Re: default silence versus intended silence

From: David Woods (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Oct 29 2009 - 17:17:00 PDT

I've held-off the one thing I felt like adding to this strand. It seemed of little consequence, or too personal.

But it has kept coming back, demanding to escape, seemingly at last, into a possible new set of incarnations.
Then, reading the story of the Danish mental hospital dredging-up material which reifies the original lost form of a masterpiece, with its own perhaps obvious metaphorical readings, I again felt my story was too slight to submit.

But, with little reticence, I submitted to the story's urge and submit it now.

It's 1960. Yes, it's 50 years ago. I'm in my first year of statistical ecology research, working on sand dunes on Anglesey in North Wales. My wife had fairly recently "run-off" with a friend, a Scottish bryologist. He loved moss. I am living in a cottage high above the Menai Straits, the untrustworthy stretch of sea which separates the Island of Mon from the North Welsh mainland. On a clear day one could see Paris Mountain near Holyhead, some 40 miles to the west. Further west, Ireland was too far away to be seen, and the start of the "troubles" was a decade away.

An Irish salt marsh ecologist had come to share my cottage and he had told me about MISE √ČIRE (I am Ireland) and SAOIRSE? (Freedom?). He wondered if I might rent them in the upcoming programme of the Film Society which I ran. I was already rather divided between science and film, but this was 1960 and there were no film schools in the UK and British film was hardly what I wanted to engage with despite the recent flowering of somewhat interesting titles. The film union denied access to anyone not related to existing members .. a truly closed shop.

My film society was highly popular, drawing regular audiences of 250 and more, filling the "New Physics Lecture Theatre". The Society owned two Bell and Howell 8604's (or something like that) with a change-over mechanism. We paid the Botany technicians who supplemented their modest salaries with projection duties. There was ONE television on the campus, in a rather drab student lounge frequented by a rag-tag bunch of lay-abouts. 1960 was the year BBC broke with tradition and allowed a feature film to be shown on its channel. It was a Bergman. Halls of residence were gender segregated.

"My" film society ran a film for one evening each week. I programmed the films, most programmes with at least one short. I picked-up the prints at the (train station), designed and had the posters printed, stuck-up the posters all over the campus, and, most importantly (I felt) gave each film a short introduction This I enjoyed doing. From it I learned something about managing an audience which fed into my subsequent lecturing style for decades...for better or for worse.

I knew little or nothing of Irish history, had little or no understanding of British Imperialism. I was not alone. Where I was possibly alone was in the idea that MISE √ČIRE (and possibly SAOIRSE? - although right now I'm not sure we screened both.) would be an engaging experience for a British audience in 1960. The sound track was entirely in the Irish language, and the distributor, Gael Linn, the Irish language and cultural organisation, clearly intreagued that a British film society wanted to show the film, suggested that, as no-one would be likely to understand Gaelic, it would be better if we ran the film silent. Given that the material was characterized by extended newsreel-type silent shots of funerals, the film, for some, was a hard watch. The audience stuck it to the end (nearly an hour and a half I think) and many said it was a strangely moving experience - as it was for me, because we were forced to watch the slow and remorseless progress of huge crowds !
 and funeral processions which seemed to make visible the history and soul of Ireland. The shots were almost entirely wide angle, so individual humans were reduced to tiny token marks on the screen. The high-contrast, glistening record, unmediated by any interpretation (that the writer / director had decided was appropriate) threw us into the position of the archivist looking at a record, free to sink into the material and trawl one's own responses undistorted by another's interpretation. It was perhaps the first time that I and many of us had been able to look at film footage as material, and of all the films I programmed in those years MISE EIRA has stayed with me, like Bruce Conner's REPORT, Stan Brakhage's WINDOW WATER BABY MOVING and George Franju's LE SANG DES BETES..(yes this last has a track, I know) and Gemmeker's MY WESTERBORK (my title).. but you won't know this one. (Perhaps I WILL make my "GEMMEKER, RESNAIS and ME" film yet.)

So there you have it - yet another glimpse of the power of film by image alone to engage with human consciousness in a mode of pristine penetration.

This has been an occasional interjection from East Yorkshire, home of The Holcus Effect.


-----Original Message-----
From: Experimental Film Discussion List [mailto:email suppressed] On Behalf Of C Keefer
Sent: 28 October 2009 20:38
To: email suppressed
Subject: Re: default silence versus intended silence

Oskar Fischinger's masterpiece Radio Dynamics (1942) was made intentionally silent, in fact a head title states explicitly: Please No Music Experiment in Color Rhythm

Cindy Keefer
Center for Visual Music

Fischinger Research Pages:

btw those in NY can see a new 35mm print of this film in our film series accompanying the Guggenheim's Kandinsky exhibition. Selected Fridays.
This film is also available on our Fischinger DVD.

-----Original Message-----
Wed, 28 Oct 2009 11:55:20 -0600
Gene Youngblood <email suppressed>
Re: default silence versus intended silence
Re: default silence versus intended silence Unless history shows
otherwise, I always assumed it was Brakhage. That is, having the option
of a synchronous soundtrack and deliberately not using it. Bunuel did it
in parts of L'age d'Or, and if we get into that there are probably
numerous examples.


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

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