

Maringouin does not provide his commentary in words, but in colouring and distorting the images. The film is too emotional and too serious to compare it to a music video, but his visual language is equally expressive. And the film is too full of life to be called a cinematographic experiment.. Even if all the faders are turned up sometimes.

It's a courageous film. Because the film maker does not only look deep into the eyes of his unknown father, he also holds a mirror up to himself. I know very few film makers who can look so resolutely at such unpalatable personal problems. I could name one or two. But that's about it.

picture: image from Gucci Crackheads Battle Nihilism by Molly Lynch and John Maringouoin.