11 March 2017

Higher Than the Rainbow, 1986

The film that made me want to be a boy soprano, be good at high jump, and travel to wonderful places...





4 March 2017

Schlieren Optics

Well this sure looks interesting...

'the visualisation of the flow of fluids of varying density...'


2 March 2017

Blinded by sight



The BFI did a Jordan Belson retrospective this Tuesday, screening around a dozen of his films after a brief talk by Center for Visual Music curator and director Cindy Keefer, who explained some details of the time-consuming and expensive process that is still ongoing in the restoration of Belson's work.

Having watched fewer films than the average person during my life, I find myself very easily overwhelmed in the cinema. Almost anything can send me over the edge -- I hesitate to watch anything with even an age-rating of 15. But what shocked me with regard to Jordan Belson's films was of course not violent or explicit content, but rather the sheer vividness of the whole experience. The worlds he creates are liminal to the extreme; they seem to be forever shifting between spaces, between boundaries of colour, form, light.. These worlds are  at times three-dimensional, but these three dimensions are such that one can never quite understand one's location within them. They're almost like that vertiginous and uncanny world of illness; space shifts incessantly and colour seems almost invasive.

What shocked me above all, though, was the sensation that what I saw had a layer behind it, and another layer behind that -- an endless sequence of layers which are all visible through each other. This happens in Allures, Music of the Spheres and Samadhi, a film which is inspired by the concept of Buddhist meditation

That, and the sensation that scale in Belson's films frequently moves from the macrocosmic to the microscopic; in Allures,  a majestic and ostensibly extra-terrestrial object morphs into the figure of an atom, as Belson pushes forcefully at the limits of what the human eye can see -- nothing is too vast, or too minute, for representation. 

Outer space and the atom have already been seen by human eyes, and indeed Belson's work cannot and should not be limited to its link with 'the world out there' : rather its originality and singularity lie in his unprecedented visualisation of internal and psychological worlds teeming with lucid abstractions that surprise, shock, and revitalise. His films may be creations as powerful as the microscope and the telescope; they blind with newly-discovered sight.





23 February 2017

Ian Curtis' French counterpart?

I wouldn't say they're doubles, but there's definitely a resemblance there.


Ian Curtis

   

  François Leterrier in A Man Escaped (1956)
     

19 February 2017

'She doesn't want to be a man or a woman -- she wants to be your love.'


Unknown Mortal Orchestra -- Multi-Love
It's really bizarre. I stumbled across this song and it was love at first listen, even though it reminds me at times of things I usually dislike -- for example that melody which first happens at 0:32 reminds me somewhat of Russian 'popsa' (mainstream pop). I know it's just a stylistic/contextual thing, but it's an association I cannot for the life of me undo. 

But this song is still exceptional in some strange way -- the way it sounds like pop but through a lens of humility and some sort of deep-seated tragedy, the way the visuals move through a kind of vertiginous mise en abyme universe which is narrow but also infinite... The way in which it ends with that echoing and pitchy dulcimer sound, which slips through major and minor like a perpetually tossing ocean doomed to eternal restlessness.


And that relatable lyric --  'She don't want to be a man or a woman --she wants to be your love.' ...

15 February 2017

Georges Méliès

As Antoine de Saint Exupéry notes with wry humour in The Little Prince, 'grown-ups like numbers.' He is right of course, but sometimes numbers  really are awe-inspiring.


Georges Méliès made OVER 500 films during his lifetime, of which, sadly, only around 200 are extant. He himself destroyed a large body of his own work, and other films were either lost to the ravages of time or destroyed during the First World War.


Méliès' life was at every turn full of setbacks, of which the most major was his contract with Pathé films, which ended up destroying his production career. The contract stipulated that Pathé would have the right to edit and distribute Méliès' films. He was forced to break the contract in 1913, and was by then extremely indebted to the company -- so much so that he had no solution but to stop making films. He became a sweet and toy salesman and made just enough to sustain himself -- the enormous amount of critical acclaim that he had gained over years of hard work in the industry failed to translate into material aid.

Méliès revolutionised filmmaking and special effects -- in The One-Man Band (L'Homme Orchestre), he  created dozens of multiples of himself playing different instruments; in Bluebeard (Barbe Bleue), the keys from Bluebeard's rooms danced demonically; in Le Papillon Fantastique, a woman appears out of nowhere and is entrapped in a moving spider's web.





His films incorporate effects in a way which never looks dated,and one of the most bizarre aspects of his work is that it always seems to sit between genres and media. He brought his interest in magic tricks and theatre into his films and as a consequence it is difficult to say if we are watching a theatrical version of cinema or a kind of filmic theatre.

At the same time, some of  Méliès' films have almost scientific concerns -- A Trip to the Moon and The Astronomer's Dream extend the theatrical beyond time and space and are at the same time fraught with the anxiety that human capacity for innovation may be annihilated in the search of arrogant self-affirmation -- do we want other scientific, imaginary, or spiritual worlds because we can impose ourselves on them, or do we want them to appreciate their truth and beauty? 

Ultimately,  Méliès worlds burst through historical and geographical boundaries with uncanny life, striking us anew over a century after their production. And their capacity to transcend such boundaries is likely to extend for  centuries to come.






12 February 2017

Go pianissimo into that good night


There's something about slightly out-of-pitch lo-fi pianos that will pull my heartstrings probably till the day I die (and maybe after that, who knows?)

Probably because it reminds me of that poor on-its-deathbed piano at my school which, in its defence, really knew how to give a lot when it was loved and treated with respect.

I was hardly expecting to find a song like this one in Noah Lennox's repertoire, having only been familiar with his  electronic sample-based Person Pitch work up till now (which also took hold of me and never let go) and I've been unaware of his acoustic past. But it's all perfect.

And there's not much left to say about Broadcast, except that retrospectively 'I Found the End' just accrued more and more tragic meaning...