Thursday, September 11, 2008

In The Wake of the Beatles 9/9/08

The first film we screened today in class was In the Wake by A. Curtis. This film consisted of found footage with animated text scratched into the emulsion of the film. Because this is a scratch film, it leaned on the short side, but for the tone and feel of the piece it was ideal. The words appeared as if they were scratched and then written over with some sort of marker or paint. It is unclear what specifically he used to achieve this effect. The words, originally written by James Joyce, supplimented the images upon which they were scratched. As far as scratch films go, this was not my favorite... it was somewhat like the hiaku of scratchfilmland; short, poingnant free, and over almost as soon as it starts.

Next we screened a series of films by Harry Smith. These consisted of animated geometric design and collage, depending on the film. Because all of the films have a Beatles song as it's soundtrack, all of them had the same feel for me. It seems as if he used a variety of techniques, from handpainting to live action shapes moving, to computer assisted image generation. Very entertaining, but little higher meaning or substance. Im sure all of these were very time consuming to complete.


Brian swenson said...

we screened three films in class on tuesday.
1) in the wake- A. Curtis 1992
- Aerial shots
-scratching was super clean/clear and some of it was scratched then drawn over
2) Early Abstractions-Harry smith
-some of it looks like it was baked in an oven or heated and i think this due to the cracky emulsion
-looks amoebic and parasitic at times
-regardless of music all of it is edited to a silent rythym
-colored squares were my favorite part visually, the rotating rings were sick!
-it was almost like watching a hallucination, possibly due to some superimposed scratches on top of squares and circles

3)Abrasions- Joel S.
-made his own sound which was super cool
-mostly vertical lines
-lots of white and black frames that left me with a very clean cut afterimage.

jeanli said...

Well JayTee, I think you've touched on a larger discussion here, around this idea of higher meaning and substance. Maybe Harry Smith's looking for 'the beat behind the beat', as Missy Elliot would say?

jeanli said...

hi brian, that's a good comment re: music--'edited to a silent rhythm', I like that and of course it is true, or maybe we can call it an inner rhythm or a private not sure about the heating part in terms of the techniques, in the handout I believe he talks about his various methods, like using sticker dots to preserve one layer of color while he worked on another, and built up teh superimpostions etc. Good observations.

Jay Tee said...


I agree with you completely. I think that Smith's work shows a definite silent musical score with the images presented. Therefore I would have loved to see these films without the soundtrack. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love the beatles, but I think what Smith is driving at here is so much bigger than just a visualy pleasing music video of sorts, and unfortunately I think the Beatles mask this.

jeanli said...

Agreed. Smith was something of a trickster when it came to the musical aspect of his films--apparently he also played Thelonius Monk's Misterioso to many of his films, and was known to work on films in the back of the club when Monk was playing...anyway there is an ongoing debate about this subject, perhaps never to be solved...anyway the fact of the film's inner rhythm as the irresistable force (against the immovable object of the Beatles?) cannot be denied! viva la....