Monday, January 25, 2016

Strange Interludes

I was recently introduced by Mike Loades to the BBC Interludes short films, originally broadcast in the 1950s.  These have a surreal quality today.  When television was broadcast live, if something went wrong or there was a gap in the scheduled programming it had to be filled.  In England, at that time, Interludes films were that filling.  

I call your attention to the (apparently famous) Potters Wheel film.  The potter, whose face we never see, slowly works a lump of clay for several minutes, adding water frequently.  He forms several different shapes, at a much slower rate than necessary, with a serene musical theme in the background.  The viewer gets to watch clay move in a hypnotic way.  Surely the clay was not good for much after being overworked to that degree, but the point was to keep the viewer from finding something more interesting to do.  

If you want a more thrilling experience, strap yourself down and watch this Interludes filmette entitled London to Brighton in Four Minutes.  It has been calculated that the train would have needed to travel in excess of 700 miles per hour to achieve this feat.  The visuals are certainly sickening.

One of my favorite parts of this film is when the camera cuts to the conductor, who seems to be in a trance.  I would require the conductor of any train I was on to look at bit more conscious, at any speed.  I also like the fact that the unruffled, perky disembarking passengers are not the moaning, body-fluid-soaked heaps they would be if the trip had actually taken four minutes.  

Other films in this series included a man plowing a field, a kitten playing with a ball of yarn, windmill arms turning, and so on.  As you watch them, remember all the animals and any adults involved in the production are long dead.  

These are ghost films, and they are fascinating.