"When you're with someone, it's like a mirror."
Dir: Michael Almereyda
Prod: Michael Almereyda, Robin O'hara, Bob Gosse
Starring: Barry Del Sherman, Isabel Gillies, Bob Gosse, Elina Löwensohn, Paula Malcomson
Since it's available nowhere else - online or off - I've uploaded a rip of my VHS of Another Girl Another Planet from director Michael Almereyda. I picked this up in an Aberdeen Global Video bargain bin back around 2004 and watched multiple times. The ghostly image and quote of praise from David Lynch on the front of the box was all it took.
The film is a dreamy, conversational drama about Bill and what he learns through a succession of women in his life who have all been touched in some form by the death of another. Starting with its feet planted in New York indie realism, it moves step-by-step into more surreal territory. Most remarkable for being shot on a Fisher-Price PXL toy camera, it also succeeds through immersive use of sound and music, and absorbing dialogue that manages to mostly skirt pretension despite concerning itself with lofty themes of spirituality and death. Seeing it again now, for the first time in 8-or-so years, it still holds up. Apologies for the less-than-perfect quality of the copy, but it's an old VHS player dealing with an old VHS and couldn't be helped. Call it extra texture.
"I have the feeling Michael Almereyda is one of the best American New Wave directors" - David Lynch
From the box blurb:
"Filmed entirely on a Fisher-Price PXL 2000 toy camera Another Girl, Another Planet goes way beyond most uses of this camera and hits its mark in the impressive form of a full-blown feature film. Almereyda (of recent HAMLET and past NADJA and TWISTER fame) has virtually always included the use of the Pixel camera in his films, but this was his first time committing to it exclusively.
Using a clearly defined narrative form and excellent scripting, director Michael Almereyda has enticed superb performances from the whole cast. The striking almost ghostlike visuals created by Pixelvision only enhance the films dreamlike atmosphere. The simple but richly crafted story concerns the relationship between East Village neighbours: Nick, anxious and married, and Bill, whose life appears to be a constant stream of encounters with strange females. The ghostly monochrome results work best on an intimate scale, giving Almereyda's Lower East Side drama a dreamy intensity as it's boho participants float through a late night haze of romantic pessimism and aching longing." (Trevor Johnston, Time Out)
Copyright seems to be held by Nabu Productions, but a US Copyright Office search found no record. If anyone with an interest wants me to take it down, I'll happily do so. I just think it needs to be seen and there is no current or expected release.
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a remarkable classic of the silent era by the Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer, depicting the trial and execution of Joan of Arc at the hands of the English. The film is frequently listed today as one of the greatest ever made, but has suffered numerous spates of bad luck in its lifetime and come perilously close to the dustbin of history.
Dreyer's version was the eighth attempt to film the story of Joan of Arc, but was far from a simple retread of the well-known story. Dreyer believed that the key to a film depicting the dreadful fate of Joan of Arc was to be found in humanising the deified through realism, immersive dimensionality in composition and an honest conveyance of emotion. As Dreyer himself explains:
“All of these pictures express the character of the person they show and the spirit of that time. In order to give the truth, I dispensed with ‘beautification’. My actors were not allowed to touch make-up and powder puffs and, from the first to the last scene, everything was shot in the right order.”
Created by French artist Nicolas Maigret and American software developer Brendan Howell, The Pirate Cinema looks and sounds like something has gone terribly wrong. An installation of free-wheeling glitches and staccato bursts of pop songs and clipped dialogue are rendered in real-time on three screens simultaneously. An automated system downloads the most viewed torrents worldwide and the data of the fragmented media is projected onto the screens. The installation was featured at Liverpool's Abandon Normal Devices Festival in October. Maigret makes immersive works that delve into the fragmented nature and geography found in the wilds of the internet.
Glitch art is best when produced as commentary on the electronic age, rather than the ubiquitous use today of mere aesthetic, and Maigret's display of emergent patterns in non-random selection of random data is an interesting example. With today's neverending revelations of NSA and GCHQ mass-surveillance and data-hoovering, this piece sparks interesting thoughts outside of the obvious topic of piracy.
In Michel Gondry’s 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind the viewer is presented the atemporal perspective of the central character’s actively disintegrating memory. The viewer observes a spatially and temporally fragmented world designed to visualise the errant and subjective nature of memory. The narrative devices employed in the film produce what is arguably one of the most successful representations of the interconnectedness of time, memory and perception in cinema. However, the necessarily linear nature of the film medium creates limitations in how the signification desired by the filmmakers can be delivered. In literature, William Burroughs‘ experimental semi-autobiographical novel Naked Lunch abandoned narrative consistency in favour of thematic continuity, with the aim of a more 'truthful' telling of Burroughs’ subjective experience. The non-linear structure of the novel enables the reader to experience the divided and self-destructive nature of the drug addict and the incoherent form of the novel is a metaphor for the author‘s memories and state of mind. Similarly to Eternal Sunshine, though, the novel may thrash back and forth in time, but the position of the reader follows, in one way or another, the path dug by the narrator. While the reader may skip back and forward themselves to re-evaluate the text, the superposition held by the reader is reliant on the memory of what has been read in conjunction with what is being read in that moment.
The sequential art of comic books does not suffer from these same limitations in how it is experienced by the audience. Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics writes:
“Unlike other media, in comics, the past is more than just memories for the audience and the future is just more than possibilities! Both past and future are real and visible all around us! Wherever your eyes are focused, that’s now. But at the same time your eyes take in the surrounding landscape of past and future.”
The past, present and future of the narrative can be displayed simultaneously on a comic book page, enabling authors to exploit the exclusivity of a single image and the intercourse between two or more. The reader ventures back and forward in the story at will, with at least some visual acuity left to the surrounding panels. Although comics do seem, at first glance, to be a simple amalgamation of the graphic arts and prose fiction, this description belies the unique properties of the medium. The sequential art format of the comic offers a unique method of communicating narratives concerning time, memory and perspective. Here I'll look at how just one sequence of pages in Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Boy Kid on Earth by Chris Ware (the greatest comic of all time, if you ask me) performs the impossible of warping the space-time-comic-strip continuum, and what this achieves for narrative and character.
In Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan discusses how comics differ from almost all other forms of visual media. "[T]he modern comics strip and comic book," he argues, "provide very little data about any particular moment in time, or aspect in space, of an object. The viewer, or reader, is compelled to participate in completing and interpreting the few hints provided by the bounding lines." McLuhan designated comics “cool” media, an audience-inclusive genre, in that it requires the audience to actively conceive of the sense information which is not provided. This is opposed to film which, designated a form of “hot” media, turns the viewer into “a passive consumer of actions”. The active engagement involved in comic reading that McLuhan is referring to is what Gestalt psychologists call ’the law of closure' - the experience of stimuli, not fully perceived, as a whole. In film, closure between frames operates on a largely subconscious level as our minds fluently connect the independent images into a story of continuous motion. The space in between the sequential images in comic books results in more conscious closure, though, as McCloud explains:
“The closure of electronic media is continuous, largely involuntary and virtually imperceptible. But closure in comics is far from continuous and anything but voluntary! Every act committed to paper by the artist is aided and abetted by a silent accomplice. An equal partner in crime known as the reader.”
Art & Design
All contributions by Kieran Gosney unless otherwise stated.
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