Friday, 18 February 2011

Cinema Strange #9. Beyond Image (Mark Boyle & Joan Hills, 1969)

Mark Boyle and Joan Hills were experimental filmmakers in the 1960s whose humble beginnings started in the kitchen sink, playing with light projects normally involving objects such as sweet wrappers and animals. They put together light shows and short films for exhibitions, each one as different as the last but conceived by the same means - theirs was a deconstruction of art, as well as a presentation of it. Beyond Image is a recorded show of pulsating fluids and vibrant light filters rather than a live exhibition, so it also plays with the medium of the camera, employing cinematic trickery ahead of its time that looks even better on DVD, and can now be interacted with by the viewer. Played in reverse, at ½ speed or in 32x fast-forward the film takes on different meanings and shapes; the light is affected differently and you can see new images in its living, almost microscopic landscape.

Beyond Image looks like the opening credits sequence to a James Bond movie, albeit one where the tales of the British super-spy are re-imagined through a hallucinatory, psychedelic lens. It falls directly, and fits into, the middle of the British art scene prominent in the late 60s and early 70s - somewhere between Herostratus (Don Levy, 1967, soon to be reviewed) and Performance (Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg, 1970, also up for review). 14 minutes of bold colours and shifting shapes, it greatly resembles the patterns that are today displayed on coffee tables and bed-side units in the form of lava lamps, but the film has lost none of its power. It's a hypnotic, dream-like show set to the sounds of jazz-rock band The Soft Machine, a largely forgotten group who are, in my eyes, the English contemporaries of the different-sounding but equally experimental American band, 13th Floor Elevators. The Soft Machine provide the rhythm of the film, their crescendoing track merging with the images and becoming one with them- so much so that it's impossible to listen to some of their music without thinking of the work accomplished by Boyle & Mills. As it is though, the art duos work is sadly forgotten - indeed, I couldn't even find a still of the film to accompany this review. A shame, as their work is of considerable interest - enjoyable and admirable, their oeuvre is a key part of the British art movement.

Beyond Image can be found as a DVD extra on the BFI release of Jack Bond's Separation (1968), which will be reviewed next week.

No comments:

Post a comment