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SYNOPSIS 97 a programme of short films curated by Alan Van Wijgerden


Lanchester Gallery Projects present Synopsis 97, a programme of rarely screened short films from the archive of Alan Van Wijgerden. Van Wijgerden is a video artist and documentary maker who has methodically recorded the political transformation in Coventry since the early 80s. Van Wijgerden has an extensive archive of video and audio recordings and a collection of the most innovative art programmes that have been broadcast on television over the last 40 years. He uses this as a resource to research the history of television as a public space to consume art. Van Wijgerden will introduce his choices at the beginning of each screening and there will be wine and popcorn for all!


Screening i 1830 – 2030 Thursday 2nd December THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI. Dir. Robert Wiene. 1920. 71 min One of the first silent classics of its type I saw and much copied by many people. The film is often cited as being considered one of the greatest horror films of all time. With a German expressionist film set and a plot twist at the end. REFUGE ENGLAND. Dir. Robert Vas. 1959. 27min This was part of the late fifties movement FREE CINEMA, a collective led by Lindsay Anderson and Karel Reisz. The manifesto states: The image speaks sound amplifies. No film can be too personal. An attitude means a style a style means an attitude. Perfection is not an aim. Probably the first film about the refugee experience itself made by a refugee. A man from a European camp has chosen to come to Britain and is given one piece of treasure at the camp, a piece of paper with an address in London, Love Lane. 16mm black and white and only recently available as part of the BFI Free Cinema collection. Essentially docudrama. RAINBOW DANCE. Dir. Len Lye. 1936. 4 min Lye is a New Zealand born animator who worked for a time for the GPO (General Post Office) film unit. The Film Unit was


set up in 1933 as a subdivision of the General Post Office to produce sponsored documentary films mainly related to the activities of the GPO. The film is unique in that it’s one of the few films of the time that doesn’t look dated. Technically interesting in using early colour system, Gaspar colour. I first saw it on a late eighties Thursday afternoon Channel Four slot called Yesterdays Britain. This early zany colour film with a trad jazz score shows the makers simple delight in working with colour and form, in a very modern sense. At the time it must have stood out like a sore thumb. People must have thought its maker was mad. But as with most animation behind it lies a large amount of painstaking work.


Screening ii 1830 – 2030 Wednesday 8th December LISTEN TO BRITAIN. Dir. Humphrey Jennings and Stewart McAllister. 1942 .19min A wartime film showing a picture of Britain at war. Essentially a propaganda film made by the Crown Film Unit. A film without a voiceover, making it a forerunner of direct cinema. Propaganda is probably not fashionable anymore, but it’s interesting for its editing alone, by one of the great film editors Stewart Mc Allister. This is a film I always refer to when starting to edit a film for inspiration. It’s said the director Humphrey Jennings and editor Stewart McAllister would argue for hours over a frame. It’s a unique image of Britain in the second world war and shows “real” people going about everyday life. It’s been cut to ribbons by television for excerpts in a myriad of documentaries, and yet it still exists as a whole. Watch out for a sequence with children dancing to music outside school, it’s very clever editing. THE SHORT AND CURLIES. Dir Mike Leigh. 1987. 18min A film about all too human frailties and romance. A successful comic/bleak portrayal of everyday life. LENA O MY LENA. Writer. Alun Owen. 1960. 60min One of a trilogy of Liverpool plays by Alun Owen. It’s the only one that wasn’t wiped and is one of the earliest television plays still existing. The play was broadcast in the Armchair Theatre series. The series editor was Sydney Newman who went on to edit the BBC series The Wednesday Play, a forerunner to Play For Today. These plays included the seminal Cathy Come Home. Lena O My Lena is set in a typical working class workplace of the time. A student on his way to pea picking, chances on a sign for a job and is taken on. He struggles to come to terms with the workplace. The play features a stand out performance by Billie Whitelaw. Billie Whitelaw is particularly well known for her performances of Samuel Beckett plays. It’s a time capsule of an early TV drama. A break away from earlier plays simply filmed from the audience. Still believable, many students will identify with the type of “Was that


with milk sir?” or “Would you like fries with that” work. And yet there’s still life and drama and even dreams. MY PUBERTY. Ileane Segalove. 1987. 11min Selected because it was part of the Channel Four series GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE (Series 2) It’s an issues film without being an issues film, it’s up not down , if that’s not too much of a contradiction. A darkly comic film which her website describes as:- Segalove re-enacts the trials and travails of her desperate, hormonal, pubescent years with actors dancing their way through what looks like a techni-color version of the Cleaver’s backyard. She plays herself, getting questionable advice from girlfriends, begging her mother for a bra and falling in love for the first time, with Moondoggie in Gidget Goes Hawaiian.


Screening iii 1830 – 2030 Wednesday15th December O’ DREAMLAND Dir.Lindsay Anderson. 1953. 12 min A critical view of a seaside funfair. Probably best known for the film IF… a guerrilla film if ever there was one, a merciless attack on the establishment. But O’ Dreamland is full of images of what entertainment was in the 1950’s before the Playstation was a gleam in its makers eye. It’s a somewhat acidic view of the tawdry delights though, featuring such things as an automated re-enactment of the death of Joan of Arc. O’ Dreamland is a film I’d read about for some years previously. There’s a BFI book on the early films the then BFI experimental film fund produced and it was here I could read the descriptions of the films. Free Cinema was always interesting. It wasn’t just the films, it was the quality of the writing about them. I’ve long had a soft spot for the 16mm Bolex. So many major film directors have started their film careers with one of these cameras. In O’ Dreamland, you are given a no holds barred view of the tawdry escapism of the British at leisure. Lindsay was very generous with his time and I met and interviewed him a couple of times in the early 90’s. He felt that filmmakers no longer had the right to fail and that we now lived in a success orientated society. CAMERA MAKES WHOOPEE. Dir. Norman McLaren. 1935. 18 min An inventive art school film using a Kodak Cine Special. Cinematic variations on the subject of the Glasgow School of Art Christmas Ball, 1934, using mixed techniques, including animated objects, optical effects, and live action. Made while Norman McLaren was a student there. In many ways it reminds me of my days at the then Cov Poly in the eighties, when we had the time and money for cabarets, suarets, and events week. BOY AND BICYCLE. Ridley Scot. 1965. 25 min Ridley Scot’s first film in which he films his brother Tony Scot on a day off truanting from school in 1960’s Hartlepool. Interesting shots and use of music. Shot using a 16mm clockwork camera with a maximum shot length of 22 seconds. You can see his future in this film. Just shows


what you can do with limited resources before everything went blue screen and CGI. I chose again because it is shot on the Bolex. But the subject seems so unlikely. The director of Blade Runner starts his career by filming his brother cycling round Hartlepool. ICECREAM DREAM. Dir. Ekta Walia. 2003.10 min Ekta Walia. Chosen as a representative of recent regional production by a female director. Her website says:- A sweet and poignant tale about a little girl who is desperately shy and longs for the confidence to play with other children and to be as popular as her Dad, the ice-cream man. She uses her Dad as a shield against the outside world but in order to find her own feet she must leave part of this security behind. JOURNEY TO AVEBURY. Dir. Derek Jarman. 1971. 10 min A film by the late great Derek Jarman, essentially the leader of the Avant Garde in Britain. In a lot of ways it’s an atypical film for him, a Super 8 evocation of the English countryside. A very gentle but somewhat mystical film. The colours are vibrant and lush. People probably best remember Derek as the maker of polemic films such as The Last of England, although it’s said that today he’d be a gallery artist. It’s the England of Shakespeare. This sceptre isle. This precious stone set in a silver sea. He was irreplaceable and his death caused the British art film to lose momentum. DOWN TO THE CELLAR. Dir. Jan Svankmajer. 1983. 15 min This was the first Svankmajer film I saw on daytime schools TV, in a previous existence, when I worked as a trainee TV engineer. A journey to fetch some potatoes from the cellar becomes an odyssey and is a unique evocation of the imagination of a small child where an empty cardboard box becomes a spaceship.


LGP, at Coventry School of Art and Design, is a programme of exhibitions, collaborative projects, education and publications which promotes the development of research in contemporary art practice.

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www.lanchestergalleryprojects.org.uk


SYNOPSIS 97