« Previous | Main | Next »

It Felt Like a Kiss - The Film

Post categories:

Adam Curtis | 12:04 UK time, Friday, 24 July 2009

This is the whole of the experimental film, It Felt Like a Kiss. It was the basis of the show I did in Manchester with Punchdrunk. The show may well come to London - but probably not till the end of the year. If you think you might want to go to the show, then you might not want to watch the film. Or you might.

The film has now been taken down


  • Comment number 1.

    amazing, can't wait to see this! so glad it hasn't been delayed for the london show.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ah, the benefits of working from home! Early finish, and get to watch this..just waiting for the music list and then some downloading to be done!

  • Comment number 3.

    Who's the dead broad at 12:08?

    And 48:53?

  • Comment number 4.

    The film is brilliant, parts of the show make a lot more sense having watched it...some excellent and unique footage in there, as well as a great soundtrack..in short, awesome..

  • Comment number 5.

    I regard everything I've ever seen from Adam Curtis as a "must-see". This is no exception. I do hope my friends in the US can watch this.

  • Comment number 6.

    Does anyone have any idea as to when the list of music is going up? I'm knocking together a Spotify playlist at the mo..

  • Comment number 7.

    Just breathtaking. The closest thing to actual visual poetry that Curtis has ever created.

    I did miss the reassuringly dry tone of his voice, but I guess that was an essential abscence to focus the piece more on the cumulative mood of dread and fear than anything else.

  • Comment number 8.

    The dead lady in the car - is she 'someone'? Or am I being cued to think about J. G. Ballard? This is all very impressive.

    (It's also nice to see the return of the Pandora's Box lady - damned if I can remember what she was meant to be advertising.)

  • Comment number 9.

    Oh, and Lynette Fromme - can't forget Squeaky, that's a lovely little cameo.

    If there's a single criticism it's that the film feels too short - it all ends so abruptly. Thank you so much Mr. Curtis.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Briantist you are giving too much away!

  • Comment number 12.

    This is a brilliant film, I can't wait to see it when it comes to London.

  • Comment number 13.

    Loftus Lee: Sorry, I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Apologies.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It_Felt_Like_A_Kiss still relevant.

  • Comment number 14.

    Why UK only? :( Am a big Adam C fan but can't watch the film.

  • Comment number 15.

    copyright issues unfortunately..im sure it will appear in torrent form soon

  • Comment number 16.

    Fantastic. Can you put up a list of the archive clips and music? I'd love to know how much it costs to buy the rights for all the clips. For this at least, the licence fee is worth it.
    Who was the CIA clandestine system designer who shot himself? With all the CIA namechecks, thought you might have put in that the bogeyman himself, bin Laden, was a CIA asset in Afghanistan.

  • Comment number 17.

    Just a question for the moderator. Any idea if the film will be available to watch on the website outside the UK?

  • Comment number 18.

    I found this new Adam Curtis work incredibly disappointing. Unlike with all Curtis's previous works I did not learn anything new of significance. This was essentially a series of now bland a clichéd info-bites such as that the CIA tried to kill Castro with an exploding cigar, Rock Hudson was Gay, and Sadam Hussein was backed by America. If any of this was news to you you must have been hiding under a rock for the past 20 years. There where a few interesting titbits such as a Sadam Hussein propaganda film that glorified his roll in Bathist take over of Iraq being edited by Terence Young the director of a couple of the James Bond movies but so what? There was also some good archive clips such as a Vietnam vet confessing to American war crimes but this film had nothing of great interest to say other than that the utopian vision America presented of itself in the post-war years wasn't all it seemed and that America's covert foreign policy saw the CIA get up no good but this is hardly front page news. While a shorter version of this film was shown as part of an installation at the recent Manchester International Festival, and that as a visceral experience it may have worked entirely differently in that context, Curtis has specifically chosen to release (and re-cut) this version online and it fails completely to live up too previous works such as The Power of Nightmares, The Trap and, his most important work, the amazing The Century of the Self. All of these are widely available online and in providing socio-political histories of the 20th century they allow us to see just how we got to where we are today. The original Reithian remit of the BBC was to educate, inform and entertain: these three works do this.

  • Comment number 19.

    Very impressive, but strangely unsatisfying. Too many unsubstantiated claims and statements, though I dare say it was the 'effect' that was of prime importance. Nonetheless the basic 'truth' that the west has lied, cheated and generally connived to impose its own values on the world in order to achieve primacy, whatever the cost to anyone who was percieved to be in the way, or indeed to its own people, needs to be brought out in the open and acknowledged. The problem is that it just fuels the prejudices of those who see conspiracies everywhere. WE are the conspirators. All of us who just allowed it all to happen, seeing only our own wellbeing as all that mattered. And now we are about to reap what we have sown. Such a pity that humankind is so weak, venal and small minded. It could have been paradise.

  • Comment number 20.

    Thoroughly enjoyed this, but would love to see it in context (in London!) before I can add any more. Although a great deal of the footage was familiar, there were some extraordinary sequences: Norman Mailer on the Twin Towers; the aforementioned G.I. etc. The music list (viewed as page source, was incomplete, but the last segue from Faust to Benjamin Britten made my day!)
    Thanks for putting this up!

  • Comment number 21.

    I thought that this film was outstanding. Yes it is a departure from Adam Curtis' previous works, but they were documentaries where the narrative was the main focus with the footage and soundtrack acting as reinforcement, which is of course what makes these works superior IMHO to contemporary documentaries. This was a different kind of film where the technique appears to have been reversed. There is still a narrative, but you have to work to step back and interpret what you are seeing rather than being spoon fed (it helps to view it more than once). The footage and soundtrack speak for themselves. I was very taken by the way everything within this film was interconnected. To my mind there were several intriguing themes. Such as the way that events which take place in faraway places over time can develop and impact upon people elsewhere. Whilst Rock Hudson was being forced to present an image which was against his real nature, far away in the Congo his future nemesis was already in motion, and he had no idea. Also there were actions taken by people and organisations which developed their own momentum and eventually came back to haunt the perpetrators. Such as the Hollywood violence symbolised by Bonanza, which led to the Manson Family (who went on to murder a Hollywood actress amongst others) and fixated the young OBL; and of course the CIA relationship with Saddam Hussein. There was also the attempt by some to impose control, such as Phil Specter over music (& the CIA over countries) which did not turn out the way they had hoped and drove the instigators to confusion & madness. I presume that the "GI" was the officer who presided over the My Lai massacre, being forced to admit that he lost control when confronted with allegations of rape, which he could not legitimise as part of a search & destroy mission. There were numerous other strands running through of course, but I'm quite sure viewers can see for themselves.
    But what I found really spooky was the room number 2001 in "Pillow Talk".

  • Comment number 22.

    A few of the comments above talk about how they have learnt as much from this work. I feel perhaps we are ment to interactive with it a little diffrently...For a start its been mentioned the music and pitures are driving with 'plot', with no voice over this is always the case.

    I just watched for the 2nd time and it stricks me that because this is on a 'web page' maybe you're ment to do our own leg work. I stopped the film at several points and did a little wikipeding about, Patrice Lumumba, the history of HIV, monks that burnt themselves and whatever else i saw but i did not really know much about. Its more of a stimulus for me; its a new form of film.

    Having been lucky enough to experice the live show as well i must admit that the some of the whiring sound effects started to send a chill down my spin as things came back to me.


  • Comment number 23.

    amazing compilation. had me on the edge of my seat gagging for more. I liked the titling although by the end I realised how much I had missed the voice-over. That got me questioning whether the text is more powerful, or less, than the spoken word in the dissemination of conjecture, rumour and gossip.

  • Comment number 24.

    "That got me questioning whether the text is more powerful, or less, than the spoken word in the dissemination of conjecture, rumour and gossip."

    You would be better off asking Rupert Murdoch that question. I'm quite sure he knows but he probably wouldn't tell you.

  • Comment number 25.

    This is America.

  • Comment number 26.

    American makes film about America using American film and TV clips - and it can't bee seen in America. Some hidden message?

  • Comment number 27.

    Apart from the fact Adam Curtis isnt American :)

  • Comment number 28.

    I agree with 18 Westlake72 and 19 OldDerbeian69 - Kiss is a bit of a self-parody - and the Rock Hudson/chimp connection didn't need to be spelt out (um, yes, got it, 3 secs in - no need to "remind" us - or was that a producer thinking: Well, they're all stupid aren't they - better spell it out) - ditto twin towers... cringeingly obvious, especially at the Dors/Doors/2001 end...

    And yet I now think this is AC's most disturbing, maybe even slightly unhinged clip-mincer yet. The bbc should get rid of EastTrauma, TopFool and Adrian Chiles (STOP looking at her body in that surreptitious sideways/downwards way...) and just give all their money to Mr Curtis to become a total megalomaniac.

  • Comment number 29.

    ..megalomaniac is I mean what we want - not a criticism. You just need 3 seconds looking at BB or eastenders to realise anyone with a brain should cherish this guy. Genius thing going on there, despite the very suspect dumbed-down editing in places.

  • Comment number 30.


    this may be a long shot, but would you consider bringing the "it felt like a kiss" production to berlin? Big fan of your work, hoping that others will get chance to experience this too

  • Comment number 31.

    Re PsyGeo,

    I suppose those barbs are aimed at me? Well I'm sorry you felt patronised but I'm not a producer and I was just pointing out what I PERSONALLY found interesting about this piece, I was not spelling it out for other people, who no doubt have their own equally legitimate interpretations. It's very impressive you got it within "um 3 seconds". You're very clever, okay, I get it, help yourself to a merit badge. I don't even know who you are, so calm down dear.

  • Comment number 32.

    P.S. PsyGeo.

    I also think that perhaps you have watched too many Adam Curtis documentaries, you sound a bit paranoid to me (producer indeed). I do agree with you though that we need more, but remember that simpletons like me need some dumbing down every now and then as we're not all sophisticates like you. Maybe that's why BB, Top gear and eastenders are more popular. Self parody is all very well, but perhaps not the best means of getting a message across for non-Oxbridgers.

  • Comment number 33.

    Its incredibly enjoyable; the editing, shot selection, use of music, is done with such panache. It doesn't have the weight of the 'early works' (which anyone who's too cool for school knows is always da best stuff) but that's probably not the point. Someone said it was AC's take on 'The Rock n' Roll Years' - it works perfectly if you watch it with that in mind. Or maybe this did it all better, hey Stu? https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1pv54_billy-joel-we-didnt-start-the-fire_music

  • Comment number 34.

    Personally, I felt that this was a really brilliant piece of filmmaking, and would love to see the full show if it ever does manage to come to London. I agree that there is considerably more substance in previous documentaries that have gone out under the Curtis imprint - for me, 'It Felt Like a Kiss' appears to be just a lesser rendering of concepts that were explored more extensively in 'Power of Nightmares' and 'The Trap'. But this isn't to deny that the film is a mesmerising experience, and the footage and soundtrack are excellently edited. I do agree that some of the running titles can seem a little sententious (or, at least, overly simplified), but then again, for the mass public, many of whom are not going to be able to identify what is significant about seeing footage of H. Rap Brown, Lynette Fromme, Angela Davis, Krushchev, Mobutu, Warhol, Norman Mailer etc., some of this material does probably need to be spelt out. The significance of the era to contemporary concerns is certainly persuasively presented, though I would agree that someone well grounded in awareness of the history of the times might not find anything exactly *new* about the revelations/allegations - still, the cumulative effect of the central arguments is genuinely thought provoking, though I suspect to find this you have to read between the lines; aspects such as the notion that the US, recoiling in horror at the excesses to which it had been brought in the 1940's, actively thereafter attempted to remake the world in a 'safe' image, to ensure that its citizenry would be cushioned from the horror of realpolitik; or that this increasing emphasis on capitalist safety, surburban comfort and conformity led to a concomitant mass rise in psychoses and psychopathies (whether because of genuine repression of expression or because of increasing use of diagnostic evalution to enforce a 'normative' conformity I'm not sure) and so on. These aspects of the production's message (which have been more extensively examined in other earlier works) seem to me ultimately more rewarding than vague recognitions that there is an odd synchronicity between the fact that Bin Laden's father worked on building projects symbolising American embourgeoisement; that Rock Hudson died of AIDS or that the Manson Family happened to build a commune on the old Bonanza set, though maybe the recognition of the linkages is important, too.

    As to the film footage questions: I assume you are right to say that 'Vietnam vet' being interviewed is discussing My Lai - I assume this is, in fact, Lt. Calley, who was in charge of the team responsible for the massacre. I assumed that the dead woman in the car in the early sequences from the late 50's was Grace Kelly, but I could be wrong (actually, thinking about it, I'm surprised there weren't more Hitchcock references in the film ; his work seems appropriate to its themes).

  • Comment number 35.

    Thought provoking and enjoyable, if sometimes in a disturbing way.

    I'll always prefer Adam's BBC film series, the spare, precise narration (that reminds me of Curtis's 1960's heir, Peter Watkins of Collouden and The War Game), the often revealing interviews.

    But as a project I found this latest film an interesting departure.

    As a template for all subsequent work? I'm not so sure.

    I don't always agree with some of the points Curtis alludes to in his work, but always am informed, entertained and take a lot from them.

  • Comment number 36.

    I experienced the show in Manchester and wrote a review on the BBC News website. There are no spoilers beyond what's mentioned in the official Manchester International Festival booklet.

    Review: It Felt Like A Kiss

  • Comment number 37.

    Dear Mr Curtis, I recently watched "Century of the Self" and found it fascinating. Just wondering whether it is available in other languages? It would be great if more people get to watch it.

    Sorry I'm posting this here, I tried but cannot find your contact details. The blog seems to be the only way I can reach you.


  • Comment number 38.

    Okay, very impressive experiment. It works, but the message isn't clear at all. A kiss of Bitterness, Bin Laden, CIA, AIDS, the Beach Boys, little girls and apes mixed together. The "innocent' good times are over. Right. It almost evokes the idea of a conspiracy by connecting irrelevant and in themselves meaningless events to big politics and reinforcing this connection by juxtaposing individual life (micro) with historic events and 'big' politics (macro).

    I love that its possible to create a cinematic experience without touching a camera or even leaving the building (except stop-motion or computer animation of course). Great job researching the wonderful footage and backgrounds such as that the Manson family stayed at the Bonanza set is great. Synchronicity. The "story" is powerful, the collage effective and imagery very memorable. I think because the arrangement is so ambiguous and the commentary, while concrete still open ended, each of us sees his or her 'own' film, creates an individual narrative that doesn't necessarily have much to do with Adam's. (Much like Mettler's "gambling, gods and lsd" where the viewer does the 'work' of giving meaning to the flood of images and quotes.) So what now? I think the material is there it just needs to be woven together to be more explicit. I'm not sure btw that all the gruesome footage is necessary such as the people on fire. But then again ... it works, its still with me. I like it, its impressive - but the material could be 'more'.

  • Comment number 39.

    Actually the best thing I hve ever seen. Gutted I missed it in Manchester. Will make it to London though!

  • Comment number 40.

    I was hoping that someone can direct me to where i can see 'it felt like a kiss', by Adam Curtis. It has been taken down?

  • Comment number 41.

    Shame it's not up any more.

  • Comment number 42.

    Where has this video gone?? We watched it just the other night. Bring it back please!

  • Comment number 43.

    Excellent film. Rather liked the music as well.

    Kind of reminded of Theatre of Hate and the Antonin Artaud's Theatre of Cruelty.

    Excellent clip on you Tube here:


    Adam/Lucy - nice to see someone flying the flag in this day and age.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hello everyone. My name is Shade. For years Adam Curtis' films have kept me sane living in the United States. I am currently trying to build a worldwide movement in support of the uc strikes and a hundred other struggles around the world. Right now on my webstream i am showing adam's films to americans who wouldn't get to see them otherwise.

    Please see my note on my motivations.


    This was live 30 minutes ago:


    Right now its pandoras box.

    I would like to teach anyone who comes and blogs with me how to vj live to do fundraising or many other applications.


  • Comment number 45.

    Currently showing


    Everyone who loves adam curtis and wants to let the whole world see this amazing docs please help me spread this link to the world.


  • Comment number 46.

    shade remelin,

    Do you have the entire film It Felt Like A Kiss by Adam Curtis? I can only see excerpts.

    Please allow us who live outside the UK to view this film.

  • Comment number 47.

    Hello Adam,

    I am guessing you have violated some of the music and tv copyright terms as I am having difficulty finding 'It Felt Like a Kiss'.

    Too bad really. I think it should find a greater audience.

    The iron-curtain of regulation has begun to crash down on the internet and the powers that be are consolidating their fictional resources as if they are limited. I have to do a special dance just to watch some of the content coming from the U.S. If I ever believed freedom was real - I would say we are losing it... again.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.