Two drawings done whilst out and about the other day. Both were drawn quite quickly of people who were around, one in a pub, the other on the bus. I used a marker pen for both drawings and although i think they are both ok I think the mouth in particular looks similar in both drawings. Indicating perhaps that in my haste I was relying more on a formula for drawing a mouth than really looking at what was in front of me.
Monthly Archives: January 2012
Last night I watched The Other Side of the Underneath made in 1972 by writer and director Jane Arden. It’s Wikipedia entry describes it as having almost mythical status amongst fans of radical, experimental cinema, in part because its limited availability until recently when the BFI released a restored version. The film arrived to me as my latest online rental DVD and I couldn’t remember why I had added it to my rental list but presumably words like radical, experimental, surrealist were liberally sprinkled in the synopsis.
I have to admit to fast forwarding through sections and watching almost the entire film with the sound turned low, principally because of the free and energetic cello playing that features through much of the soundtrack. I’ve discovered I’m not that keen on the cello! A lot of the images in the film however very effective. Much of the film takes place in as decrepit, run down interior, suggestive of an asylum with Arden’s female cast spending most of the film in long white gowns that recall gowns patients might wear. One of Arden’s themes along with feminism is anti-psychiatry. The interior shots in particular reminded me of Jan Svankmajer and also of the Brothers Quay and the way both of these film makers construct familiar, yet skewed environments in which to explore their ideas. Other scenes put me in mind of Ken Russel but I wouldn’t want to suggest Arden wasn’t original in her vision.
The film takes an odd turn (although there is no conventional narrative so Arden could take whatever turn she wanted) about 3 quarters of the way through with a passage that is more like a conventional documentary. We see some of the actors involved in an outdoor party (it could be a wedding) with ‘tinkers and Gypsies’ (this is how they are referred to in the end titles) and this part of the film generates some real tension. Up until then although there may have been some powerful images but you have been aware that this is all being acted and is controlled however threatening the actions of the actors are. Like any commercial film you willing suspend disbelief and enter into the film makers world, unless its boring, offensive or crass or stupid in which case you walk out or turn over. In the Gypsy scene however what Arden does is bring together two quite different worlds, each probably quite unaware of the customs and conventions of the other. The result is an increasing tension as the party continues that makes unsettling viewing because none of the participants are likely to get out of the encounter what they want from it and we wonder what will be the result of this disappointment. On reflection this section is the part of Arden’s film most likely to stay with you.
Two questions arose for me after watching the film. One, if you have a message you want to make, unless your willing to confine your audience to a small minority, is it better to make a commercial film that will reach a wider public to get that message across? Until her interest in radical politics to hold Jane Arden’s early film career seems quite mainstream and she appears to have maintained contacts with that part of the film industry. I don’t think she’s a Welsh equivalent of American underground film makers like Jack Smith, working on the fringes, using discarded film stock. Neither, I think was her intention to test the patience of viewers, in the way Warhol did with his 1964 film Empire. So being self indulgent and pissing about with film is ok if your an artist making films to be shown in galleries but if your writer and director with something to say is it better to stay true to your vision and risk obscurity or ‘go commercial’ and reach the multiplex audience?
The second question that popped up for me was about editing. There are a number of scenes in the film that are long and much happens. Maybe this is a Warhol-esque testing of the audience but is that we’re so attuned now to fast cutting and MTV style editing that even in spite of ourselves, we don’t have the reserves to last anything over 4 to 5 seconds (this is the average shot length of recent films, for more info see cinemetrics)?
I realise I haven’t written anything about what the film is about. The film is framed by Adren’s interest in feminism and anti-psychiatry and the poor hand dealt out to many women (or all women). If your interested the best thing to do is rent the film.
I’ve given up already on my project 365 attempt however I’ll try to post new work fairly frequently. This is a small sculpture made from cardboard (courtesy of amazon mainly) cut and glued, painted with a neutral coloured emulsion before being stuck with nails, which were in turn painted the same dull colour. As is frequently the case, the shape and rhythms of the human body provides a starting point however I’m not sure if the result is to complicated and I’ve started another one using much simpler forms, which I’ll post photos of soon.