August 15th, 2011

krazy koati

Give me a song

Further pieces from the Turner Classic Movies set: Unseen Cinema, an anthology of avant-garde pieces from the early days of movie-making through to about 1940. I admit there was a time I thought ``avant-garde movies'' meant ``movies you would never, ever watch voluntarily'', but a more accurate definition at least as this special means it would be ``movies that don't try to tell a story'', which covers a lot of territory.

Much of Fantasia comes in that category, for example, or the star-child sequences in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I always loved pieces like that and get irritable when people demand I tell them what the sequence means. Well, it means ``David Bowman experiences strange, sometimes-familiar events whose purpose eludes him and which leave him changed''; there's no point trying to identify The Meaning of every blinking light and spinning bipyramid. (For that matter, a lot of Tron could be regarded as avant-garde this way, as would the voyages through Vejur in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and through the black hole in The Black Hole.)

A number of the films show off things which have their own rhythm, particularly the cogs and gears and drive shafts of some large, complicated machinery that ... well, I suspect it doesn't actually do anything, but it is fascinating watching this at work for a long while. (orv would particularly like it, I think.)

Other bits included 1894's Annabell Dances and Dances, which you know though maybe not from that title: that's that Edison company film of the woman with the long flowing gowns twirling around that gets pulled out to prove there did too exist movies in the 19th century; some Busby Berkeley sequences; a bit from one Peer Gynt adaptation; and Ballet Mécanique, a mid-20s piece featuring all sorts of short clips of --- well, everything, really --- which apparently came originally with a score ``so radical it could not be performed'', according to the explanatory text which preceded it. The TCM presentation put an attempt at matching the score and it's ...

Well, look. Either you hated the Beatles' Revolution Nine or you liked it. Imagine that played out to twenty minutes, and the video to match. (For example, a mechanical alarm clock is a recurring motif, and there's video of things like a woman swinging seen upside-down, or a pendulum bob swinging in front of kaleidoscope opening, or repeated close-ups of 'The Whip' amusement park rides.) If you can imagine liking that, then watch this. If you can imagine that being torture you're really not the target audience. I liked it, anyway.

Trivia: Pisa was granted full independence as a commune by Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV in 1081. Source: Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa, Nicholas Shrady.

Currently Reading: Gil's All Fright Diner, A Lee Martinez.