Bunch Of Fives: Ben Bazin | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Ben Bazin is from Newcastle and has been on the scene, gigging with several different local bands from an early age. His band Ben Bazin and The Catwalk Models are a genre-blending, high-energy live act and have just released their new single, Shabby-Chic, which sounds a little bit like the alien baby of Bob Dylan and the Birthday-Party, with The Gang of Four’s political sensibilities. 

Ben gives us his bunch of fives looking at his favourite DIY films.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto) (1989)
Cult cyberpunk film Testsuo: The Iron Man, is said to be shot almost wholly in director Shinya Tsukamoto’s apartment on an extremely low budget. Shot on 16mm film, combining stop-motion animation and conventional film techniques makes for an experience like no other, something close to the world of Japanese animé. This film is not for the faint-hearted, as the protagonist slowly transforms throughout the cyborg-apocalyptic vision. This creates the thrilling surrealist atmosphere in Tetsuo, which is bizarre and exciting. Moving in-between dream-like sequences, this is a film that is often compared to the work of David Lynch and David Cronenberg. It’s definitely one for all film-buffs.  

La Jetée– (1962) (Chris Marker)
Chris Marker directed the film La Jetée (The Jetty) at the end of the French New wave. Marker, being one of the most political film-makers to come out of the movement, which produced the likes of Agnes Varda, Jean-Luc Goddard, François Truffaut and Jean-Pierre Melville, creates a science fiction film which is utterly unique in its storytelling devices. Only twenty-eight minutes long, the film consists almost wholly of still photographs with narration, creating a distance from the story portrayed on-screen, and emphasising the political element of the narrative. There is a sure reason why director Terry Gilliam used La Jetée for the story of his 1995 film 12 Monkeys, another left-field classic; La Jetée is a must see. 

Rage (2009) (Sally Potter) 
Panned by critics at the time of its release, Rage was, unusually, released first for online servers and mobile phones rather than coming out on general release in the cinemas. One shot is used for most of the film, but it remains captivating. Potter is not afraid to ditch traditional aspects of drama in her filmmaking which might partly explain why the film received poor reviews. Sally Potter is perhaps one of, if not the most innovative and experimental British filmmakers working today, constantly thinking about new ideas and how to visually frame those ideas. The film remains one of the most democratic in terms of its approach to filmmaking and film distribution; released online, shot with almost a single frame, but also using a cast of huge stars from Judi Dench to Steve Buscemi. In Rage, Sally Potter, as always, has a clear idea about what she wants to do, and nothing is stopping her from executing it. 

Window Water Baby Moving (Stan Brakhage) (1959)
Stan Brakhage is one of the pioneers of American avant-garde films, his most famous being Dog Star man (1961-4). Perhaps the warning ‘not for the faint-hearted’ is even more applicable in this Brakhage film, where he captures the birth of his first child in exquisite cinematic detail. The capturing of this event on camera, and Brakhage’s aestheticisation of the event is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Of course, this was not enough for Brakhage, and he filmed the birth of his third child in the more abstract film Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961), as he felt the first film did not adequately capture his emotions. Both are strongly recommended, but starting with Window Water Baby Moving is a good step into the American avant-garde, whilst also being a truly sensuous experience for the viewer. 

Rituals in Transfigured Time (Maya Deren) (1946)
Interestingly enough Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage were friends, and I believe Deren disapproved of the film I chose for my second slot. Maya Deren is not the household name she deserves to be, although her films are always challenging, with their themes and non-linear narratives. Starring Deren herself, Rituals in Transfigured Time is a revolutionary film, committing to the avant-garde in cinema as early as 1946. The dancing figures of the film surf through space and time, an effect achieved by Deren manipulating the film to stop and start time, as well as slowing the footage down. Any of Deren’s films from the 1940s or 50s are worth seeing, particularly Meshes in The Afternoon, but the way Rituals in transfigured time uses cinematography, and the kinetic energy of the film make it my favourite.  This film is a must-see not only for movie-lovers but creators as well, showing how influential and revolutionary a great mind can be, with the most basic tools. 

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