The Mole Show home video offers a few new details about the story, most notably names for the two societies: Moles and Chubs. I don’t know whether these names were always intended or if they were added for the show. Given that the first album didn’t even mention it was part of a larger trilogy, I suspect the latter. The Residents are building this mythology as they go, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means they’ve created a universe that is expandable. With each addition, the whole can become recontextualized.
Visually, this show is stunning. The set pieces and props are phenomenal, and the number of stage participants is astonishing. This show has been constructed like a major stage production, and it boggles the mind to think that it toured the way a rock band would. In a way, it brings elements of high art to the masses, something the Residents have been doing with their music for years, so why not do the same with a visual medium?
The home video presentation takes this a step further. The live show elements have a vintage, almost quaint, aesthetic in the heavy use of moving set pieces. Modern theater keeps the sets stationary, moving them only with scene changes. And while that does wonders for realism, it pales next to the great charm and splendor of seeing nearly everything on stage in motion. But while that kind of production is firmly rooted in theater practices from a hundred years ago or more, this video is interspersed with modern and futuristic computer imagery. Just like the differing cultures in the story, here we have a clash of the old and the new. An uneasiness from the two really hits home, and that’s intended. The computer art is not part of the stage production – it is only on the home video. It is intended to be seen in one’s home, where we feel most comfortable and also where we become the most defensive. What is this new medium and why is it invading my home? The Residents do not want me to become too accustomed to my current lifestyle, because change is coming in the form of technology. We’ve been warned.
The second half of this video is an edited version of an unfinished movie called Whatever Happened To Vileness Fats? It too has computer imagery, but only for chapter titles. For the most part The Residents have chosen to let the original footage stand on its own. And stand it does. Its look is reminiscent of a German Expressionist film such as The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari. It begins with a long voiceover describing the plot of this shortened version, and frankly it sounds too complicated to me. Watching this video, I catch moments that seem to fit with the synopsis, but they are fleeting and I’m uncertain whether or not I’m interpreting it correctly. It’s all very Impressionist, come to think of it. An Impressionist film shot in an Expressionist style.
Most of the dialogue is buried under the music, and I wonder why it is there at all. Would this not be better presented as a silent film, with intertitles? The decisions this group makes often baffle me, but I do like to project fanciful ideas onto them. For example, they’ve recorded a new soundtrack for this home video, which is lovely and spooky and everything you want in a soundtrack. But part of me wonders: what was the original soundtrack like?
Some Vileness Fats characters appeared on the back cover of Not Available, so maybe it sounded like that. Or maybe Not Available was not available because it was the original soundtrack and was waiting for the film’s completion. The album’s story isn’t mentioned in this video’s synopsis, true, but maybe it lies among the 14 hours of unused film. And what of the original music for what has been included in this home video? Is there another, truly not available Not Available somewhere?