Euphoria #44: Lead by the hand
Experimental film-maker Matt Hulse, invited to nominate some avant-garde euphoria to our Feelgood Fifty, had this to say:
‘I nominate Richard Serra’s “Hand Catching Lead” from 1971.
If clip doesn’t work, click here.
Looked at only superficially – which seems to be how many, many people view the world – it’s little more than a lazy arse fooling around, wasting film ,wasting (my!) time and then having the bloody cheek to call it ‘art’, and worse, a ‘film’! The response on YouTube from a member called kupazmaslemutube sums it up – their comment is ‘WTF suck’. I’m assuming WTF doesn’t stand for ‘wonderful time-based film’. ‘Hand Catching Lead’ drives people to distraction and I love it simply for that reason alone. But get over the panic and the prejudice, spend a little time watching this movie and really, it has everything you could possibly want in a film!
a form of narrative ‘arc’ during which the hand tires out and turns from white to dirty grey (as if Serra is somehow being sullied by the silver halide of film stock itself)
comedy – look out for the gag about half way through (I suppose THIS gag, specifically, is my ‘moment’)
an actor – in this case just a hand – who reveals a great range of emotions and even slips into ‘hammy’ performance at times
great beauty (always in the eye of the beholder)
a great ending, hand diving out of frame, like film spooling out of the projector
This work is reminiscent of another favorite of mine – The Chimney Sweep and the Miller (AM&B, 1902):
Conceptually, the two films are closely related, in that over time black and white merge to form grey – classic conceptual / structural film making in action. Plus they are both essentially comedies. I plan to make a spoof of / homage to Serra’s film. Mine will be called ‘Hand Catching Bread’, in which a dark, sooty hand tries to catch slices of white bread. Naturally it will mimic as close as possible the movements and nuanced performance of Serra’s own hand. The project is in development I am currently looking for funding, although Mother’s Pride’s Scottish Plain have expressed an interest in ‘product placement’.
Who says art and commerce can’t go hand in (dirty) hand?
I’d add one more thing which the Serra/Schumm film has — suspense! Will he catch this next piece of lead? If he does, will he drop it like the others? Will he try to catch a piece of lead that doesn’t come, and look silly? Where will this all end?
Matt’s nomination/s and the reasoning behind it are so great you will probably now all RISE UP against me and enthrone Mr. Hulse (an ever-present fear of mine since we both teach at Edinburgh College of Art) but STAY YOUR HANDS awhile and I will tell you more of Fritz Lang’s DIE NIBELUNGEN.
(I’m thinking of making it NIBELUNGEN WEEK here at Shadowplay.)