Lodela, a film by Philippe Baylaucq

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The soul leaves the body. Drawn by intense light, the spirit discovers its twin self, its feminine side…its guide in the beyond. Inspired by the myths of the afterlife, this allegorical dance piece illuminates the soul’s quest by exploring movement and the human body in new and astonishing ways. An evocation of the origins of the world. A hymn to the beauty of the human form. A celebration of movement.

Lodela (1996) was a production for the National Film Board of Canada, and in many ways it acts as a response to (or evolution from) an earlier NFBC film, Norman McLaren’s justly-celebrated Pas de Deux (1968). Both films depict an encounter between two dancers in an abstract black-and-white space; both films also take advantage of their medium to present dance in a manner that would be impossible on a stage. In McLaren’s film the dancers’ movements are multiplied via optical printing, a process that gives their gestures a liquid, hallucinatory grace.

For Lodela Philippe Baylaucq has his dancers (José Navas and Chi Long) situated on an illuminated circle surrounded by the dark, one side of which is shown in negative. He also does some simple things with the camera which are nevertheless strikingly effective and unusual in a dance piece, such as filming the dancers upside down, and attaching the camera to their bodies for dizzying close-ups. Choreographers (and dancers, for that matter) often get agitated if dancers’ bodies aren’t shown in full so this latter piece of direction is very unusual. Watch the film here. Pas de Deux, incidentally, is also on the National Film Board of Canada’s Vimeo channel, and in much better quality than earlier YouTube versions. Watch them together.

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Pas de Deux by Norman McLaren
Norman McLaren

Pas de Deux by Norman McLaren

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Norman McLaren’s 1968 film is not only one of the greatest ballet films ever made, it’s also an astonishing combination of high-contrast photography and optical printing. Choreography by Ludmilla Chiriaeff, dance by Margaret Mercier and Vincent Warren, music by Dobre Constantin and the Folk Orchestra of Romania. YouTube isn’t the ideal medium to watch anything like this but there’s now a quality copy here in all its 13-minute glory. If you’ve never seen it, do so before it vanishes.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Norman McLaren

Len Lye

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Rainbow Dance (1936).

Fortunate Londoners can see a BFI screening of early film shorts by Len Lye (1901–1980) this Friday at the NFT. (Details here.) Lye is one of the pioneers of abstract cinema and his work still astounds for its inventiveness and playful interaction between synchronised image and music. Many of his works were created by painting directly onto the film strip, a technique later pursued by animators like Norman McLaren. Free Radicals has long been a favourite, created with nothing more than a drum track and scratches on black-and-white film; five minutes of hypnotic genius. The BFI programme list below features links to YouTube versions. Some are poor quality but worth watching all the same:

This slot is dedicated to Len Lye, a towering figure in experimental film. The films are: Tusalava (1929, 9min, silent); Peanut Vendor (1933, 2min); Kaleidoscope (1935, 4min); A Colour Box (1935, 3min); The Birth of a Robot (1936, 6min); Rainbow Dance (1936, 4min); Colour Flight (1937, 4min); Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1940, 4min); Rhythm (1957, 1min); Free Radicals (1958, 5min); Particles in Space (1966, 4min); Cameramen at War (1944, 14min); Everyday (dir Hans Richter, 1929, 17min). Approx 77min total.

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The abstract cinema archive