Hear John Malkovich Read Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” Set to Music Mixed by Ric Ocasek, Yoko Ono & Sean Lennon, OMD & More

So, imag­ine that you’re John Malkovich. I know, you’ve seen this movie before, but hear me out: you’re one of the most ven­er­at­ed actors of your gen­er­a­tion. You are enter­ing your sixth decade and could prob­a­bly coast into your gold­en years on acco­lades and pres­tige parts. But do you rest on your lau­rels? Or do you become a mod­el and col­lab­o­ra­tor with pho­tog­ra­ph­er San­dro Miller, appear in an Eminem video… read Plato’s “Alle­go­ry of the Cave” over an ambi­ent piece of music called “Cryo­ge­nia X,” then have the results remixed by Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, Ric Ocasek, new wave icons Orches­tral Maneu­vers in the Dark, and oth­er musi­cal leg­ends?

The answer is all of the above. You’re John Malkovich. You can do what­ev­er you want. “When I have an idea for some­thing,” says Malkovich, “I expect my col­lab­o­ra­tors to col­lab­o­rate on that idea and if some­one else has an idea, then I’ll cer­tain­ly col­lab­o­rate with them.” It’s that kind of dis­ci­plined, yet genial flex­i­bil­i­ty that made Malkovich per­fect for the role of him­self in Spike Jonze’s sur­re­al com­e­dy. Now the last of the projects in that extracur­ric­u­lar list above brings more sur­re­al­i­ty into Malkovich’s reper­toire, in the form of a dou­ble LP’s‑worth of dream­like recita­tions of Pla­to’s clas­si­cal myth, called Like a Pup­pet Show, released on Black Fri­day of last year.

With orig­i­nal music com­posed by Eric Alexan­drakis, the album came out on vinyl as a 2 LP pic­ture disk fea­tur­ing pho­tos from Malkovich and Miller’s pho­to project “Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich.” The col­lab­o­ra­tion recalls oth­er lit­er­ary musi­cal projects, such as Kurt Cobain and William S. Bur­roughs’ “The Priest They Called Him” (and Bur­roughs’ ear­li­er work with Throb­bing Gris­tle),  as well as a recent joint project on Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, with Iggy Pop and elec­tron­ic com­pos­er Alva Noto. But there’s also a dis­ori­ent­ing strange­ness here those oth­er exper­i­ments lack.

Ono and Lennon’s ver­sion “Cry­olife 7:14,” the sec­ond track above, is, odd­ly, the most con­ven­tion­al of the three dig­i­tal uploads we get to hear for free. Malkovich reads a por­tion of the text straight through, over word­less moans from Yoko and psy­che­del­ic lounge music from Lennon. In OMD and Ric Ocasek’s ren­di­tions, how­ev­er, Malkovich’s voice gets cut-up into a series of dis­joint­ed sam­ples. Rather than tell a story—that ancient 2,500-year-old sto­ry from Plato’s Repub­lic about igno­rance and awakening—these pieces sug­gest painful pos­es, emo­tion­al shocks, repet­i­tive con­di­tions, and weird onto­log­i­cal angles. What does it all mean for Malkovich?

It’s hard to say. He’s more steeped in process than inter­pre­ta­tion. “Music,” says Malkovich, “cre­ates its own kind of dream state.” If there’s any polit­i­cal sub­text, you’ll have to sup­ply it your­self. Malkovich—who game­ly dressed as Che Gue­vara in one of his San­dro Miller recre­ations of famous pho­tographs—has also been described as “so Right-wing you have to won­der if he’s kid­ding.” We know, of course, how Yoko feels about things. It’s part of what makes the col­lab­o­ra­tion so fresh and compelling—it doesn’t feel like one of those “of course these peo­ple got togeth­er” projects that, while sat­is­fy­ing, can suf­fer the fate of the super­group: too many cooks.

Here, each collaborator—the 2,000-years-dead philoso­pher, the cel­e­brat­ed actor and pho­tog­ra­ph­er, and the leg­endary musicians—comes from such a dif­fer­ent realm of expe­ri­ence and tal­ent that their meet­ing seems more like a moun­tain­top con­fer­ence of wiz­ards than a celebri­ty jam ses­sion. If you like what you hear (and see), Malkovich, Alexan­drakis, and Miller promise more. They’ve found­ed a record label, Cryo­ge­nia, and plant to release more musical/photographic projects in the near future.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear John Malkovich Read From Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons, Then Hear Kurt Von­negut Do the Same

Plato’s Cave Alle­go­ry Ani­mat­ed Mon­ty Python-Style

Two Ani­ma­tions of Plato’s Alle­go­ry of the Cave: One Nar­rat­ed by Orson Welles, Anoth­er Made with Clay

Orson Welles Nar­rates Plato’s Cave Alle­go­ry, Kafka’s Para­ble, and Free­dom Riv­er

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (2) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (2)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.