Narrative — Final Major Project

Project brief: To produce a short narrative film on the theme of ‘Jetty’, to be premiered at the Margate Film Festival.

A large source of inspiration behind my final major project has been looking at the artwork of film titles.

Artwork by art director Robert Brownjohn.

The relationship between the projected text within a low-lit space and onto the human body creates a distorting and tantalising effect. This gave me the idea to test this further — projecting text onto various objects in different lighting conditions.

The subject of Christian Marclay’s fourteen-minute installation Video Quartet is sound. Shown on four contiguous video screens, it is a montage of more than 700 individual film clips—appropriated from popular feature movies and documentaries alike—in which characters play instruments, sing, or make noise in one form or another.

The artist’s use of turntables in previous performance pieces influenced his approach in Video Quartet: “It’s the same vocabulary of techniques, using snippets of sound and putting them all together to create a new unified composition,” he explained.

Much of Marclay’s work in collage, photography, video, and performance concerns not only sound but its various visual and material incarnations, and Video Quartet is simultaneously a sonic and visual composition, with the two modes inextricably layered and entwined. Certain clips are repeated on different screens, prompting the viewer to register not only aural but visual patterns and correspondences. Although at points the work has an improvisatory feel, Marclay structured it as a score with discrete movements and motifs, and spent a year meticulously composing and editing it on a home computer. 

The clips included in Video Quartet, which Christian Marclay edited in his New York studio using the software programme Final Cut Pro, are taken mainly from Hollywood feature films, both colour and black and white productions. Dating from the 1920s to the early twenty-first century, and featuring actors such as Liza Minnelli, Rita Hayworth and Jack Nicholson, these source materials have been described by Marclay as ‘fragments of our cultural baggage’ (quoted in González, Gordon and Higgs 2005, p.89).

Video Quartet begins with scenes of an orchestra tuning up, a segment which builds to a crescendo before it is followed by clips in which characters play musical instruments and sing. The work also includes scenes featuring shouts, screams and close-ups of various noisy objects, such as a spinning roulette wheel. At some moments the same image appears in all four projections; occasionally a single clip seems to bounce between them. As the musician, composer and writer Alan Licht has suggested, ‘As carefully composed and edited as it is, there is also an improvisational feel to parts of Video Quartet, as if each clip is reacting to another spontaneously’ (Licht 2003, p.103). The overall effect is to create a fourteen-minute musical symphony – one with its own distinct rhythms and sections, including moments of calmness and dramatic counterpoints – out of fragmented elements. With visual and audio finality, Video Quartet ends with the sight and sound of a door slamming.

The inspiration behind my final Narrative project is taken from Martin Scorsese’s 1991 film, Cape Fear, Saul and Elaine Bass main title sequence. I really enjoy how the water has created abstract patterns and shapes as the backdrop to the sequence. The text and ‘broken’ nature effect fits well with the water and movement.

Saul + Elaine Bass Film Titles
Cape Fear (1991)

The Man With The Golden Arm (1955)

The following images are screenshots of each clip used in my final moving image piece. These clips are raw and before any visual adjustments were made. The piece was inspired by the geometry and use of moving graphics by Saul + Elaine Bass’ film titles. Particularly the way the “THE END” appears and fills the frame. I have constructed each frame so that the music, text and movement of water work in harmony with one another. The sound is improvisation of some blues music, I originally broken the frames into 12th of second to represent the 12 bar blues. I later discarded this idea so that the frames fit in sequence with the tempo and text.

I wanted to project the seascape films to add a sense of obscurity and create a ‘floating’ effect.

“The End” is a metaphorical representation of the journey, the course coming to and end. The clip of my shadow walking is me walking to the School.

I blurred the text and added pink hues to juxtapose against the seascape films, and to add to the dreamy effect.

Final moving image
2:00 min

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