Jefferson Presents... Experiments on Film, no.110: Malcolm LeGrice

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Blackbird Descending - Tense Alignment (Malcolm Le Grice, 1977)Jefferson Presents... Experiments on Film, no.110: Malcolm LeGrice
"Blackbird Descending-Tense Alignment"
Saturday March 27th 2010, 8:00pm. $5, $4 Students.
Garfield Artworks. 4931 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224, USA

Never again in Pittsburgh will one man be so bold or foolish as to show English structural filmmaking supremo Malcolm LeGrice's feature length 1977 work "Blackbird Descending-Tense Alignment". Have you got the balls to show up? Have you got the hutzpah to make it through it? Have you got what it takes to savor the experience directly from its steely celluloid teets? Have you got something better to do before you hit the bars and get totally shitfaced?

- Blackbird Descending - Tense Alignment (Malcolm Le Grice, 1977, 120mins, Colour, 16mm)

"Malcolm Le Grice, one of the leading avant-garde filmmakers in Britain, has made a feature length work which is (...) one of the most accessible films to come out of the experimental area of cinematic exploration in recent years. The secret of its appeal is that ot engages the viewer's curiosity and then challanges him to remember, really remember, exactly what he has seen and heard. It assumes that peoplec an have fun at the same time as they are absorbing an analysis of how time and space are constructed in the cinema. What we see is a simple domestic scene: A woman typing. Through the window a man prunes a tree and a woman hangs out different colored sheets. A phone rings. This scene is repeated again and again from different viewpoints and timepoints but always slightly altered. The film is not about Pirandelloesque but film reality, so Le Grice finally shows us the camera filming some of the scenes we have seen, even utilising split screens to unmask the unreality (and of course thereby creating yet another). Like poet Wallace Stevens, Le Grice gives us thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird with fresh eyes." --Ken Wlaschin, London Film Festival, 77.

Malcolm Le Grice is tiptoeing so gingerly backwards into that forbidden zone for the English 'Structural' filmmaker that is known as 'Narrative'.

Here lurk those evils 'mystification' and 'manipulation'; there is a third, of course, more horrible: the all-encompassing 'illusion'. Have the Le Grice and his Blackbird emerged unscathed and untainted? The answer is unequivocally yes, and what is more, they bear with them a whole new set of options. And this at a time when avant-garde film seems to be in need of a new direction, of renewed energy.

Le Grice, of course, is not alone in his endeavour. It is absolutely not a question of a 'return' to narrative; it is more a wholly new approach made possible by the investigation of 'first things', the foregrounding of cinematic procedures, characteristic of Le Grice's work - and that of other avant-garde filmmakers - over the last ten years. It might be better to speak of narrative - the act of talking - for in Blackbird Descending as in After Lumiere before it, the focus is not so much on the 'what' as on the 'how', the way the film describes or involves - in Michael Snow's words - "one thing or another". Significantly the events of the film are simple.

Spoken dialogue, written text and elaborate montage here join strategies that will be familiar to those acquainted with Le Grice's early work. The result is a film of great vigour, ambition, even playfulness. Simon Field from London Filmmakers' Co-op Catalogue 1997.