London-born artist and composer Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, creates genre-defying experimental sound pieces, influenced by everything from film scores to architecture and fashion. He’s composed work from found mobile phone conversations and the hidden noises of the urban environment, and has staged installations and performed at venues from Vienna to Vietnam. This week sees the re-issue of The Garden Is Full of Metal/Homage to Derek Jarman, a sound portrait made of recordings from spaces that Jarman inhabited, on the 20th anniversary of the artist-filmmaker’s passing. A live album recorded in a Dresden amphitheatre in Germany, Electronic Garden, will also be released on 24 February 2014. For more details on both albums and to buy them, please visit Scanner’s website. Below, Scanner chooses 10 films that have inspired and entertained him.
1. Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)
A mind-blowingly inventive film that touches on memory, appearance and history, and most definitely a work that can’t be written about in one paragraph. Is it fiction or reality? As a student, I saw this when it was first shown in London at the ICA, and I remember leaving the cinema as if in a spell. Indeed, when it was first shown on Channel 4 the following year, I recorded the entire film on cassette so I could just listen back to this expansive free-form travelogue.
2. Mauvais sang (Leos Carax, 1986)
I saw this at the Metro Cinema in London when it was released, with no expectations at all. Super stylish, with a central love story between a young, animated Denis Lavant and Juliette Binoche, the film exhibits beautifully detailed directorial touches, such as the marks on her skin from the sheet when she wakes up in bed. It’s a hymn to Paris with a love of Godard in every scene.
3. Ghost Dance (Ken McMullen, 1983)
Again I discovered this at the ICA, initially drawn to the film having read that the esteemed David Cunningham of The Flying Lizards composed the score and performance artist Stuart Brisley made an appearance. A film about ‘ghosts’ in our everyday world, it’s a thought-provoking and haunting film, with an unforgettable cameo by the late, great Jacques Derrida in a smoky Parisian café.
4. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
A film that has frequently been referenced with regard to my earlier work exploring scanned mobile phone calls and the invasion of privacy. Long before the net and social networks took precedence, this film, about a surveillance expert who is destroyed by his own obsession, focused on the limitations of sound and how we listen and interpret. Gene Hackman plays his role with a lonely passion for his job, yet filled with angst and caution about everyone he meets.
5. Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)
I could easily have chosen Lynch’s Eraserhead or Blue Velvet, but this twisted film is bewildering and surreal, where the rational needs to be left at the door. Characters swiftly morph into others, while locations urgently switch from one to another. I love how Lynch plays with his own reputation, as he sends characters into dark corridors with a sombre industrial soundtrack and they emerge again unscathed. Best use of a David Bowie song (‘I’m Deranged’) in a film since Mauvais Sang too.
6. Come and See (Elem Klimov, 1985)
A war film that is more about retreat than attack, and arguably one of the strongest war films of all time, where sorrow and failure take priority over dominance and a sense of conquest. As the remarkable soundtrack mirrors the devastation of the war on the young man, with ever increasing noise in the score, we are made true witnesses to all that is the horror of war. It’s an uncompromising and heart-breaking film that always makes me think of Klimov’s short film Larisa (1980), an elegy to his late wife, Larisa Shepitko.
7. The Ascent (Larisa Shepitko, 1977)
As with most of my choices here, images remain burnt into my retina long after seeing the film, and this one in particular features harrowing scenes, notably the execution scene where we witness the fierce, unblinking stare of a boy looking into the eyes of condemned men. Seen alongside Come and See by Shepitko’s husband Klimov, this film is heroic in ambition, and it is a tragedy that Shepitko died so young. The score by Alfred Schnittke is transcendent and as cold as white snow.
8. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
A film that divided many people. I remember watching this in the splendid Art Deco Tuschinski cinema in Amsterdam, and had never seen so many people leave a film screening until I was left as one of a handful of mesmerised viewers, enraptured by this prayer to the image, to the soul. Within the opening 20 minutes I had tears in my eyes, as the John Tavener score soared to spiritual heights, the dreamlike editing and stunning images taking me with them on this elegiac journey into childhood and the afterlife.
9. Starsky & Hutch (Todd Philips, 2004)
We all have guilty pleasures, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve seen this film around a dozen times and still find it affectionate, playful, deliberately formulaic in its narrative and reliably amusing. A kind of paean to 1970s cinema and all the baggage that this brings with it in the most enjoyable way.
10. The Last of England (Derek Jarman, 1988)
As with many of the other directors I’ve mentioned here, I could just as easily have chosen Jarman’s The Garden, The Angelic Conversation or Caravaggio, but The Last of England is the vision of an angry Jarman, raging against the system of the time, with visceral, kinetic images that push the viewer to make a real commitment to this dreamlike tale. Given that he died before the advancements in digital filmmaking and mobile technologies, it still saddens me to wonder what magic Jarman would have been producing if he were still with us today.