Author: Film Focus from Reel Vision Films

Film Focus is an online service providing news, reviews and all things film both on and off the Isle of Man. Film Focus is endorsed by the Arts Council. Film Focus was born out of Reel Vision Film Productions an independent production company creating high-quality, distinctive and innovative film content. www.reelvision.net

DADA and Film: Rebellion Of The Objects by Mike Freedman, Founder of the London Dada Festival: LonDADA

A specially commissioned article for Film Focus from Mike Freedman, founder of the world’s first Dadaist festival: LonDADA

Back in late spring of 2015, during my habitual descent down the clickhole on the time-sucking vampire mistress we call Internet, I came across the fact that 2016 would mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Dada movement. One source claimed that Hugo Ball, one of the founders of Dadaism, first performed his seminal poem “Karawane” at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich on June 23rd, 1916.

I shall be reading poems that are meant to dispense with conventional language, no less, and to have done with it.”

Hugo Ball, 1916

So on June 23rd 2016, a group of musicians, performers, artists, filmmakers and Dada enthusiasts gathered at The Cinema Museum in Elephant & Castle to attempt to recreate a Dada salon from a century ago, a deliberately inscrutable, disordered and confusing affair, mashing together art, music and theatre in order to shake loose some other force, some bright spark of creativity that might ignite a new understanding of why any of us do any of the things we do.

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The audience enjoying the London DADA festival (Photo credit: Ben Gregory)

As a filmmaker, I was naturally drawn to showing films, but there was such an enthusiastic outpouring of interest and support from performers that I couldn’t help broadening the event to encompass all of the arts. However, the film programme remained a central part of my intention for the evening.

We showed a programme of experimental and Dada shorts by Hans Richter, Helmut Herbst, John Smith, Bob Georgeson and Francis Thompson, as well as a 1968 feature documentary by Helmut Herbst called “Germany DADA – An Alphabet Of German Dadaism”. We also projected a 35mm print of “Ghosts Before Breakfast”, Hans Richter’s seminal 1927 short film, with a new original score performed live by Vinzenz Stergin.

In this excellent interview from 1972, an elderly Hans Richter reflects on his early days in film and describes “Ghosts Before Breakfast” as a “rebellion of the objects”. Richter began as a painter and then moved into film before returning to painting. “I wasn’t interested anymore in the subject as such but more in the articulation on the canvas,” he says with regards to his shift from portrait painting to more abstract work. One could say that the emphasis in Dadaism is on process and not on outcome. The outcome is irrelevant and contemptible, a commercial preoccupation, while the process is the living part of the creative act.

“DADA remains within the framework of European weaknesses; it’s still shit, but from now on we want to shit in different colours.”

Tristan Tzara, 1918

The Dada filmmakers were interested in the handwerk, the handcraft, of filmmaking. Helmut Herbst, the director of “Germany DADA – An Alphabet of German Dadaism”, re-iterated that when I interviewed him for the video introduction to his film. He, like the Dadaist filmmakers, began as an artist and moved into film as a way of continuing his exploration of the techniques required to express his ideas. The twin pillars of independence and handcraft were absolutely fundamental for him as they were for the Dadaists whom he was inspired by and sought to emulate.

So where does that leave us today? The echoes of Dadaism are everywhere, in graphic design, on album covers (remember those?), t-shirts, in paintings, in galleries set up in railway arches or shipping containers. There is a direct line from Marcel Duchamp’s ‘readymades’ (found objects re-purposed and presented in an artistic context) to Tracy Emin’s bed and Damien Hirst’s shark, just as there is a clear flow of approach and execution from Richter to Terry Gilliam in film. But is every montage also a homage or a descendant of Dada? If the techniques survive or evolve but the purpose, the ethos, is lost or forgotten, is it really the same thing? Anyone can pick up a camera and knock something together with available technology, but do any of us really know why we are doing anything or how to do it? The ease of technology is anathema to handwerk, in a sense, because it makes the process as frictionless as possible, with the end goal being the production of the artefact itself rather than a change in the internal state of the artist or the audience.

“I won’t explain myself because I hate common sense.”

Tristan Tzara, 1918

 

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Tristan Tzara – Founding Dadaist

In all this intellectual analysis, one thing gets lost – Dada was a revolutionary movement, not only because of the shift it brought to the modern art scene, but because it literally was in favour of overthrowing the established political, industrial and financial orders that had brought the world to ruin in 1916 with the folly and madness of World War I. That revolution didn’t materialise, and those same orders plunged on into World War II. Richter was actually commissioned to make a film about hyperinflation in the Weimar Republic, the same hyperinflation that contributed to the social conditions which would prove so fertile for the rise of the Nazis, who among their many excesses and stupidities would destroy the soundtrack to Richter’s film “Ghosts Before Breakfast” on the grounds that a “rebellion of the objects” could be a metaphor for or an incitement to a rebellion by the people.

“DADA was born out of a need for independence, out of mistrust for the community. People who join us keep their freedom.”

Tristan Tzara, 1918

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The founders of Dadaism

Now, a century after a group of artists gathered in a dusty room and declared their contempt for the direction in which bourgeois industrial capitalism was taking society, we are again in a similar ferment. Economic hardship and instability weighs heavily on a greater and greater percent of the populace, war and terror seem to be present or spreading in every part of the world, the promise of technology and industry in many ways has never seemed less convincing, and the rumbles of discontent are beginning to show in the increased prevalence of extremism of all kinds.

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Sir Gideon Vain performing at the London Dada Festival – Photo credit Ben Gregory

With all this going on, the artists appear to have either surrendered the field or declared full allegiance to the same financial, political and industrial interests they once defied or mocked. As Helmut Herbst asked when we spoke, where is the artistic radicalism that must be a counterpart to political radicalism in order to create a strong and lasting movement for change? In 1916 and in 1968, artists were outcasts or rebels, sniping at the established order from their basements and garrets. They were the loudest critics, the most creative opposition, fighting for the minds and emotions of the public, establishing a shared vocabulary with which to question, challenge and reject the predations of the rich and powerful. Now, it seems, artists are the house band rather than the protestors. The insidious influence of technology has been to turn all artists into consumers (or all consumers into artists). Multinational corporations don’t care what kind of ‘content’ you create with your camera, laptop, phone and tablet as long as you buy them and upgrade them regularly to newer models.

Is there a Dada influence in film today? Undoubtedly. Does that influence represent the same thing it did a hundred years ago? Does it point us towards opening our minds? Does it change the way we make, think and interact with one another and the world around us? No. Should it? That’s up to you.

This Blog was written by Mike Freedman
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Mike Freedman was born in New York City.  He produced and directed the award-winning feature documentary “Critical Mass”, distributed internationally by Journeyman Pictures. His first non-fiction book, “The Revolution Will Be Improvised: Critical Conversations On Our Changing World”, will be published at the end of 2016. He is the founder and director of Day 600, a creative media company and consultancy. He lives in London with his wife.

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Watch our interview with Mike.

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Film Focus: LONDada founder Mike Freedman speaks with Emily Cook

Film Focus’ Emily Cook  joins special guest Mike Freedman Founder of the first Dada Festival, at the London Cinema Museum. They speak about the origins of Dada, its relevance today and what you can do if you’re inspired to watch or create Dada Cinema.

Watch the Full Video Interview

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This blog was written by Emily Cook

Five 80’s Nostalgia Films Guaranteed To Give You The Warm Fuzzies

Retro- Geek, Instagram Throw-backs, Vintage style and Hipster- Chic- It’s totally rad these days to focus on retrospect in fashion, print, design and most importantly (for us), cinema. You only have to look at the recent Netflix sensation STRANGER THINGS to see a programme saturated with 80’s popular references.

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The 80’s as an era was characterised by the introduction of ‘high-concept’, big budget Hollywood blockbusters. As big business took control of the studios, film budgets skyrocketed due to new technologies, developments in special effects and inflated salaries of name-recognition stars. After the innovations of the 70s, films in the 80’s were less experimental and original, but more formulaic and entertainment was king. By the end of the 80’s the average U.S. movie budget was $18 Million, a staggering increase from the $5 million figure at the start of the decade.

Here are the 80’s films that never fail to give us the warm fuzzies.. Schweet!

Watch our Full Rundown Video

Our Top 5

1 . Beetlejuice (1988) from Director Tim Burton

Chosen by Sarah

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What’s the film about ?  Beetlejuice was written by horror specialist  Michael McDowell and directed by Tim Burton and is about a couple of recently deceased ghosts who contract the services of a “bio-exorcist” in order to remove the obnoxious new owners of their house.

Why Sarah selected this film…  I really love Tim Burton’s approach to movies and find the worlds he creates to be darkly beautiful.  This is a particular favourite of mine because it’s the perfect blend of humour, iconic acting performances and amazing special effects – all in all, a movie I’ll happily see time and time again.

Trivia  I was surprised to find out that Michael Keaton’s part of the film only lasted seventeen and a half minutes out of the ninety two minute running time – it seemed so much longer!

The Film’s Trailer:

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2. E.T the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) from Director Steven Spielberg

Chosen by Emily

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What’s the film about ?
ET the Extra Terrestrial directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, , tells the story of Elliott, a lonely boy who befriends an
extraterrestrial, called “E.T.”, who’s stranded on Earth. He and his siblings help it return home while attempting to keep it hidden from their mother and the government.

Why Emily recommends this film…
The films is complete escapism, it brings alive many childhood fantasies and innocently deals with fundamental life lessons such as compassion, integrity and loyalty. Similarly to the Goonies, Hook and a number of other fantasy films of the same ilk, ET follows the plot from a child’s point of view. This device really does revert the viewer to childhood where illusions can’t be broken and magic is real, if you only have the power of belief. Watching it today, the music, Special Effects and plot are so evocative it can still transport me back to a happy innocent place.  Released on June 11, 1982 by Universal Pictures, E.T was an immediate blockbuster, surpassing Star Wars to become the highest-grossing film of all time—a record it held for eleven years until Jurassic Park, another Spielberg-directed film, surpassed it in 1993.  

Trivia: Spielberg himself was the first voice of ET. During shooting, Spielberg acted out the voice parts of E.T. by positioning himself just to the side of the camera, uttering famous phrases like “E.T. phone home,” but also occasionally speaking in full sentences to better connect the character to the child actors

The Film’s Trailer:

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3. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) from Director John Hughes

Chosen by Sarah

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What’s the film about ?  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was written, co-produced and directed by the amazing John Hughes and, as most people will know, it’s about a high school wise guy who is determined to have a day off from school, despite what the principal and his older sister thinks of that.

 

Why Sarah selected this film…   This movie makes me smile every time I watch it.  I don’t know whether it’s the fact that the movie encourages living life to the fullest or you feel as if you are on this crazy adventure with Ferris, Cameron and Sloane but I always feel uplifted and happy every time I’ve seen it, which is now a considerable amount of times!

Trivia  John Hughes personally designed Ferris’ bedroom, mirrored mostly on his own bedroom when he was in high school.

The Film’s Trailer:

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4. Ghostbusters (1984) Directed by Ivan Reitman

Chosen by Emily

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What’s the film about?
The 1984  original Ghostbusters film directed by Ivan Reitman,  has become somewhat of a cult classic. The story follows a group of scientists,  Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) and his Columbia University colleagues (Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson) as they get kicked out of their prestigious academic posts, and start a private practice as professional ghost-catchers, ridding New York of the Ghouls.

Why Emily recommends this film…
I remember first watching it when I was six in America and just like it’s theme tune, it’s stuck with me ever since. The film is iconic, fun and for it’s time, technically very clever. It made  excellent use of the new special effects technologies that came out of the 80’s, using a subject matter that lent itself to showcasing the visual effects. Although many aspects of the film might seem slightly corny watching it today, one must remember,as with any film, it was a product of it’s time. The soundtrack, entertaining plot and light hearted comedy, deliver up a generous helping of cinematic nostalgia.  The film received two Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Song (for the hit song “Ghostbusters“) and Best Visual Effects.

Trivia: The “marshmallow” goo was actually shaving cream. More than 50 gallons was dumped on Walter Peck (William Atherton), almost knocking him to the ground.

The Film’s Trailer:

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5. Blade Runner (1982) from Director Ridley Scott

Chosen by Sarah

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What’s the film about ?  Blade Runner is based on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K Dick and is a classic envisioning of a dystopian future, set in 2019 Los Angeles.  The film focusses on a replicant hunter who must pursue and try to terminate four replicants who stole a spaceship and who have returned to Earth to find their creator.

Why Sarah selected this film…  This movie doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy with nostalgia, as such, but I selected it because I’m still blown away by Ridley Scott’s creative vision, especially with regards to the location in which the film is set.  I have read quite a few Philip K Dick books and have enjoyed every one of them and this movie is one of the best interpretations of his ideas out there, along with Minority Report and A Scanner Darkly.

Trivia:  In 1969, Martin Scorsese met Philip K. Dick to discuss the possibility of adapting the novel into a film but the novel was never optioned and the project fell through.

The Film’s Trailer:

Which films from the 80’s do you remember the most fondly and who do you think we should have included on our list? Please leave a reply below, we’d love to hear from you.

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This blog page was created by Film Focus Founder Emily Cook and Podcast Co-Host Sarah Moore

 

Film Focus: STRANGER THINGS’ Props Master Lynda Reiss speaks with Emily Cook

Film Focus’ Emily Cook speaks with Special Guest Hollywood Props Master Lynda Reiss about her most recent work on Netflix sensation STRANGER THINGS. They discuss the show, what a props master actually does and Lynda reveals some behind the scenes secrets from the set of the series. Lynda has also worked such iconic productions as American Beauty, True Detective and Cruel Intentions.

Watch the Full Video Interview

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Film Focus elsewhere:
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Happy Movie Going!

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This blog was written by Emily Cook

Film Focus on: Tickled (2016)

Emily and Sarah review recent release Tickled. When New Zealand Journalist David Farrier starts researching an innocent story into the intriguing and silly world of competitive endurance tickling, he comes up against some fierce resistance and the story quickly becomes something quite sinister in this gripping and chilling documentary. The film was supported by Stephen Fry who donated to the Kick Starter campaign which funded the film’s production. Here’s what we made of it…

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Watch our Video Review Clip

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The Film’s Trailer

 

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Happy Movie Going!!

Emily Cook
This blog was written by Emily

Film Focus on: Swiss Army Man (2016)

Emily and Sarah review recent release Swiss Army Man staring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. The film tells the story of a hopeless man stranded on a deserted island who befriends a washed-up corpse and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.The film is directed by visionary duo, renowned music video directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert who bring their own brand of bizarre ‘out there’ creativity to the mix. We also hear from Daniel Radcliffe himself who we saw at the press preview screening of the film the other week. Here’s what we thought of it…

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The Film’s Trailer

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Emily Cook
This blog was written by Emily

Film Focus: Episode 10- The 80’s Edition with Special Guest, Stranger Things’ Lynda Reiss

In this episode Emily and Sarah review recent releases Tickled, a bizarre and chilling documentary into the sinister world of competitive tickling, and Swiss Army Man including an interview clip with Daniel Radcliffe, the film’s star. Emily catches up with special guest, Hollywood Props Master Lynda Reiss to talk about her most recent work on Netflix sensation STRANGER THINGS . We’ll find out the latest on Sarah’s challenge to watch over 500 feature films in a year and, as if that wasn’t enough, we’ll be getting all warm and fuzzy as we reveal Our Top 5 80’s Nostalgia Films.

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Happy Movie Going!!

Emily Cook
This blog was written by Emily