Close Up

15 January 2017: Shoot Shoot Shoot: Mare’s Tail


"From one flick of the mare’s tail came an unending stream of images out of which was crystallised the milky way." – David Larcher

In collaboration with LUX we’re thrilled to present a rare 16mm screening of David Larcher’s Mare’s Tail to mark the publication of Shoot Shoot Shoot: The First Decade of the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative 1966-76 – a compendium of texts, interviews, images and documents from the era. Mark Webber will introduce the film and copies of the book will be available to purchase before the screening.

Mare’s Tail
David Larcher
1969 | 143 min | Colour | 16mm
Introduced by Mark Webber

One of the forgotten masterpieces of British avant-garde cinema, David Larcher’s epic film was assembled from quasi-autobiographical footage, shot over several years, that was processed, manipulated and edited into a dense, durational viewing experience. Generously employing assorted optical and aural trickery, Mare’s Tail unravels into a 2½ hour anarcho-mystical voyage of psychedelic revelation.

Though made independently of the London Film-Makers' Co-operative, the visual ingenuity and ambitious scope of Mare’s Tail made it a key contribution to the UK’s nascent experimental film scene. Containing footage that dates back to Larcher’s time as an RCA student in the mid-1960s, the film was completed some years later with funds provided by producer/patron Alan Power. It received its world premiere at the 1969 Edinburgh Film Festival and was the opening film for the IRAT Cinema at the Robert Street New Arts Lab.

"Mare's Tail is an epic flight into inner space. It is a 2 and 3/4 hour visual accumulation in colour, the filmmaker’s personal odyssey, which becomes the odyssey of each of us. It is a man’s life transposed into a visual realm, a realm of spirits and demons, which unravel as mystical totalities until reality fragments. Every movement begins a journey. There are spots before your eyes, as when you look at the sun that flames and burns. We look at distant moving forms and flash through them. We drift through suns; a piece of earth phases over the moon. A face, your face, his face, a face that looks and splits into shapes that form new shapes that we rediscover as tiny monolithic monuments. A profile as a full face. The moon again, the flesh, the child, the room and the waves become part of a hieroglyphic language…

Mare's Tail is an important film because it expresses life. It follows Paul Klee’s idea that a visually expressive piece adds "more spirit to the seen" and also "makes secret visions visible". Like other serious films and works of art, it keeps on seeking and seeing, as the filmmaker does, as the artist does. It follows the transience of life and nature, studying things closely, moving into vast space, coming in close again. The course it follows is profoundly real and profoundly personal: Larcher’s trip becomes our trip to experience. It cannot be watched impatiently, with expectation; it is no good looking for generalization, condensation, complication or implication." – Stephen Dwoskin, Film Is: The International Free Cinema

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