The film was a first try for me and a very new venture for Louise. I enjoyed it. I want to make more films. I want to make more art. I need to get a video recorder.
I think for a weeks worth of filming the film’s pretty good. Excited at the idea of making films in collaboration with Louise again and also with a load of people.
jennifer mcdonald, louise woodcock film – womb soundtrack
Following a week’s residency the film Jennifer McDonald and Louise Woodcock produced was screened on Sunday.
The film’s fairly brief at present – around 3 minutes – but was looped something like four times to a live soundtrack provided by a minimal line-up of Womb. Just Jennifer, Emily and Whitney. Louise was working so unable to attend.
Much of the material was shot around Pendle Hill – associated with the famous witch-trials – and involved ritual actions with bones and hair. There are obvious superficial similarities to Derek Jarman and Andrew Kötting’s Gallivant. But the film mostly looks and feels different from both those comparisons.
To me the film feels like it has a more contemporary sensibility. Jarman was rooted in a 60s/70s queer/avant-garde aesthetic. Gallivant from the mid-90s seems closer to the 80s films of Chris Petit and Patrick Keiller. For me Jennifer and Louise’s film is closer to some more recent video installations I’ve seen.
I’ll expand on that a little I think – there are a few ideas packed into that last sentence. I have noticed in a lot of recent video installations a convergence between the old idea of video installations – where a single or limited number of ideas are explored, more conventional narrative filmmaking, and documentary filmmaking. At the same time certain narrative filmmakers and documentarists – Gus Van Sant, Lynne Ramsay, Claire Denis, and Adam Curtis for example produce images and films that might be as much at home in the gallery. Others, prominently Apichatpong Weerasethakul, work happily between the two contexts.
And as digital cameras reduce in weight and cost while increasing in quality, at the same time as mainstream cinema and tv continue to raid the aesthetic of mobile phones/cheap digital cameras/CCTV for a bogus ‘authenticity’ it can be less easy to visually differentiate the expensive from the cheap.
Installations are becoming less static, more technically and editorially ambitious. Again aided by afforable technology. The film as it currently stands could sit happily as an installation or (part of) a more conventional narrative or documentary film.
I also feel – though I’ll immediately question this – that the film has a less masculine sensibility than my initial comparisons of Jarman and Kötting. To Jennifer and Louise I also mentioned that I felt I could see hints of Andrei Tarkovsky and Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan.
Taking that contentious ‘less masculine sensibility’ first, what I mean is that it seems to be less linear, less interested in explaining itself, less about showing off than the work of male directors. But at the same time I was irritated when VS Naipaul recently claimed he could tell male from female writers within a paragraph, and that male writers were better. I also think there’s a danger of gender essentialism in claiming to see differences. Besides which I know who the filmmakers were in all these cases – so any traits that might be detected are informed by already knowing the artist’s gender.
The hints of Tarkovsy are in the meditative nature of some of the shots – especially the convex mirror, and the cross installation. The hints of Häxan are in the subject matter, and in the critique of religion’s approach to women and witchcraft – explicit in Häxan, implicit in Jennifer and Louise’s film.
The soundtrack to the film by the reduced line-up of Womb was great. The more I’ve listened back to it the less it sounds improvised. It also feels a lot less than 13 minutes long.
One of the main things I like about the soundtrack is that it combines two extremes of Womb’s sound. There’s the highly structured, musical side of things – and the looser, rhythmic, noise-making elements – with none of the shades that usually intervene between the two.
I also liked that the sounds don’t mimic images onscreen. They stand in independent relationship to the film. Although the pace and the changes in the sound perhaps reflect the edits and the tempo of the film.
It was interesting to hear what was effectively a more contemplative Womb in a different context from their usual performances in pubs and clubs. There was a greater freedom to allow nuance and space into the music, to let it drift and breathe more than it usually can.
I got a handful of honestly rather shite photos for Jennifer and recorded the soundtrack (see here). I understand the film – possibly with soundtrack will make it online at some point. For a week’s work, and a first attempt (I guess second for Louise) at making film it’s bloody impressive.