Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Igor: The Paris Years

Igor: The Paris Years (also known by a number of variant titles that interprete the above title card differently) is one of the lesser-known films of the Quay Brothers. Made in 1982 in collaboration with Keith Griffiths, it features puppet likenesses of Igor Stravinsky, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Jean Cocteau inhabiting a neon Bauhaus vision of Paris.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Blind Justice/In Justice

Clare Kitson describes the conception of Channel 4's four-part Blind Justice series in her book British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor:
[Gillian Lacey] approached Paul Madden for funding to develop a project... in which a group of women animators would produce individual films with a common theme - aspects of women and the law - and assembled a team of like-binded women to work on the project: documentary-producer Orly Bat Carmel (now Yadin) as producer and coordinator and animators Monique Renault, Marjut Rimminen and illustrator and cartoonist Christine Roche to direct the film along with Lacey. The overall title was to be Blind Justice: one film would relate the gender inequalities of Western law back to its origins in ancient Greece; another would look at the prejudices of mainly male, white, middle class and middle-aged judges; another was a theatrical version of an actual case in which a man was accused of murdering his wife. The final film, Some Protection by Marjut Rimminen, would attract the most accolades. Based on the true story of one Josie Dyer [sic - actually Josie O'Dwyer], whose life was devastated by a legal system which had put her into detention for her 'own protection', the film gains immeasurably from the damaged voice of Dyer herself on the soundtrack and a variety of visual styles expressing the girl's emotional states...

The series was completed in 1987 and the films were widely seen at festivals. But no appropriate transmission slot was on offer, for some at Channel 4 felt one or two of the individual films were behind the times in their approach to feminist issues, a bit heavy-handed perhaps. In February 1990 they would find a home in the Women Call the Shots season but, unfortunately, by that time the BBC had already broadcast a high-profile drama series, co-devised by Helena Kennedy QC and starring Jane Lapotaire and Jack Shepherd. Like the C4 series it dealt with inequalities in the law and like the C4 series it was entitled Blind Justice. So the animated Blind Justice suffered the indignity of of a last-minute title change, to In Justice.

In Monique Renault's All Men Are Created Equal, Aristotle - represented as an animated bust - delivers a speech on the inferiority of women, until smashed by a statue of Athena. A female narrator draws parallels between Aristotle's views and the prejudices of more recent times, pointing out the irony that Justice was traditionally depicted as a woman even when women could not become judges or lawyers.

The second film in the series is Someone Must Be Trusted by Christine Roche and Gillian Lacey. Taking its title from an infamous comment made by Lord Denning ("Someone must be trusted. Let it be the judges") the film sees a series of women in court for a number of different reasons. One objects to being paid less than a male co-worker with the same job, only to have her case thrown out ("she's lucky to be paid at all"); another has been raped, and receives a similar reaction ("she ought to think herself lucky, no-one's ever tried to rape me" says a male judge); the third is convicted of murdering her husband.

In Murders Most Foul, directed by Gillian Lacey, the ghost of a woman looks on with contempt as her murderous husband is depicted as the victim by the court and eventually sentenced to only six months. "I just felt so outraged at some of the judgements that I'd come across, and that way in which the women were seen as to blame and men were often given quite light sentences," said Lacey in an episode of BBC4's Animation Nation documentary. "I used the style of melodrama because there is a sense of theatre in the court procedures for me, there's a kind of absurdity about it."

And finally, Marjut Rimminen's Some Protection (also known as For Your Own Protection) is based on the true story of teenager Josie O'Dwyer's experiences at a corrective institution.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Bret Battey's Mercurius

Bret Battey's 2007 film Mercurius can be viewed on his website.

Mercurius is the first in my Luna Series of video-music works. In Mercurius, as in the other works of the series, the audio and visual components of the piece have no cuts or edits. What we hear is a continual transformation of one synthesis process, just as what we see is the continuous animation of nearly 12,000 individual points.

Three-dimensional rotation algorithms create the spiral forms in this work. In the visual music tradition, the spiral or mandala form has been used to evoke the unity of a meditative state — James Whitney’s Lapis (1966) being an extraordinary example.

But the spiral has symbolic associations not only with unity or creative energy but also with destructive forces. The spiral may represent wisdom and integration (the coiled snakes on Mercury’s staff), but it can also suggest the center of a spider’s web and the all-destroying vortex.

Mercurius ambiguously combines multiple sensibilities of the spiral. If there is a unity here, it doesn’t express itself in the balanced visual instant (the centered, symmetrical mandala); it expresses itself only over time as a single process exhibits rapid changes between a multitude of seemingly-conflicting states. Hence the title: Mercurius (Latin for Mercury) is the swift messenger, a symbol of the volatile and unstable.