The Sunday Intertitle: The Wind’s Twelve Quarters


How can you have TWELVE quarters of anything?

Be that as it may, we had another set of intertitles on view in TYBURNIA at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and once again I can’t show them to you or even quite them at you — I failed to commit any of the dozens of title cards to memory (it was late).

Tyburnia Trailer Three from James Holcombe on Vimeo.

The movie looks at the district where London’s gallows once stood — 70s horror movie company Tyburn Films took their name from the same spot. Director James Holcombe uses Tyburn to explore modern politics and protest alongside the grim history of hangings, beheadings and disembowelings that took place regularly over 700 years — until the gallows was destroyed in a storm thought by many at the time to be the work of ANGRY GHOSTS.

The film, shot on Super-8 and 16mm, is fascinating, but I was even more taken with the inventive and experimental work of the Dead Rat Orchestra, grim folk songs and weird amplified scratchings and rattlings — highly atmospheric.

Despite lacking any visible onscreen carnage, the verbal evocation of maimings and judicial murders and mutilations must qualify TYBURNIA as the most violent experimental film since Kiarostami’s SHIRIN (with its bone-crunching soundtrack played over shots of watching actors).

I’ve grown to trust programmer Kim Knowles’ choices in EIFF’s experimental “Black Box” category, so it’s one part of the fest where I just turn up at stuff randomly without knowing the filmmakers or the subjects.


TRANSATLANTIC, by Félix Dufour-Laperrière, takes place on a cargo ship clanking towards Canada. It departs its point of origin at the start, and arrives at the end. In between, dream and reality, day and night blur together. We don’t exactly meet anyone and nothing exactly happens. I found it riveting. I don’t know for sure if a breathtaking shot of the sea, blackly luminous, was played in negative. It could just be that Dufour-Laperrière captured a new light hitting the water in a new way. Seeing this film is like being handed a fresh set of eyeballs.

Also, we get one of my favourite tropes, the Floating Head of Death (see also Wini Shaw trilling The Lullaby of Broadway in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935). A Bollywood star of the 50s is abstracted from her film, disembodied at the neck, and presented against a sea of blackness, lips moving silently, song lost in transit, as a throbbing him rumbles beneath. Only later do we see her in context, viewed on a laptop by a crewmember. Was the hovering head a dream? Or a spirit of the sea?

Trailer here.


10 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: The Wind’s Twelve Quarters”

  1. The All-Time Great Hovering Head is of course —

  2. He somehow doesn’t quite count as the same thing. Ken Russell, Busby Berkeley, William Castle and Charles Laughton are good for true FHoDs.

  3. “How can you have TWELVE quarters of anything?”

    Quite easily. It dates back to the ancient Greeks and earlier, before there were compasses, and the world was divided into quarters derived from various winds. Timosthenes fixed tham at twelve. There’s still a remnant in the military use of the term “… o’clock” to give directions. “Quarter” meaning one fourth is a fairly recent term

  4. TRANSATLANTIC and DAINAH LA METISSE sound like a great double bill.

  5. Forgot to say, the phrase probably gets its popularity from A.E. Housman’s poem “From far, from eve and morning…” via Vaughan Williams or Ursula Le Guin.

  6. Yes, Ursula got it off Housman.

    And yes, the Dufour-Laperrière would go well with the Gremillon, for sure! I think The Shining somehow belongs in there too.

  7. This all sounds amazing. Is that negative-looking thing in the trailer not the sky filmed from beneath the sea?

  8. And as Zardozzy hovering heads I’ve always welcomed Rei “but you can call me Ray” di Tuto.

  9. I figured, when I first saw it, that we were underwater, thrirty-two seconds in.

    But there are shots like the last shot of the trailer which look like they could be the same footage inverted and in negative.

    “I just invented spring.”

  10. […] I wasn’t able to see it in Edinburgh). Seeing it on that scale made certain things visible. David Cairns wrote about the film during EIFF and he mentioned ‘a breathtaking shot of the sea, blackly luminous’ and […]

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