Premiered at The Basement (Main Space) : Brighton Film Festival, 23rd November 2012
A self-indulgent tangle of verbotics on the event as I saw it:
Arrived at The Basement just before 8.30. Perfectly sussed – just a short walk up the Lanes from the car park behind St Peter’s. It’s almost certainly no coincidence that I turned off the radio five minutes before parking after listening to an absorbing interview with Eno on Scape. Intelligent music and funny noises.
Trendy young people everywhere, already spilling from the bars. Beards, hats and skinny jeans.
It’s a popular venue, full of atmosphere – clearly an integral part of the 10th Cinecity Festival.
Enjoyed half an hour browsing the pop-up cinemas around the rooms. A series of bird-box type structures, inhabited by plastic figures, toys and other found objects. Mostly cars. Buried in the sand. Mirrors, landscapes and catastrophic incidents. This is the world of Dobrowolski and Hill’s Vanishing Point installation. Makeshift and Miniature.
Armed with a glass of water, a notebook and a Film Guide I settled into The Pit with the rest of the Unlimited Dream Company to watch Sam Scoggins 1983 feature on Ballard. How exactly does imagination transform the world? Is everything imaginary? A carcrash is the most significant event in the lives of most people, for whom most everything around them is entirely fictional.
One or two faces drifting around that I recognise from – some shattered windscreens. More short films, transparencies on infinitely rotating carousels. Banks of antique TV screens showing various interpretative movies, compositions, mash ups and images. Indeterminable playlist. Laughter, conversation and crowds.
Found a seat, met some friends. Crash!
The original movie from 1971 is a strange, unfinished, oddly structured thing. The key image of the film is the man in the motor car. It sums up everything: the elements of speed, drama, aggression, the junction of advertising and consumer goods with the technological landscape. The sense of violence and desire, power and energy; the shared experience of moving together through an elaborately signalled landscape. In a wheezy, wearing monotous buzz, Ballard talks us through his understanding of motor car styling and sexuality, the bizarre geometry of the multi-storey carpark, fantasies of power and aggression.
And it just ends. A new experience for me, so I wasn’t prepared for that. Provocative. Interesting thought experiments permeate and steer the conversation.
It seems to take an age before the next session starts in The Space. Foxx and his entourage arrived during this break in proceedings. D’Agostino included. No introductions, no fanfare. The quiet man is in the building. You’ll never find him by looking.
A short psychedelic film. A kaleidoscope of interchanging shapes and a bleeping, trippy soundtrack. Helicon Feedback. Easily overlooked. The second piece was more engaging. Clips of American cars racing and crashing, rolling and spinning. Dancing. Interwoven with images and short clips of vintage models and topless dancers. Breasts and fenders fighting for screen time. Magnetic tape loops and ossillating electronics from Brighton’s own Ian Helliwell.
In front of the main screen, Helliwell and a friend perform on his homemade instruments. Broken soundbites, crumbs and tonal weirdness ensue. Intriguing, if not fully engaging.
I reserve the right to be unconvinced.
The screen announces Parallel Lives, culled from Analogue Circuit. Sound levels and anticipation fill the room.
What follows is a mesmerisng 25 minutes of re-purposed composite pieces from innumerable films, edited and compiled by karborn extraordinaire. Think Tiny Colour Movies, only much, much bigger. And more dystopian.
It’s a continuous sequence in 8 parts, each with its own new music by John Foxx that begins as an hynoptic, looped piece. Comfortably familiar. Anatomised hallucinogenics.
After a slower, neural interlude set to Ballard’s creed (something about the lunacy of flowers?), part the third is a huge, thumping metamatic grinding, squealing soundtrack to sweeping scenes of cars and skyscrapers. An enormous, rumbling beast that left everyone in the room breathless, a-feared of the music the machines make.
A second, linking synaesthetic passage follows, set before the Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco, 1968. A young man sitting on a diving board above an empty pool. The Swimmer and the American dream.
The music moves on again and we see flashes of burning cars and scenes from Crash! It’s fast, frenetic, gritty and loud. That dubterror imprinted signature described as ‘ultracolour and inframusic’. Dancing, swimming, automobiles and sex. The crushing of her left breast by the door frame, and its self extension as she continued to rise. The movement of her left hand across the chromium trim of the right headlamp assembly. The pleasures of electricity.
By now I am completely transfixed. It’s quite something to feel breath-taken and gobsmacked by Foxx these days – I fear the de-sensitivity of familiarisation. But this is something new, exciting and raw. Contextual, considered and constructed to impress.
There’s a strong sense of storytelling in the film, which comes through with especial poignancy in the Ernst-ian landscapes at the end, the fragments of found sound and the birdsong. Echoes, whispers and snatches of conversation on empty streets and in deserted buildings. Treated minimalist piano. The scratch of furniture being moved and footsteps on wood. Electricity and ghosts.
Epilogue. We are taken to a Place of Remembered Beauty, where a secret painting lies hidden beneath another. By accident or design, layers are slowly peeled away and familiar stone faces gradually appear, merging one into another like a moving stained glass window. But whither the aching reverb and choral harmonics? All that’s left is a repeated note, richly treated, revered and otherwise.
It’s a long moment before the over-whelmed audience explodes into rapturous applause. That life-passing fragment of slow-motion time before impact when four feet of metal becomes one. A spectral clock somewhere wakes me from a hallucinatory dream.
And the TV says its midnight.
Thanks to JG Ballard, Karborn, John Foxx, Ian Helliwell and the man in the hat.
John Foxx : B-Movie (Ballardian Video Neuronica)
1 The Atrocity Catalogue Update
2 Geometry, Collision and Coincidence
3 Exit Strategy
4 Velocity Logic
5 Crash Course
6 Obscene Chemistry
7 A Stray Ballardian Neurone
8 Disaster Series
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