Bill Morrison, USA. The Retrospective
Critics cannot draw a line between elements of cinema and theatre in films о Bill Morrison, separate the magic show from early cinema art. Filmmaker is almost an archeologist researching and recovering form Time fragments of old, created in various formats and often anonymous films, to juxtapose them in an artistic collage. At the Festival the best works will be screened.
Films for the theatre - Bill Morrison retrospective
synthetic quality should be also ascribed to the work of another Media Forum
guest –Bill Morrison. His critics can never manage to draw a line between
theatre and cinema components of his films, between the elements of magic show
and early cinema art which is strongly influenced by a live auditorium.
American audience knows Morrison first and foremost as the author of
the Decasia music performance,
available for the public at large on DVD. Its live premiere took place in Basel in 2001. In the Decasia as in his other works Bill
Morrison conducts an actual archeological research recovering form the time the
fragments of old, multiformat and often anonymous films and juxtaposing them in
an art collage.
At the American premiere the feature and documentary images of
cowboys, factory workers, paratroopers and dancers were projected onto several screens,
between which the viewers were seated. Behind these screens on three-story
stands 55 musicians were hidden playing Michael Gordon’s modernist symphony. This placement of the
orchestra suggested an uneven movement of the sound in the hall answering the
concept of the piece – its doubling and trebling themes created not even a cacophony, but a rhythmical pattern of old
cinemachinery at work. The dissonance of sounding notes formed a comment on the
source video material used by Morrison.
methods and forms used in this show give out the theatre roots of Bill
Morrison’s work. Indeed, having graduated from the Cooper Union
the young professional was ready to walk everywhere with a placard “Director. Experimentalist.
I make strange non-narrative films” without any hope of being noticed. That’s
why Morrison is still very grateful to have been adopted by the Ridge Theatre
and given an opportunity to realize all his passionate dreams there. Close to
him he found the people who understood his experiments and agreed that the the
mixture of archive research, theatre scenography, avant-garde music and the
cinematographic mode of material presentation is the best thing possible.
The director is
adamant that theatre is the most appropriate setting for his films and the only
thing he is really interested in is the live and direct viewer’s empathy with
actors and performers. And yes, the audience is the only real hero of his oeuvre.
The Film of Her Bill Morrison, USA,
1996 - 12`00``
Music by Bill Frisell and Henryk Gørecki.
It is a story of memory and oblivion, a first
-person narrative. A clerk from the Library of Congress is infinitely
infatuated with cinema and passes his work days in finding, restoring and
printing out film materials form the library's archives. He even gets a
promotion for this. Like Bill Morrison himself, his character saves the past of
the cinema from destruction and neglect of his contemporaries. When the Second
World War starts the clerk's task is changes and nobody cares anymore for
restoration of old reels, only for servicing the trophy films. After the
battles are over and the victory won, society becomes once more interested in
the early films and the value of cine-archeological work is generally
recognized. But at the Oscars when the award for the hero's work is given
nobody remembers him, the Library employee who had actually found and saved the
Footprints Bill Morrison, USA,
1992 - 6`00``
Footprints the history of cinema is compared to the constant changes in
human concepts of the world in the 20th century. The film is based
on a live performance in the Ridge Theatre where Morrison works. Music written by
Jim Farmer which compliments the action is built around the famous Caravan
theme by Duke Ellington.
Light Is Calling Bill Morrison, USA,
2004 - 8`00``
An officer rides through deep forest and sees a
mysterious woman with long braided hair -in Light
Is Calling Morrison has also restored the old half-decayed black-and-white
reels and these have contributed towards the setting of a romantic story on the
nature of love. It is about this film that he has made the important
observation:t blemishes and destroyed fragments always become the foreground of a new work and compose the
main plot. The other characters - the officer, the stranger -are secondary and
thus hidden behind the mystical scenery of the decomposing and corroded film.
The Mesmerist Bill Morrison, USA, 2003 - 16`00``
At a funfair a mesmerist proposes to make one
of the audience fall into a magical trance to learn the secrets of his past.
From the whole crowd only one man agrees - a hotel owner. When the mesmerist
hypnotizes this volunteer, the man confesses to a murder. Many years ago he has
killed one of his guests, a Polish Jew, for the gold in his money belt. The
artistic effect of this simple plot is based completely on the quality of the
old, half-decayed film that is Morrison's favorite medium. The fragments used
have various integrity - the scenes of the séance and pictures of the crowd are
highly damaged and become blurred on screen as in a surreal delirium or a
dream, while the character's flashbacks are clear and bright as if they came
intact from the clutches of time.
The Highwater Trilogy Bill Morrison, USA,
2006 - 31`00``
Accompanied with symphonic music by David Lang
and Michael Gordon, the director collects views of the wild water element. They
give a documented proof of the fragility and uncertainty of this world based on
an inauspicious weather report. Icebergs, hurricanes, all kinds of calamities
and catastrophes threaten people of New Jersey,
Newfoundland; French Bordeaux and
English Lancashire, the banks of Mississippi
and the shores of the Atlantic. The
documentary reports from the beginning of 1920's create an image of limitless
and fierce power of water over land.
Outerborough Bill Morrison, USA, 2005 - 9`00``
To make Outerborough
Bill Morrison used material filmed in 1899 in Brooklyn.
On the restored film a ghost tram from the distant past rides over the city
bridge...The lines of the Brooklyn bridge multiply and become dissolved in the
history of a passing 19th century. It's a silent film and everything
happens in complete silence, though at some screenings the movie is accompanied
by live music played by a cello and a violin.