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Entries in film (12)


John Stezaker on collage

In this lull while On Site reivew 31: mapping | photography is being printed, forgive me if I am over-enthusiastic about Gestalten, a Berlin publisher of all things architecture and design, which I have just discovered.  There is, which these videos come from, there are stores, there are fonts, there is much to look at and think about. 

This is an interview with John Stezaker on collage, which he sees as a subtraction of material rather than the building up of material usually attributed to it.  And he comments on the sheer weight of images we live under, that the bombardment of images reveals an 'unconscious mythology' made evident.  He works in film - this excerpt opens with a bit of one. 

I've always thought in Stezaker's work there was more than a passing reference to the German collagists of the 1930s and 40s – Hannah Hoch for example, especially in Stezaker's use of images from that era, reassembled in an eery grotesque, but when he speaks about it, you get a different sense, of someone who is working almost as a photographer capturing moments where the scene suddenly assembles itself and speaks.


John Stezaker—Resonating Nostalgic Lyricism from Gestalten on Vimeo.


Fritz Haeg: Animal Estates, Rotterdam

This comes by way of Chloë Roubert.  It is 29 minutes, a series of still camera placements of the industrial landscape of Rotterdam – many look like stills until something moves and one realises one has been watching a film.  The voice-over and subtitles are dry readings from what sounds like a business report on wildlife in the port area.  It is a perfect example of how to pull out all the emotional manipulation connected to environmental issues to present something so flat, so plain, that it is completely rivetting.   

Fritz Haeg's Animal Estates, nine so far, acknowledge the animals that live in urban and industrial environments with the ultimate goal of making these environments more accommodating for them. 

ANIMAL ESTATES 9.0 van Fritz Haeg from DWARSBOOM STUDIO on Vimeo.



Stan Barstow

Stan Barstow, 1928-2011. author

I came across this photo of Stan Barstow  whilst tracking down something else.  Looking like a young Orwell, he actually was the author of A Kind of Loving, published in 1960.  He was born in 1928, thus the officer's moustache which he was too young to qualify for.  This is, perhaps, one of the things that made that generation angry.  They couldn't help being born in 1928 and so being only 17 when WWII ended – they'd missed it all.  And angry they were, John Osborne, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe, Britain's 'angry young men' writing in the late 1950s, gritty portrayals of postwar northern urban life that cracked the tin ceiling of the working class.  

I'd read these books, because my father was a librarian and they were all around the house, and then in the early 1960s they were all made into films – black and white, wonderfully bleak, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Room at the Top, A Taste of Honey – all seen in grade 8 or 9 at the Capitol Theatre in Nanaimo.  I fell for it all like a ton of bricks, as they say.  Profoundly passionate, hopelessly romantic within the tough strictures of working class morés; clearly I wasn't reading Virginia Woolf – that came in grade 10, nonetheless I absorbed it all, as a 14 year-old will do.  It didn't have anything to do with a life in Canada, but that's the thing about reading books, one is transported. Completely.

Thinking of re-reading Barstow, I find the Calgary Public Library which lauds itself for being the most active in the country, has none of his books. 


Adrian Utley: Croft Castle, Sonic Journey

John Minton, filmmaker. Adrian Utley, composer. Sonic Journey, Croft Castely, Herefordshire, 2012.

The National Trust in Britain has commissioned a number of artists to do works about specific landscapes, both rural and urban.  Croft Castle has a number of ancient trees, including a thousand-year old oak, a triple chestnut avenue and 'mysterious ancient hawthorns', that magical tree. 

If you click on the image above, from the film, it will take you to the film and the soundtrack.  It is about 15 minutes long.  And if you just want to listen to the music, here it is:


Jane and Louise Wilson: the toxic camera

Jane and Louise Wilson / Whitworth Art Gallery Length: 3min 35sec Monday 22 October 201

From the Guardian site: 'British artists Jane and Louise Wilson's new film, The Toxic Camera, premieres at Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester in November. The work was commissioned to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, and was inspired by Vladimir Shevchenko's Chernobyl: A Chronicle of Difficult Weeks, made just days after the accident.'   Watch an excerpt here



Khirghizie Bishkek Cine, Russia. correction: Bishek, Kyrgyzstan. see the comments section,

So, things slow down a bit in the summer – not being very assiduous right now.

I love this building.  It is from a wonderful series of movie theatres posted by cinebxl on flickr.


Douglas Gordon: The End of Civilisation, 2012

The End of Civilisation is one of the True Spirit projects co-commissioned by Great North Run Culture, Locus+ and funded by Arts Council England for the Cultural Olympiad.  The site overlooks the Scotland-England border, in Cumbria.


Patrick Keiller's London, 1994

I've been waiting to see this again for years, since 1994 in fact:


Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow


Sophie Fiennes. Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, 2010Sophie Fiennes' Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow is a documentary about Anselm Kiefer's vast workshop, installation and landscape at Barjac which he worked in and on between 1993 and 2009.  It shows not just the scale of his work, but the violence with which the work is made: blowtorches, sliding concrete, molten lead, shattered glass, ashes treaded into enormous canvases which are slowly raised to vertical, the ash falls away from a charred forest.  Violence isn't the right word. Primitive industrial processes make the work: they are manual, physical and involve much breakage: of buildings, of materials, of ideas, of clarity.  Paintings emerge as pieces in just one of many stages of construction. 

Barjac was an abandoned silk factory, and has been abandoned again.  Evidently, from a Guardian interview with Fiennes, the film is near wordless – an interview with a German journalist, but otherwise, just Kiefer working.  From the clips on the Over Your Cities website, the film watches, the filmmaker's gaze is intense and calm.  Sophie Fiennes has made two documentaries with Slavov Žižek, which perhaps is why Kiefer appears deceptively un-theorised in Over Your Cities: there is no critical voice-over telling us how to consider his relationship to Germany and Naziism, to ideology and interpretation.  There is just the material experience of Kiefer making art.  The critical stance is in how the film presents Kiefer – a Lacanian position, knowing that the interpretation of the work is both inevitable and uncontrollable. 

Kiefer's project is enormous – it is the investigation and recovery of a German history that was suppressed for his generation.  For those born just after the war and living in reconstructed, prosperous, blithely a-historical West Germany where the war was blamed on the Nazis, not the Germans, just how consequential the historic narrative of German supremacy at the heart of national socialism had been led to the rejection of any kind of symbolism, national narrative or mythic structure.  Kiefer's work is about such things, while rejecting such things.  This gives it its confrontational duality, while its physicality is how Keifer speaks.


red desert 2

Monica Vitti and Richard Harris. Il deserto rosso. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964

This is a trailer (which I can't figure out how to embed here) with the boppy kind of soundtrack typical of 1960s Italy.  It is misleading, as Giovanni Fusco's Il deserto rosso soundtrack is generally abstract and electronic, but if anything, this overly kooky music is the part of pop-Italy that also produced bright little Olivetti typewriters, the Isetta and Ettore Sottsass.
Antonioni's early films are black and white 1950s epics of bleak betrayal, then he did the black, white and red Il deserto rosso, then got to England and did Blow-Up in full colour – lots of decadent fun: the Red Desert party in Ravenna looks like kindergarten in comparison, then Zabriskie Point in Los Angeles where colour and consumer excess literally exploded all over the screen.   Italy hurtled from postwar, Carlo Scarpa sobriety to jangling technicolour instability so fast it lost its head and replaced it with Berlusconi. 

Despite the bizarreness of this assemblage of segments, it has a shot of an industrial landscape (between 1:30 and 1:40 – even better watch it in full screen), illustrating why I find Burtynsky's photos of industrial landscapes so didactic, so condescendingly instructive.  


the Berlin Wall 2

the trailer for The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

This film came out in 1965.  The Berlin Wall had been up for only four years.  Clearly they weren't filming at the wall itself, it was actually shot in Dublin, however this film indelibly established the 'look' of the Cold War in the west for a generation: black and white, winter, rain, night, raincoats and absolute despair.  The wall was a space: a GDR-controlled zone that 5000 people successfully crossed between 1961 and 1989.  Officially, 171 were unsuccessful.  This view of the wall was the only one I was ever given, so the function of the segments of the wall that still stand as an instructive memorial to the partition of Germany and Berlin, gaily covered with not very good art, I find completely trivial. 

This film, and other films of the 1960s when the Cold War wasn't that cold – it was a state of high tension and fear – these are the best Cold War memorials.  John Le Carré's moral dilemmas, his cynicism, his inheritance from Orwell: these are the memorials. In a line from Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, through Orson Welles, the dark espionage genre of Le Carré, and Len Deighton, and then all the films made from the books: this source material shocks us into the 1960s again. 




Arcade Fire's Intervention cut to Sergei Eisenstien's Battle Ship Potemkin of 1925.  The original YouTube posting might have further information on this video for those who know how to read it.  I certainly don't.

When you look back at all the American pop songs of the 1960s especially, not protest songs, but just ordinary songs, it is remarkable how many refer to distant war, to waiting for someone to come home, to letters, to loss and dying.  At the time it all seemed just like boy/girl romance, partings and such.  But now I can see how embedded the Viet Nam War was in American popular culture. 

Arcade Fire's Intervention has as its repeating chorus line, Hear the soldier groan, 'We'll go at it alone'.  Of course being a soldier can be a metaphor for many things – general desperate struggle, and it might be so in this song.  However, soldiers are also real soldiers, and metaphoric or not, they must be embedded in our society now at some level to keep reappearing in contemporary song lyrics.