Butterfly Women and Cursed Cassettes: Music and Video Shorts at LSFF 2011


London Short Film Festival

7-16 January 2011

LSFF website

On a grim mid-January Saturday afternoon, the Roxy Bar and Screen was packed to the rafters with a lively audience waiting for the LSFF programme of music and video shorts. It was impossible to move for the people sitting on the floor, and still they kept coming. Their eagerness was justified: once more, LSFF delivered the goods in a selection of shorts that innovatively combined sound and image. The programme was bookended by Max Hattler’s Heaven and Hell, two films inspired by the visionary paintings of Augustin Lesage. They are constructed as loops, with patterns of coloured circles moving in a circular movement to repetitive percussive sounds in Heaven, while in Hell, dark grey machine imagery opens like the wings of an eagle to the noise of a sinister drone. Hypnotic and immersive, with complex variations on visual and aural patterns, they perfectly framed the programme.

Check out Max Hattler’s contribution to The End: An Electric Sheep Anthology, out in March (Strange Attractor Press).

One of the most impressive films was Franck Trebillac’s Calculus, the video to an electronic track by Stretta (scroll down to watch the film). Images of organic matter and insects are set to the throbbing music, with a beetle and a praying mantis moving in time to slower and faster rhythms, before a woman comes out of a chrysalis with a butterfly covering her eyes and nose. The pulsation of the music and the emphasis on the texture and palpitation of the insects’ bodies work together superbly to create a heightened sense of life’s matter, culminating in the creation of this beautiful, deeply alien creature. Another of Franck Trebillac’s videos was included in the programme, for Tricil’s ‘The Emancipation’. This time, the focus was on mechanisms and automata, with a ballerina in an old-fashioned music box dancing to a dark, heavy complex electronic beat. Her movements were jerky like a doll’s, and as the music progressed, her image was multiplied and superimposed, creating wonderful abstract patterns that fitted the music perfectly and underlined its dark, oppressive feel.

In Alex Harrison’s video for Aspirin’s electronic instrumental ‘Cutter’, a gloved hand tests brightly coloured 80s plastic toys in a white lab-like environment. As the music becomes more discordant, the toys spin out of control, until the lab tester sets fire to them. The Day-Glo 80s imagery was a perfect fit for the music, and the movement of the toys precisely matched the rhythm of the music. In a completely different style, Friends was a video directed by Edwin Mingard for François and the Atlas Mountains. François is introduced as the ‘curator’ of the ‘Atlas Mountains’ Memory Archive’ and he sings the song with an old Super8 projector behind him. This is intercut with images of a young man in various settings, who wipes words such as ‘Kissed a Girl’ and ‘Got Scared’ off his face. This is filmed backwards, the words appearing as the wiping is reversed. This temporal trick emphasises the melancholy of the song.

Among the films that were not music videos, one of the most interesting was Paul Cheshire’s The Cursed Cassette, which established a convincingly strange world in just one minute. A man receives a mysterious cassette in an envelope on which is drawn a moustache; when he plays it, high-pitched electronic noises and what sounds like a bassoon or a tuba are heard, while a moustache appears on his face. Weird electrical impulses are triggered and the man goes through a number of transfigurations; he multiplies and is transformed into a sinister masked figure. The Cursed Cassette brilliantly uses simple visual and musical elements to create an intriguing and evocative story in a remarkably short time.

Not all of the films were as successful, but in a programme that included 26 shorts, that was to be expected. Some of the music videos were not particularly interesting, and the two fashion films included seemed entirely unnecessary: Leaving Dreamland (Ivana Bobic and Rain Li) told the silly, clichéd story of a girl who looked like a model and whose only purpose seemed to show off hip clothes, while Cassia (Zaiba Jabbar) seemed like a self-indulgent portrait of Hoxtonites. But despite these bum notes, the screening was hugely enjoyable and interesting overall, and the audience certainly agreed, enthusiastically applauding every single film.

The Music and Video programme screened on Saturday 15 January 2011 at the Roxy Bar and Screen.

Virginie Sélavy

Watch Calculus: