Tag Archive | Cinema

Sapphormation

Even the shortest of amateur films can be more enjoyable than many a mainstream release, and that was certainly the case with the ultra-short shorts shown at last night’s “Sapphic screening”, an hour long event organised by Tanya Smith and Amelia Lee as part of Manchester’s newest lesbian festival, Sapphormation. As their promotional material states, Sapphormation is intended for “women who love women, who also like to think, discuss, debate, try new activities, experience culture and basically do a lot more than the usual things found on the gay scene”. It aims to present a less stereotypical, more inclusive, and culturally richer alternative to the glittery Village-centred events that many people say they find far too predictable, commercial and unchallenging. Chorlton’s Irish Club was an excellent and unusual choice of venue that suited the laid back and clearly enthusiastic audience.

The common link between the films is that they celebrate and foreground multiple and complex issues of identity, self, society, and both lesbian and bisexual experience. But while all of them were engaging, warm, and very well made, they were an otherwise eclectic collection. Two of the most memorable were Love Skate Relationship, by Georgia Rooney and Rachel Tavernor, a straightforward documentary/interview style piece about the women who compete in the Brighton Rockers roller derby, and the darkly tragic Paris/Sexy by Edinburgh-based Ruth Paxton, about a girl and her father dealing with isolation and mental illness. That one had a little more budget behind it, being funded by Scottish Screen and BBC Scotland among others, with the excellent David Liddell as Director of Photography. Everybody wanted to see Hannah Beadman’s experimental and erotic Homecoming, but sadly some technical issues meant that the visuals were too dark. Luckily her tantalising and colourful “queer re-edit” of David Cronenberg’s Videodrome made up for it.

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Although both of Manchester’s Universities have helped support Sapphormation’s organisation, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) – something of a holy grail for academics seeking funding – have made an interesting and admirable move in looking beyond their usual University projects to help create something valuable for the LGBT community. Sapphormation’s lineup of events (which included political debates, comedy shows, live music and a “Women in Business” Seminar) took place at venues across the city over only two days, meaning that as I write this it’s all just about over. Hopefully the festival’s organisers will find ways to transcend this year’s shoe-string budget and become an even bigger and annual social fixture.

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Between past and present

Last night I was spellbound by something that happened in Church. Actually, a lot of us were. There were DJs, dancing-girls, a futuristic robot… all sorts of strange machinery. At one point, there was even talk of witchcraft – and then a riot broke out. Seriously! You should have been there. But unsurprisingly, this wasn’t the latest attempt at modernisation by the Church of England. In fact, it was all down to the strange but blissful union between a legend of German cinema (Fritz Lang) and a legend of German electronic music (Dieter Moebius). Definitely a contender for coolest 68-year-old on the planet, Moebius performed a live, synthesised, and largely improvised score to a brand new restoration of Lang’s silent sci-fi classic Metropolis, in an event organised as part of Manchester’s annual Future Everything festival. To add yet another layer of spectral atmosphere, the whole thing took place inside the beautiful and spacious chapel of St.Philips church in Salford.

Lighting up in church

Appropriately then, proceedings were watched over by a rather saintly icon – sadly, not Maria – high up on the stained glass window above the altar, while at the lectern, a majestic eagle spread its wings. Moebius, standing at the other side with only a little workspace, looked calmly up at the screen and then back at his sonic toolkit, feeling his way into the narrative. Somehow, regardless of its age, the film manages to remain timeless. Class, religion, delusion, scientific progress, desire, politics, dreams, technology; all are wrapped up in an easy-to-follow narrative which reveals itself as a sequence of ethereal yet starkly symbolic Expressionist “mindscapes”. Special effects which, decades later, were often still risibly executed (e.g. the use of miniature sets or the appearance and movement of cyborgs) seem effortless: beyond reproach to an audience half-hypnotised by the world that Lang, cinematographer Karl Freund, and special effects pioneer Eugen Schüfftan created. Included in this new version of the film are 25 precious minutes of lost footage, discovered only two years ago at the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, in the archive of a private collector. This essentially brings Metropolis as close as it will get to the way it was when first released over 80 years ago.

The famous head of Hel


Watching in reverence

The film’s ultimate message, repeated more than once by Brigitte Helm‘s Maria, is that: “The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!” Of course there is a role for technology in the achievement of societal advances; but we should never let ourselves be enslaved because of it. The feelings and qualities which make us human must move in harmony with what we invent; in precisely the way illustrated yesterday (music and film technology, composer, audience and sentiment) at what was a truly memorable event.