As a short British post-punk film noir, Johnny Yesno is in a category all on its own.
Filmed in and around Manchester and Sheffield, and released in 1983, the film disappeared almost immediately and has remained off the radar ever since, the only evidence of its actual existence being Cabaret Voltaire's original soundtrack album.
CV were also responsible for issuing the now ultra-rare VHS of the film, back in 83, on their short lived video label, Doublevision.
But now news breaks that Mute Films are finally due to issue Johnny Yesno on DVD this summer, as part of a box set that will also include additional footage, a new edition of that original soundtrack album, plus notes by author and Wire contributor Ken Hollings (who introduced a rare screening of the film in April 2010 at the Sensoria festival in Sheffield).
The film was directed by Peter Care, who would go on to make videos for Depeche Mode, REM and Bruce Springsteen, as well as oversee a pair of workout tapes fronted by Cindy Crawford (huh?) and film an episode of the Gothic-lite US TV series Six Feet Under. In 2002 Care broke into the Hollywood big time by directing Jodie Foster in the innocuous 'black comedy' The Dangerous Lives Of Altar Boys.
But Johnny Yesno is something else again, a post-punk morality tale, equal parts Ballard and Burroughs (with trace elements of the Northern post-Industrial kitchen sink realism of Tony Richardson and Karel Reisz), that spirals cryptically through some s(l)ick set pieces full of deviant sex routines and much junkie business. The titles of the cues on the soundtrack album give an idea of the mood of dread paranoia: “Hallucination Sequence”, “DTs", "Cold Turkey”. And sure enough, all the classic noir tropes are present and correct: the psychotically conflicted male protagonist; the catalytic femme fatale; an urban mise en scène of rain-soaked, neon-lit nightscapes (actually, Manchester city centre) and blank interiors (hotel rooms, bars, nightclubs).
Some of this can be glimpsed in a four minute redux mix of the film that was posted on YouTube last October but which to date has racked up less than 300 views.
The redux features a new mix by CV's Richard H Kirk and is a reminder that, in “Taxi Music” and its dub, the original soundtrack contained two of CV’s best moments, a brace of tense urban electro-mantras that are the real night-drive-thru-Babylon deal.
The Wire sez: check it out.