Synopsis 97 – short film screening

On the 24th of October I ventured down to Coventry Artspace for an evening of short film screenings, an incredibly interesting experience where I was shown a diverse range of rarely screened avant-garde films from the past 50 years chosen by a local video artist and documentary maker, Alan Van Wijgerden:

“who over the last 3 decades has methodically recorded the political transformation in Coventry.”
as stated: 2012 -

Alan was able to give us a brief background and short analysis of many of the films, including what equipment the film was shot on whether it was super eight or 16mm and explained the significance of how a film is shot.

The films screened consisted of:

Lucifer Rising by Kenneth Anger, 1981: This was a highly experimental film, it left me completely confounded. The film is very visually pleasing, interesting and incredibly engaging – even though watching it for the first time I was not totally aware of what it was I was watching, I couldn’t look away. The colour codes were most enticing, predominantly focusing on the use of warm colours – oranges, reds etc reflecting the opening scene with the volcano – signifying of the elements, as well as passion, and danger, for example a male character throws a spear, penetrating a woman in a distant forest – the use of red/orange robes are using, a close up of his face lit up with red lighting and thick blood covering his body and face. I was curious to find out more about this film, and did much research into the meanings and symbolism. I found out that the majority of this film only makes sense to Anger himself:
Anger (about Chris Jagger – actor in the film): “he was supposed to play the high priest in my film, but he proved to be too difficult… I had to send him home because he kept asking ‘What does it mean?’ Everything had to mean something to him in his logical mind, and I told him it doesn’t matter what it means, that it matters to me, not to you… If I really wanted to continue with him, I could have made up some story… but the whole thing, the meaning is too complex and deep. Or simple, if you’re an initiate; it’s almost like a childish fairytale…”
This quote comes from the DVD commentary and I found it at a very useful site if you are interested in looking deeper into the meaning of the film.

The film began fairly methodically, shots of Egypt, sea-scapes, volcanos leading to what seemed to be an Egyptian goddess and a man carrying out a ritual, it then became very fragmented, and delved a lot deeper becoming more and more perplex when it finally ended with flying saucers which appeared above the ancient statues. This was very interesting as the Egyptians are heavily linked with flying saucers, as the ancient Egyptians are known to have drawn them coming to earth in 2,600 BC bringing a controversial aspect to the film.

Une Robe D’été, François Ozon, 1996: This was a French comedy film focusing on an eighteen year old boy, on holiday with his male lover. Luc meets a woman on the beach who bluntly asks for sex, to which Luc agrees. The film was comical, as well as shocking at times, the curiosity of why it is that this homosexual male decides to sleep with a woman he does not know – possibly out of his own curiosity, or lust, or just because he could. It was a very entertaining, light film which was easy to watch, and one of the shorter films at just 15 minutes. The film was very bright, reflecting the upbeat, positive atmosphere and i would recommend a watch.

William Raban, Thames Barrier, 1977: This was a very interesting film, defying the conventions of narrative completely, Todorov’s narrative theory becomes redundant for a film of this type. It included three cameras shooting on 16mm film, using split screen the majority of the shots were static shots of the Thames, sped up to cover a few days. Though the shots were interesting – I was not engaged for the full running length, and found myself losing interest near the end.

Klipperty Klopp, Andrew Kotting, 1984: This was another bizarre film shot on super eight. It follows a man, a man who takes his horse everywhere. The voice over acquires a very strong commoners cockney accent, typical of the punk-era (though this is post-punk). The voice over narrates over the black and white film, repeating much of what he says, describing a man – who he used to know, and what he remembers of him. The film follows a man who runs constantly, in a perfect figure of eight in a dreary looking field. The film is bewildering, and slightly manic. It does not completely make sense to me, but it doesn’t have to for it to work. It’s very enticing, though the footage is grainy, over exposed at times and fairly difficult to see on occasion. It uses non diegetic sound, in the form of orchestral pieces, adding to the ambience be it positive or negative – reflecting the mood perfectly.

Amelia and the Angel, Ken Russell, 1958: The oldest of the five films, it follows a nine year old girl who is part of a school play and has a dancing scene in which all girls wear angel wings. Young Amelia takes her wings home to show her mother (despite the fact the show is the same night) only for her brother to steal and break the wings. The story follows Amelia’s attempt in finding some new Angel wings in the city of London.

It is interesting to note that director Ken Russel had recently converted to Catholicism before making this film, which lead the narrative and becomes obvious through the plot as well as the codes and conventions. The film follows typical childhood thought processes – Amelia steals the angel wings to show her mother, despite the fact she would see them on stage that night. Also, when Amelia is climbing the stairs she sees a dress flying towards her – presuming it’s moving on its own, as does the audience through the clever use of the point of view shot, to find out a man is carrying it. These small events remind us of the sweet naivete of childhood, the simplistic degree to it, and how we put ourselves in problematic situations. Another thing I found interesting was that it was emphasised that there were “no more angel wings this side of heaven” – which seems true through the majority of the film, until the end where the painter climbs up a high ladder, with a background which consisted of painted on clouds – giving the impression that the man climbs up into heaven to retrieve the wings, accentuating Russell’s religious connotations and themes. I empathised well with the character, and found the film as light entertainment with comedic aspects. The film was black and white, with no diegetic sound – just non diegetic music in the background and an occasional voice over creating a story-like setting.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film night, the five films were bizarre, different and incredibly unique, well worth a watch!


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