Two episodes into season Two of Jane Campion's series Top of the Lake (Sundance Channel) and I'm persuaded this is one of the finest series on television. Campion has an original vision and poetic sensibilities. I know she reads widely when preparing a script, and I wonder if the poet John Ashbery has any influence on the second season. Campion's storytelling in this new season is delightfully disjunctive; scenes paced like traditional police procedurals slam up against hilariously funny flashbacks or utterly tragic ones; there are pedantic asides that go on and on, growing stranger by the minute. The guiding hand over all of this is a craftsperson's hand, skillful and intelligent.
It could very well be that my reaction to Ashbery's death (September 3rd) has me locating his influence everywhere, even investing it into projects that probably never had the poet in mind. Nevertheless, Campion and Ashbery have similar sensibilities, specifically in regards to humor -- the unfamiliar becoming familiar in a surprising flash. Reading an Ashbery poem before watching an episode of Top of the Lake season Two can carry you to strange and wonderful mental ground.
My Campion-Ashbery connection is speculative. But the connection between Ashbery and avant-garde filmmaker Guy Maddin is factual and glorious.
Ashbery contributed dialogue and text to Maddin's Seances series, which began in 2012. You can find the trailer here: Seances
Also in 2015, Maddin released his dreamy masterpiece The Forbidden Room. Ashbery wrote the dialogue for the "How to Take a Bath" sequence. Watch the trailer for this film and, unless I miss my guess, you'll do all that's possible to find a copy of it and also recover that Ashbery collection on your books shelf, the one you hadn't thought about in a long time, and let that strange, confident voice take you places. For my part, I'm rediscovering Your Name Here with pleasure and admiration.
Trailer for The Forbidden Room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwKvz-wA3I0