Film @ International House, Philadelphia: Free Radical: The Films of Len Lye + Explosions into Colour: New Zealand Experimental Film 1980-84

From: Robert Cargni Mitchell (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Nov 30 2007 - 15:14:10 PST

Film @ International House
Saturday, December 15 at 7pm

Free Radical: The Films of Len Lye + Explosions into Colour: New Zealand Experimental Film 1980-84


Co-presented by The New Zealand Film Archive, The Len Lye Foundation and Anthology Film Archives and compiled by Roger Horrocks for the New Zealand Film Archive and The Len Lye Foundation.

A pioneer of "direct-to-film" animation, Len Lye was born in New Zealand in 1901. He moved to England in the 1920s and subsequently to New York in 1944 where he spent the last 40 years of his life. A pioneer of "scratch" or "direct" filmmaking, Lye used various tools to mark patterns, shapes and images directly onto the film's surface. In works such as Free Radicals, Lye explored the dynamic energy of abstract images propelled into life by lively jazz scores or Pacific-inspired rhythms. Several of Lye's films were made for clients including the British Government Post Office and the Chrysler Corporation. Despite their commercial nature, Lye tackled these projects with a playful sense of experiment, retaining his trademark study of dynamic motion.


Shortly before his death in 1980, Lye bequeathed his personal collection to the Lovett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand, where the Len Lye Foundation is based. Since then the New Zealand Film Archive and the Len Lye Foundation have worked together towards a complete catalogue of the artist's career.


Free Radical: The Films of Len Lye is a chronological survey of the artist's career from 1929's Tusalava to 1958's Free Radicals. The program is presented on 16mm film includes recently revised or restored versions of such Lye classics as Tal Farlow and Particles in Space. Free Radical:

The Films of Len Lye is 67 minutes in length.


Colour Flight


Tusalava, 1929, 10 mins; A Colour Box, 1935, 4 mins; Kaleidoscope, 1935,

4 mins; The Birth of a Robot, 1936, 7 mins; Rainbow Dance, 1936, 5 mins; Trade Tattoo, 1937, 5 mins; N. or N.W., 1937, 7 mins; Colour Flight, 1938,

4 mins; Swinging the Lambeth Walk, 1939, 4 mins; Musical Poster #1, 1940, 3 mins; Color Cry, 1952-3, 3 mins; Tal Farlow, 1950s, revised 1980, 2 mins; Rhythm, 1957, 1 min; Free Radicals, 1958, revised 1979, 4 mins; Particles in Space, 1957, revised 1979, 4 mins.


followed at 8:30pm by

Explosions into Colour: New Zealand Experimental Film



In the early 1980s, a generation of experimental film makers emerged in New Zealand steeped in cinematic values and a desire for radical experiment. Writing about his film Mouth Music, director Gregor Nicholas cited references "made in the spirit of affection and irony" to film makers including Carl Dreyer, Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol. There was also a strong element of psychodrama, and issues of race, politics and industrial culture were sometimes mixed with visions from the subconscious.



dir. City Group, New Zealand, 1978, 10 mins


City Group was an Auckland-based collective of artists and filmmakers that emerged in the early 80's making a number of radical non-narrative films. In Monkey, manipulated sounds accompany images of various characters being wrapped in cellophane, a Maori man hushing a Pakeha (European) in a police line-up and covering his eyes and ears to the sound of pigs and other farm noises. This scene is then racially inverted.



dir. City Group, New Zealand, 1981, 15 mins


Shot on Super 8, Springbok combines dance, symbolic figures of fascism and

a discordant soundtrack in an eerie and dark meditation on racial intolerance.


The Search for Otto

dir. Richard Von Sturmer, Charlotte Wrightson and Derek Ward, New Zealand, 1986, 15 mins


In The Search for Otto, a woman develops an obsession with a masculine figure from her dreams. Though never seen in real life, she is led to him by a series of strange environments. Throughout the film Otto remains elusive. He escapes into the imaginative world of an Egyptian landscape, but leaves behind a series of objects, a punching bag, an ashtray, an open book...


Mouth Music

dir. Gregor Nicholas, New Zealand, 1981, 15 mins


Mouth Music opens with a series of brilliantly lit talking heads, accompanied by music, followed by an abstract series of images: a body builder, a woman, a painter at work, a couple arguing. With the current interest in language, some are realizing that speech has been over-emphasized and the body neglected. With its emphasis on ritual, Mouth Music asserts gesture and movement as an important channel of meaning.


Tall Dwarfs' Turning Brown and Torn in Two

dir. Chris Knox, New Zealand, 1987, 4 mins


Many years before he had even seen it, filmmaker Chris Knox claimed that Tony Conrad's The Flicker was his most influential film. Inspired by the imagined strobe energy of The Flicker and the "direct to film" techniques of Len Lye, Knox mixes live action, collage, stop-motion and animation to create films that double as music videos. Knox cites Len Lye, Norman McLaren, Frank Mouris, Jan Svanmajer and Warner Brothers' cartoonists Tex Avery and Robert Clampett as influences. Tall Dwarfs' Turning Brown and Torn in Two was played on MTV's Beavis and Butthead.



dir. Gregor Nichola, New Zealand, 1983, 10 mins


Bodyspeak juxtaposes elaborate dances from different cultures (a Samoan ceremonial dance, a drum dance from the Cook Islands and a Tango). Notions

of sexual/cultural difference and prejudice are examined through techniques of cultural collision.



dir. Fetus Productions, New Zealand, 1985, 4 mins


Emerging in the late 1970s, Fetus Productions traversed music, art, experimental film and fashion, and played a key role in the development of international Industrial Culture. Fascinated with both urban and physical decay, Fetus' work often drew on grim subject matter from footage of an autopsy to victims of eugenics.


Free admission members above Internationalist level; $5 Internationalist members, students + seniors; $7 general admission.

In advance at <> and 866.468.7619 or 1/2 before showtime at the box office.

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.