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!

It has:

great pace

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’.

Best wishes

Matt x

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.)


5 Responses to “Euphoria #44: Lead by the hand”

  1. Worry not, Mr Cairns – there ain’t gonna be no enthroning of Mr Hulse – God Forbid. Nothing to be scared of. Besides you’ll have spotted that one of the reasons I like this film so much is because it has so many entertaining and human elements – unlike a great deal of (what is inadequately described as) ‘experimental film’. Art without humour is so often DOA. Needs CPR. ( No, I never watch Holby City – only every week, and then again on BBCi ). In fact, you may be surprised to hear that in academic circles – ie those that validate what is and what isn’t ‘experimental’ ( according to the remit of their research ) – would no sooner call my work experimental than they would of, say, George Miller, who directed ‘Babe: Pig In The City’ ( a fine movie – anything with talking animals does it for me ). Now I’m not into pigeon-holing for the sake of it but if you or anyone out there has a better way of describing films which misbehave and challenge the mainstream without being at the same time pofaced and self-regarding then let me know! Being called an ‘experimental film maker’ is in some respects diminishing and yet, yes, I do choose to align myself with an approach that essentially asks for freedom to maneuver. Cake and eat it?

  2. Not bad. But I’d nominate Bruce Conner’s Valse Triste and Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart

  3. I’ve seen Rose Hobart AND the goofy movie it came from — which has enough material for a half-dozen “experiments”. RH is the loveliest imaginable, though.

    Agree with Matt about the nomenclature, it’s all inadequate and reductive in some way. As B. Kite puts it, ‘”Non-narrative” isn’t any better, since defining things by what they’re not strikes me as ungood.’ I maybe like avant-garde best, because it’s not only French and therefore classy, it suggests a heroic effort to seize new ground. That may not be correct in every case, but it sure sounds NOBLE.

  4. George Melford the director of East of Borneo (from which Rose Hobart is chiefly, though not exclusively, derived) also directed the Spanish-language version of Dracula, shot on the same sets as the Tod Browning on that unit’s days off.

  5. That makes sense. The Spanish Drac is visually superior to the Lugosi/Browning but the performances are a bit uncontrolled. And East of B is similar: the visuals aren’t as good but they’re more consistent than the perfs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: