Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Other Side

Last night's sell-out performance for Flatpack Festival has put a semi-colon into the story of the show so far. A UK tour would be amazing, we'll have to see what we can do this year.
   It was a long day, but we were greatly assisted by both the venue staff and Flatpack crew, and the audience response seemed to be good. It's hard for us to tell, of course - we are working away in our hidden realm behind the film screen, and have to rely on others to gauge the reaction for us. I personally thought that the band could not have played better, and it was by far the most "complete" performance we have achieved. They might disagree!
      I managed to organize some documentation (in HD no less, which has a certain irony considering my insistence on lo-fi visuals), so in due course I will be putting together a multi-angle dvd of the show - with a behind-the-screen angle too! Here's a glimpse...

Copyright 2011 Film Ficciones/Pram

Monday, 21 March 2011

Show and Tell

Flatpack Festival have asked me to give them some films to screen during the Shadow Shows after-party this wednesday, so I've compiled a disc of eleven shorts - mostly old favourites of ours, or which you could say have in some way inspired our own collaboration:

AN ABSURD ENCOUNTER WITH FEAR  (1967, David Lynch   2mins)
Very early 16mm film experiment which you can only see as part of the mysterious extra disc on the Lynch 'Lime Green' box set. Already he's doing the funny/scary thing.
ART OF LOTTE REINIGER  (1970, John Isaacs   10mins)
Beautifully concise doc about the great grandmother of silhouette film.
A WALK ON MON  (1972, Derek Jarman   15mins)
Silent astronomical Super 8 visualisations which I believe would have been used at live shows.
BIRTH OF A BUILDING  (1960, BBC   14mins)
Short corporation doc about the construction of BBC TV Centre, with an amazing music concrete score by Radiophonic Workshop stalwarts.
THE DEVIL'S BALL  (1934, Ladislaw Starewicz   5mins)
Excerpt from the longer film 'Duffy' (or, 'The Mascot').
DREAM WORK  (2002, Peter Tscherkassky   11mins)
Austrian artist who uses existing 35mm film to construct trembling (and often quite hallucinatory) black and white light shows.
LA FEMME QUI SE POUDRE   (1972, Patrick Bokanowski   15mins)
A major (and somewhat undiscovered) experimental film maker, whose ideas and techniques crop up in all sorts of things. Very interesting score by his collaborator wife Michelle Bokanowski.
HOUSE OF CARDS  (1947, Joseph Vogel   16mins)
Austrian-born Vogel was a great artist and occasional documentary film maker. This brilliant piece of Deren-esque poetic surrealism was his only fiction film.
NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN  (1933, Alexieff and Parker   8mins)
One of the all-time great 'shadow' films, via the laborious 'pin screen' animation technique: a large board holds thousands of metal pins, and images are formed from their shadows by pushing them out at different lengths. 
URSULA  (1961, Lloyd M. Williams   11mins)
One of our very favourites - a perfectly realised gothic fairy tale (in saturated 16mm colour), one of a small handful of completed cine-experiments by this member of the New American Cinema Group. His films were thankfully preserved by Jonas Mekas.
WOLD SHADOW   (1972, Stan Brakhage   2.5mins)
A sublime two-and-a-half minutes of cine-magic. 

Apparently tickets are selling well for our performance, so if you plan to come and don't yet have one.....

Friday, 11 March 2011

Lotte Land

During our 2010 visit to Sigmaringen, we also had the chance to spend an afternoon in the university town of Tubingen , some 30 miles to the north. It would have been a worthwhile trip anyway, as the fascinating "old town" survived World War II intact (thanks to the absence of heavy industry in the region), and our guide Prof. Schweizer led us through the narrow streets with talk of artists and scholars including Hegel, Schelling and Herman Hesse. But we were in Tubingen for a reason: it was the last place that silhouette film maker Lotte Reiniger called home, and the town has a museum dedicated to her life and work.

   And some museum it was. The exhibition was stunningly presented on walls that were designed like a labyrinth of "lightboxes", opaque blocks with bright white interior illumination. One room provided materials to create your own cut-out figures, to be projected and photographed for an ongoing video installation - so myself and Prof. Schweizer engaged in a battle of scissors, snipping silhouette caricature heads of each other. You can see our efforts in the top photo - my version of the professor somehow resembles Kurt Vonnegut; his own brutal blade was quite cutting.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Like Clockwork

This is Stanley.
   A Bolex H16 RX 16mm film camera, the serial number tells me that the year of production in Switzerland was 1961, making this his fiftieth year of faultless spring-wound precision. Touch wood. An amazing gift I received about a year ago, he came with three lenses: a 16mm, 25mm and 75mm. (Right now, I'm experimenting with a super-wide Cosmicar 6mm CCTV lens - a number of forums suggest that a respectable image can be achieved with one.) So far, he hasn't seen service on live-action, but I've used him to shoot the stop-frame silhouette animation for Shadow Shows.
   Stanley has some interesting provenance: I'm told he was purchased from a woman named Nikita, who lives in the shadow of the pre-historic White Horse in Uffington, Berkshire. She's an animator (and now full-time mother) who contributed to the television programmes Spitting Image and Fireman Sam amongst others.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Wood Wind

As well as Pram's soundtrack score, utilizing a mixture of acoustic and electronic instruments, Shadow Shows also employs live sound effects. Amongst other devices from a bygone theatre age, the musicians have built this imposing, hand-cranked Wind Machine (also known as an Aeoliphone). It makes an appearance in a number of classical music pieces, as well as the soundtrack to the film The Blue Max by the great Jerry Goldsmith.

Image Copyright 2011 Laurence Hunt