The BFI has just released a DVD collection of short films by experimental British filmmaker Jeff Keen. To review a selection of these films, Alex Fitch is joined by Tania Glyde and (belatedly) Kim Morgan, former presenters of Midnight Sex Talk, a frank programme on all aspects of sexuality that ran for two years on Resonance FM. Tania also worked as the agony aunt for Time Out and has written three books; the most recent, Cleaning Up: How I Gave Up Drinking and Lived, has just been published in paperback by Serpent’s Tail.
Marvo Movie (16mm, 5 mins, 1967)
Alex Fitch: I did like the Ken Russell quote that’s connected with it: ‘It went right over my head and seemed a little threatening, but I’m all for it’…
Tania Glyde: The sibilant voices and all that hissing did seem threatening! There was an anti-American feel with the horrible Mickey Mouse faces and make-up.
AF: It was as much an assault on the senses visually as sonically – a cacophony.
Rayday Film (16mm, 13 mins, 1969)
TG: There were some funny bits in this one, especially the part where ‘Back to 1942!’ appeared on screen – it seems that Keen’s drawing from his own life, from his experience in the war.
AF: There are reoccurring themes in his films: the melting dolls, starting fires on electric hobs, comic book references… Thinking of comic book lettering on screen, there was the Batman TV series in the 1960s, but no one’s ever really done that in film until very recently. I like the fact that he’s putting comic book sound effects and speech bubbles on screen.
TG: There was more sexual imagery and depictions of women’s bodies but it wasn’t heavy on the nudity. The animation was very Terry Gilliam. It looked like he was having a lot of fun with this, but at the same time acting out quite dark themes. Keen was in his mid-40s when he made that film – surrounded by all these young people just discovering drugs and sex in the 60s. I wonder if he was maybe envious of them not having known the war…
Read the rest of the dialogue in the new print issue of Electric Sheep. Our spring issue focuses on Tainted Love to celebrate the release of the sweet and bloody pre-teen vampire romance Let the Right One In, with articles on incestuous cinematic siblings, Franí§ois Ozon‘s tales of tortuous relationships, destructive passion in Nic Roeg‘s Bad Timing, Julio Medem‘s ambiguous lovers and nihilistic tenderness from Kôji Wakamatsu. Also in this issue: Interview with Pascal Laugier (Martyrs), Berlin squat cinema, the Polish New Wave that never existed and comic strip on the Watchmen film adaptation + much more!