Close Up

31 May 2017: Rouch 100


UEL Moving Image Research Centre presents a programme of shorts to mark the 100th anniversary of Jean Rouch’s birth and explore the influence of his work on artist cinema today. The filmmakers will be present for a Q&A following the screening.

Louise K. Wilson
2005 | 10’40 min | Colour | Digital

During a residency at the North West Film Archive, Wilson became fascinated by the recurrent obsessions and repetitions visibly contained within its vast archive of home movies. Finding that this material resonated with Dziga Vertov's The Man with a Movie Camera (1929) and its focus on "life caught unawares", she selected clips that loosely corresponded to some of the film’s themes: the mobility of the camera operator, divisions of work and leisure and rituals of daily life. A band (Vintage Brass) were enlisted to provide Euphony’s visual and audio "soundtrack", with additional processing by :soviet*france:. This film was edited by David Chapman and originally commissioned by Cornerhouse for screening on the BBC’s "Big Screen" in Exchange Square, Manchester.

Hero City
Ruth Maclennan
2016 | 14 min | Colour | Digital

Hero City is set in an unnamed city above the Arctic circle, in the far north of Russia. A narrator, the film-maker, retraces her journey to the city. She tells of her encounters and recollections of what happened between the time of filming and the time of her telling. However, she is aware that the images like her own memories cannot be trusted to provide any certainty about what was happening, what she saw, what she felt, and what it meant. The museum in the film is a composite of several museums in northern Russia (in particular the Museum of the Arctic and Antarctica in Saint Petersburg, situated in a Baroque church, founded in 1937 at the height of the Terror). The soundtrack, from fragments of a pop song by a local choir to the post-punk band at an Arctic music festival, brings its own associations. Hero City also uses fragments of the musical soundtrack from Frontier (1935) by Aleksandr Dovzhenko, of the same vintage as the museum and the city in its glory days. What does it mean to be a witness to one’s time?

Andreea Gruioniu & Eirik Anzjon
2015 | 9'40 min | Colour | Digital

Gunmakers takes us into the anachronistic world of Watson Bros, gun and rifle manufacturers since 1875 “by appointment of H.I.M. the Sultan of Turkey the Shah of Persia”. Over a period of 100 years the company made 17,000 guns, each one a unique and painstakingly handcrafted object of which a record is still kept. In this age of serial, post-industrial production, Watson Bros’ operation has barely changed, even if today, as their website tells us, you can “shop all new Watson Bros shotguns online or arrange an appointment to discuss designing a bespoke gun to your specifications.” Andreea Gruioniu’s camera eye infiltrates the workshop as an alien, probing witness to the bespoke gun crafting process in all its minute details, documenting the ritualistic nature and intensity of the human labour that goes into making these personalised killing machines.

Remnants of the Future
Uriel Orlow
2010-12 | 17’18 min | Colour | Digital

Remnants of the Future portrays the precarious existence in an inverted ruin of the modern that is still waiting to fulfil its utopian ambition of communal living. The film is set in Northern Armenia, in a vast, unfinished housing project called Mush, named after the once flourishing Armenian town in Eastern Turkey and built on the orders of Mikhail Gorbachev to house the people displaced by the 1988 Spitak earthquake. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 abruptly halted the ambitious housing development which has since remained in a ghostly state of incompletion and near desertion. The soundscape, composed by Mikhail Karikis, moves from the sounds of animals and everyday activities of the few inhabitants to modulations of radiowaves emitted by pulsars, or dying stars, which still reach us after the star has died. Out of this electro-acoustic cloud a woman’s voice announces: "I am an emissary from the future….". The time traveling character from Vladimir Mayakovski’s play The Bathhouse (1930) invites those left behind by failed state capitalism and the neglect of free markets to join her in the commune of the future.

L'eau qui dort
Michael Pinsky
2016 | 4'02 min | Colour | Digital

Lurking deep below the surface of Ourcq Canal, jettisoned objects awaited recovery. Over the years their surfaces gained the complexion of aquatic wreckage. Forty of these ghostly objects mysteriously appeared upright on the surface of the canal water, bathed in aquamarine light. Again visible, these bicycles, shopping trolleys, signs and fridges confronted their owners, demonstrating that society’s desire for the new can only be supported by rendering the old invisible. An eerie composition, generated from these objects played by those who live around the canal, emanates from spaces around the canal to form an intricate three-dimensional soundscape. L’eau Qui Dort was commissioned by COAL for La Villette during the COP21 Paris climate talks in 2015.

The Endless High Street - Version 1 (Pret A Manger)
Michael Pinsky
2011 | 11’44 min | Colour | Digital

The Endless High Street - Version 1 (Pret-A-Manger) looks at the high street as an embodiment of a homogenised society, a cliché of shops and restaurants, a safe and reliable place with no surprises. The artist documents the facades of Pret-a-Manger. There are 256 branches of Pret, spread across four countries, which have almost identical frontages. Each scene is framed so that the signage displaying "Pret-a-Manger" is registered, remaining consistent throughout the film. The cuts between each scene progressively accelerate until the viewer can only absorb the branding, not the streetscape. Cities conflate into a maelstrom of corporate design and urban life. Commissioned by Catalyst Arts, Belfast.

Roz Mortimer
1998 | 9 min | Colour | 16mm

In this erotic, witty and disturbing film, a suburban housewife peels back the veneer of her perfect home. Her ritual leads us on a surreal journey into the subterranean world of worms. As the adventure unfolds, a female narrator tells fascinating facts about the worms, contrasting the woman's exploration into her containment, sexuality and alienation. A film of fact and fiction about sex, dirt and housework.