Rounding up an incredibly successful week for the Birds Eye View festival
Sounds and Silents – Bloody Women from Gothic to Horror, Part of the Women of the World Festival 2011
Rounding up an incredibly successful week for the Birds Eye View festival a clash of dated visuals met contemporary sounds met on the stage of The Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s Southbank. A personal highlight of the line up for creative director Rachel Millward, the occasion bought forth the talents of various female artists come composers to interpret the scores of silent cinema through at times just about every instrument known to man, or in this case, woman.
The first act for this collision was the furiously talented Micachu, a classically trained experimental composer whose soundtrack to a primitive silhouette variation of Hansel and Gretel seemed almost personified through scratches and showers of noise.
New American short Meshes of the Afternoon merged dimensions of a frantic dream sequence taking place in the head of a big haired lady, and seemed almost to be filmed in accordance with composer Seaming’s ensemble of piano, clarinet and piercing vocals.
As if this weren’t enough layers of sound to tame next Tara Busch upped the anti by surrounding herself with at least half a dozen instruments to assist the telling of Suspense, a rickety short where a terrifying tramp breaks into a family home.
Heading the bill for this live soundtrack, Imogen Heap took to the stage with a full choir for her first music to screen accapello score. Perhaps the best known name of the evening, Heap has enjoyed grammy success and her songs has been featured in many mainstream films and shows both as a solo artist and with her band Frou Frou.
The film she narrates is The Seashell and the Clergyman, a dark insight of a man’s thoughts and pegged as probably the first surrealist film. At around 30 minutes long there is little by way of a narrative, focusing instead on a series of demonic motions and motivations, obscure angles and steady close ups that make a perfect feast for sound.
From the opening few shots the energy between composer and choir is apparent, and Heap seems to use every available limb to channel her music as the film progresses. The use of vocals is vast from whistling to warbling, and all the time with Heap’s distinctive voice soaring over the top.
With an eye and ear for the obscure and beautiful this was not a night for everyone but in a new era where piracy destroys the context of cinema and music sales this is a bold and effective step forward in the name of a live mesh of both and one that will hopefully be used more in the future.
Film Highlight: Guilty Pleasures, Director: Julie Moggan, Length: 85 minutes Rating 5/5
One of the few selected documentaries for this year’s Birds
Eye View Film Festival could not stand out more in the category this year.
Celebrating 100 years of Mills and Boon, the incorporated producers of rompy
novels the world over, brit filmmaker Julie Moggan summarises two years of work
in a tribute to the source material that makes women across the globe hot under
Starting with Roger (pen name Gill Sanderson,) one of Mills
and Boons longest serving writers, Guilty Pleasures travels from writer to
reader to cover model to explore not only the production of these rampant
novels but also the effects that they have on their readers, namely the idea of
romance and how it can shape not only the decisions that women make but also
the way it effects their ideals.
Opening with Roger’s caravan the film is gloriously tongue
in cheek as he speaks of the importance of the male lead (“I have never had a
red haired male and I doubt I ever will”) and follows his daily life from
pushing weights at the gym to attending the annual Romantic Novel convention.
His old aged views on love and its turbulence makes him Mills and Boon
personified and, as he looks for inspiration in a motorway station cafe,
fantastically British. “I once heard a saying that the women endure sex for
marriage and men endure marriage for sex, and I fear there is a hint of truth
in that” he concludes in a thick Northern accent from behind thick spectacles.
Moggan follows in turn 3 devoted Mills and Boon readers; one
from Northern England, living with a bipolar husband, an Indian princess struggling
with understanding her feelings for her adultery committing ex husband and a
ballroom dancer from Korea who dreams of winning a trophy and marrying George
Harrison. For a Film Festival celebrating women in the arts this is a perfect
sampling, as the film shows streaks of contrasting emotions from the three
readers unknowingly bound by their love for romantic fiction. Each woman has a
weakness but Moggan does well to portray their strengths above all else and how
Mills and Boon have helped bring them to these places.
The narrative criss crosses lovingly between these three
accounts of transformation as well as interviews with spouses, Roger and dreamy
cover model Stephen who has graced the front of over 200 books. The latter, who
is a sheer reflection of Brad Pitt’s character Chad in Burn After Reading is an
unknown parody of himself, complete with crystals, tantric sex books and a
speed boat, and whose quest for his “twin flame” probably generates the most
It’s incredibly well executed throughout and brings out
through the material the sort of human humour that will have a smile plastered
to your face for 90% of the film, stopping only when Moggan asks you to. You
find yourself connecting and sympathising with these people even if at first you’re
reluctant to and by the end of the film you will be cheering their
accomplishments in a ways that Hollywood simply can’t muster. A fantastic new filmmaker, Moggan never
misses an opportunity to highlight irony, be in the choice of soundtrack or the
use of framing. She also delights in the humour these of people’s everyday
choices, a perfect example being our Northern reader’s husband picking out a
Valentine’s Day card with the incredible approach “Straight in, straight out,
just like the SAS.”
It’s the sort of stuff that can’t be written, bound by a
common theme that is recognised by thousands of people. It’s a tribute, but on
a broader scale, celebrating the effects of old fashioned romance, or its lack
of, as opposed to the success of the Mills and Boon name.
Ludicrously funny, unfaltering and at times surprisingly
deep, this is one of the best documentaries in years and brings a new light to
a franchise commonly dismissed as churned out lit.