Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Archives #1

Watching film or video reportage of current affairs these days is a bit of a visual black hole. The same shots, sequences and structures rolled out night after night. Short turnaround documentary fills the hole in terms of allowing viewers to engage more deeply with reportage of events, but you have to wonder when and how the visual component of reportage became so damned lazy and by the numbers.

Currently, we are ploughing through acres of archival material as part of editing the feature doco murundak - songs of freedom. We are not using a lot of archival material but we want and need to find just the right material so that it feels visually intertwined with what is a primarily observational film.

By accident - having nothing to do with the film we are making - I came across this iconic old movietone reel from the 1945 armistice celebrations that erupted on the streets of Sydney (as elsewhere) at the end of WW2. As I watched it, I couldn't help but wish for the kind of craft and lyricism and storytelling in this inspired little sequence. Without Jack Davey's hammy newsreel voice over, the images capture a moment in time directly, emotionally and with an immediacy that brings the events into your lived experience in a powerful way. The shot of the 'dancing man' (who is either Frank McAlary, Ern Hill or Patrick Blackall depending on who you believe) has become a visual touchstone for the time, and deservedly so; it seems to be so entirely about the joy and release of that moment that it couldn't have been constructed through the most elaborate of fictions.

And from almost 60 years later, here, in Jem Cohen's apocalyptic 'Little Flags', is the antithetical statement to this peace time newsreel, by a filmmaker who creates the 'news' (in the Ezra Pound definition of the idea - "literature is news that stays news"):

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Desert #4

Just a couple of weeks ago, on April 7th, George Nissen, inventor of the trampoline, passed away aged 96. How many broken wrists and forearms, how many stolen kisses and fumbles under the gauzy shade of the trampoline mat, how many welts from the pinch of the springs, how many long hot days spent talking about superheroes while waiting your turn, how many minor power struggles resolved over a timely double bounce, how many kid brothers sent hurtling, how many exhilarated grins at the first successful backflip, how many endless afternoons of nauseau and sea legs do we have to thank this man for?

He spent the first half of his life championing and promoting his invention. One of his marketing stunts involved him bouncing on the trampoline with a (pissed off and slightly humiliated, you would imagine) kangaroo; another secretly constructing a trampoline on top of one of the tombs surrounding the Giza pyramids to get the incredible photograph above. Oblivious to it all, we envied the kids who owned trampolines and felt elated at those long suspended moments hovering above it. There is always an uncomplicated bliss for those of us, far out on the periphery, who reap the rewards of the madness, obsessions and steely resolve of inventors, salesfolk, visionaries and artists.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Buoy Archives #19

I hid this Buoy Archive deep in another post. Here is a reposting of this little handmade romance put together with a treacherous Bolex and some dodgy audio recordings.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Desert #3

"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
Toni Morrison

Substitute x for film/video/song/photograph/sensation etc.

Substitute n for see/here/feel/experience etc.

The Desert #2

The Desert #1

"We have to give it our all. We have to squeeze water from the rocks and from the desert too."
Roberto Bolaño, '2666'

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Church of London

The quite brilliant Church of London design company were commissioned to create new artwork for a release of a collection of Almodovar films. I love it when a poster for a film is like a whole new layer to a film and the way you perceive it, think about it, feel about it. To me, this collection of posters is something pretty special.

And, finally, my favourite...

Here are a few more beautiful posters from C.o.L for some damned fine films:

Street Spirit

One of my favourite photographs. This one, by Mr Tod Seelie:

Kathleen Hanna recommends...

Ok. So I saw the trailer for The Runaways and it looks awesome; like the best kind of guilty movie pleasure. Then I read on ex-Bikini Kill goddess/frontwoman Kathleen Hanna's blog that she loves it (quote: "The Runaways movie is fucking awesome") and now I really want to see it. If it's awful, don't tell me yet. If it rules, tell me so I can get to fever pitch.

In the meantime... check out the incredible golden catsuit and bleached bleeding video tube colours of this clip of The Runaways live in Japan, 1977.

And here is a bunch of Maoist Propaganda films set to Bikini Kill's 'Rebel Girl'.

Photography, Hunting, Restlessness, Records, Archery and Stillness

A handful of thoughts to escape from the restless, confused territory of editing the feature doco 'Murundak':

I read recently (and apologies to the author/blogger that I wrote this note down without referencing and now can't recall where I read it) that Henri Cartier-Bresson relayed to Fred Ritchin (author of After Photography) that there were 4 essential books for a photographer to read. One of these is Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery. As someone with a restless mind, I love the thought of activity, creativity, production emerging from pure stillness, intense contemplation.
“Should one ask… how the Japanese Masters understand this contest of the archer with himself, and how they describe it, their answer would sound enigmatic in the extreme. For them the contest exists in the archer aiming at himself—and yet not at himself, in hitting himself—and yet not himself, and thus becoming simultaneously the aimer and the aim, the hitter and the hit. Or, to use some expressions which are nearest the heart of the Masters, it is necessary for the archer to become, in spite of himself, an unmoved center. Then comes the supreme and ultimate miracle: art becomes “artless,” shooting becomes not-shooting, a shooting without bow and arrow; the teacher becomes a pupil again, the Master a beginner, the end a beginning, and the beginning perfection.”
In a rare vinyl recording posted by Ted Barron on his great record collector's blog Boogie Woogie Flu, Cartier-Bresson talks of how the photographer approaches the world around him, and, most interestingly, of the act of forcing chance, an intriguing way of approaching the act of interpreting the world through a camera (still or moving, in my mind):
"We have to know what to, be clear, on what we want to say. Our conceptions, our, what we think of a certain situation, a certain problem. Photography is a way of writing it, of drawing, making sketches of it. And in the form, things are offered to us in daily life. We have to be alert and know when to pick the moment which is significant. Then, it's just intuition. It's instinct. We don't know why, we press at a certain moment. It comes, it is there, it's given. Take it. Everything is there, it is a question of chance, but you have to pick and force chance to come to you. There's a certain will"
Fiction filmmaking is mostly artifice. It is almost the reverse of the documentary photographers approach where chance is everything and to force chance allows a small moment of structure and precision. In fiction filmmaking where everything is a construction of reality, the more you can introduce chance, the more likely you might be to capture something elusive, enigmatic and 'real' in the most ambiguous meaning of the word. I like the idea of a half-constructed reality where so much - performance, movement, emotion, image - is left to chance, collision and possibility so that the filmmaker, the moving image photographer, has to return to relying on their instincts and senses as to what demands the moment of capture.

Cartier-Bresson's approach to photography and the world around him recalls to me the ideas around traditional hunting that Barry Lopez describes in Eskimo culture of the Arctic islands in one of my favourite books 'Arctic Dreams' (thanks to the esteemed Ross Gibson for tipping me onto this book and this passage):
All of ones faculties are brought to bear in an effort to become fully incorporated into the landscape. It is more than listening for animals or watching for hoofprints or a shift in the weather. It is more than an analysis of what one senses. To hunt means to have the land around you like clothing. To engage in a wordless dialogue with it, one so absorbing that you cease to talk with your human companions. It means to release yourself from rational images of what something “means” and to be concerned only that it “is.” And then to recognize that things exist only insofar as they can be related to other things. These relationships — fresh drops of moisture on top of rocks at a river crossing and a raven’s distant voice — become patterns. The patterns are always in motion. Suddenly the pattern — which includes physical hunger, a memory of your family, and memories of the valley you are walking through, these particular plants and smells — takes in the caribou. There is a caribou standing in front of you. The release of the arrow or bullet is like a word spoken out loud. It occurs at the periphery of your concentration.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Laptop Editing.

'Galore' Draft finishing.

'Murundak' Rough cut viewing.

Music video cutting.

'The Warmth' Draft finishing.

Budget preparing.

Promo creating.

Image researching.

Brain hurting.