Compared to previous years' editions, the 53rd London Film Festival's avant-garde and experimental film section Experimenta 'opens up', offering this year a wide selection of feature and short films emphasizing the 'avant-garde' versus the 'experimental' strand.
Nevertheless, the Experimenta section offers this year the possibility to watch wonderful films such as the restored new prints of Hollis Frampton's Hapax Legomena, the 13th part in Gustav Deutsch's series FILM IST, A girl and a gun, and other works by Mara Mattuschka & Chris Haring, Ken Jacobs, David Gatten, Matthias Müller & Christoph Giradet, Laida Lertxundi and Jim Trainor among others.
Double Take (Johan Grimonprez, Belgium/Germany/Netherlands, 2009)
Thu 15, 16:15, NFT1
Fri 16, 20:30, NFT2
Mon 19, 16:30, ICA1
Elementary Training for Actors (Martín Rejtman & Federico León, Argentina, 2009)
Thu 15, 20:45, NFT3
Sat 17, 14:00, ICA1
The Exception and the Rule
Sun 25, 11:00, NFT3
Sun 25, 14:00, NFT3
- The Exception and the Rule (Karen Mirza & Brad Butler, UK/Pakistan/India, 2009)
Shot primarily in Karachi, The Exception and the Rule employs a variety of strategies in negotiating consciously political themes. Avoiding traditional documentary modes, the film frames everyday activities within a period of civil unrest, incorporating performances to camera, public interventions and observation. This complex work supplements Mirza/Butler’s Artangel project ‘The Museum of Non Participation’.
- My White Baby (Akosua Adoma Owusu, USA/Ghana, 2008)
Driven by the pulsing sounds of Afrobeat and American soul, this spirited study of Ghanaian hair salons questions representations of beauty and ethnicity. While teams of women weave elaborate styles, children practice braiding on the blonde hair of white baby dolls, surplus stock exported from the West.
- My Tears Are Dry (Laida Lertxundi, USA/Spain, 2009)
A song of heartache, an afternoon’s repose and the eternal promise of the blue California sky.
The Ferrari Dino Girl (Jan Nemec, Czech Republic, 2009)
Thu 15, 19:00, STUDIO
Fri 16, 20:45, NFT3
Wed 21, 14:00, ICA1
FILM IST. a girl & a gun (Gustav Deutsch, Austria, 2009)
Sun 25, 16:00, NFT3
Taking its cue from DW Griffith via J-L Godard, the latest instalment of the FILM IST series is a five-act drama in which reclaimed footage is interwoven with aphorisms from ancient Greek philosophy. Beginning with the birth of the universe, it develops into a meditation on the timeless themes of sex and death, exploring creation, desire and destruction by appropriating scenes from narrative features, war reportage, nature studies and pornography. The Earth takes shape from molten lava, and man and woman embark upon their erotic quest. For this mesmerising epic, Deutsch applies techniques of montage, sound and colour to resources drawn from both conventional film archives and specialist collections such as the Kinsey Institute and Imperial War Museum. Excavating cinema history to tease new meanings from diverse and forgotten film material, he proposes new perspectives on the cycle of humanity. The film’s integral score by long-term collaborators Christian Fennesz, Burkhardt Stangl and Martin Siewert incorporates music by David Grubbs, Soap&Skin and others.
Hollis Frampton: Hapax Legomena
Sat 24, 14:00, NFT3
Hollis Frampton, a key figure of the American avant-garde, was an artist and theoretician whose practice closely resonates with contemporary discourse. The series of seven films known as Hapax Legomena is, alongside Zorns Lemma, one of his most distinguished achievements, and will be presented in its entirety on new preservation prints. Predating Magellan, the ambitious ‘metahistory’ of film left unfinished by his early death in 1984, Hapax Legomena traces Frampton’s own creative progression from photographer to filmmaker. It dissects sound/image relationships, incorporates early explorations of video and television, and looks forward to digital media and electronic processes. Though notoriously rigorous, Frampton’s films are infused with poetic tendencies and erudite wit, sustaining a dialogue with the materials of their making, and the viewer’s active participation in their reception.
‘Hapax legomena are, literally, ‘things said once’ … The title brackets a cycle of seven films, which make up a single work composed of detachable parts … The work is an oblique autobiography, seen in stereoscopic focus with the phylogeny of film art as I have had to recapitulate it during my own fitful development as a filmmaker.’ (Hollis Frampton)
- (nostalgia) (1971)
As a sequence of photographs is presented and slowly burned, a narrator recounts displaced anecdotes related to their production, shifting the relationship between words and images.
- Poetic Justice (1972)
A ‘film for the mind’ in which the script is displayed page by page for the viewer to read and imagine.
- Critical Mass (1971)
Frampton’s radical editing technique disrupts and amplifies the already impassioned argument of a quarrelling couple.
- Travelling Matte (1971)
‘The pivot upon which the whole of Hapax Legomena turns’ uses early video technology to interrogate the image.
- Ordinary Matter (1972)
This ‘headlong dive’ from the Brooklyn Bridge to Stonehenge is a burst of exhilarated consciousness.
- Remote Control (1972)
‘A ‘baroque’ summary of film’s historic internal conflicts, chiefly those between narrative and metric/plastic montage; and between illusionist and graphic space.’
- Special Effects (1972)
Stripping away content leaves only the frame. ‘People this given space, if you will, with images of your own devising.’
Sat 24, 19:00, NFT3
- Passiage Briare (Friedl vom Gröller, Austria, 2009)
A meeting of friends in a Paris backstreet, and an unexpected revelation.
- Hotel Roccalba (Josef Dabernig, Austria, 2008)
In a subtle choreography, the occupants of a small Alpine hotel pass a lazy afternoon. Not much happens, but all may not be as it appears.
- Gregor Alexis (Jana Debus, Germany, 2009)
The filmmaker’s schizophrenic brother recounts personal experiences, slipping between first and third person. The locations chosen for this portrait – a desolate apartment and a wasteland littered with abandoned machinery – are indicative of the condition of someone potentially as vulnerable as the insects that collect on his windowsill.
- The Discovery (Ken Jacobs, USA, 2008)
Tom’s dextrous parlour game attracts unwanted attention. A stolen moment, frozen in time, now re-animated for all to see.
- The Presentation Theme (Jim Trainor, USA, 2008)
As primitive Magic Marker drawings illustrate the myths and rituals of the ancient Moche civilisation, a disparaging narrator describes the tormented trials of a hapless creature amongst goblets of blood, fanged men and a sacrificial priestess.
- Burning Palace (Mara Mattuschka & Chris Haring, Austria, 2009)
This new collaboration between Mattuschka and Vienna’s Liquid Loft takes us behind the velvet curtains of the Burning Palace, whose peculiar inhabitants have an itch they just can’t scratch.
Monolog (Laure Prouvost, UK/France, 2009) (loop)
Sat 24, 12:00, Studio
A new work made for the Festival turns its attention to the viewer and the room itself. ‘Come inside, I’m going to explain a few things. Just about you and the space we’re in. It’s quite warm in here, you should take off your jacket …’
My Absolution (Victor Alimpiev, Russia/Netherlands, 2008) (loop)
Sun 25, 12:00, Studio
Alimpiev’s work imbues the simplest gestures with mystery and consequence. An actress performs a sequence of enigmatic actions towards the nape of a second woman’s neck in a performance that creates an almost sculptural tension which is never quite released.
An Organization of Dreams (Ken McMullen, UK/France, 2009)
Mon 26, 20:45, NFT3
Tue 27, 14:00, NFT3
Perestroika (Sarah Turner, UK, 2009)
Mon 19, 18:15, NFT3
Wed 21, 16:15, ICA1
The Portuguese Nun (Eugène Green, Portugal/France, 2009)
Fri 23, 20:45, NFT3
They All Lie (Matías Piñeiro, Argentina, 2009)
Wed 21, 18:45, ICA1
Thu 22, 16:15, ICA1
Whirl of Confusion
Sun 25, 19:00, NFT3
- And the Sun Flowers (Mary Helena Clark, USA, 2008)
‘Notes from the distant future and forgotten past. An ethereal flower and disembodied voice guide you through the spaces in between.’ (Mary Helena Clark)
- Shot Film (Greg Pope, UK/Norway, 2009)
Taking the expression ‘to shoot a film’ at face value, this 35mm reel has been blasted with a shotgun.
- Contre-jour (Matthias Müller & Christoph Giradet, Germany, 2009)
My Eyes! My Eyes! Flickering out from the screen and direct to your retina, Contre-jour is not for the optic neurotic. Take a deep breath and try to relax as Müller and Girardet conduct their examination.
- Film For Invisible Ink Case No. 142: Abbreviation For Dead Winter (Diminished By 1,794) (David Gatten, USA, 2008)
‘A single piece of paper, a second stab at suture, a story three times over, a frame for every mile. Words by Charles Darwin.’ (David Gatten)
- wolf's froth / amongst other things (Paul Abbott, UK, 2009)
By chance or circumstance, wolf’s froth’s covert syntax refuses to be unpicked. Entangling anxious domesticity with the spectre of aggression, it conjures a mood of underlying discomfort and intrigue.
- False Aging (Lewis Klahr, USA, 2008)
Klahr’s surreal collage journeys through lost horizons of comic book Americana and is brought back down to earth by Drella’s dream. And nobody called, and nobody came.
- Mount Shasta (Oliver Husain, Canada, 2008)
What is ostensibly a proposal for a film script is acted out, without artifice, in a bare loft space as Mantler plays a plaintive lament. A puppet show like none other that will leave you bemused, befuddled and bewildered.
Texts by Mark Webber unless otherwise indicated.