‘The Domain of the L.F.C. [4 Lights]’
You can remove all elements from an image, but remove the light and it is lost. So it was that the great majority of films comprising this season were left in the dark. Cinema lost, suppressed, impossible: this is the domain of the Liberated Film Club.
I have spent TIME trying to uncover the hidden cultural lineages, searching for the key—or dare I say ‘true’—image, and for its potential to undo the dominant narrative. A summary of events leading to the Close-Up Year 1 programme best explores the underscore of the Liberated Film Club, and ‘light’ best describes the moments and people central to its being.
Light (I) *
To experience the films of Bela Tarr is to investigate every person he has ever worked with, and so discover T wilight , a film directed by György Fehér. Twilight is not related to the steamy nec-rom-com of the same name, but based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Pledge: Requiem For The Detective Novel, published to reaffirm his original screenplay for the 1958 film, It Happened In Broad Daylight. Dürrenmatt felt betrayed by the decision of the producers to change the film’s ending: the detective bravely solves the murder at the centre of the narrative, rather than disintegrate a feckless old man.
Sean Penn later adapted the 1958 film, but chose to conclude vaguely according to Dürrenmatt (The Pledge, 2001). As a result, arguments on the legal rights or ownership of the story prevent Fehér’s film from being screened in public. A degraded transfer is now available online, but back then the film was completely unavailable.
Through the determined disobedience of an individual at the Hungarian National Film Archive, I was able to get a restored copy of Twilight for the first Liberated Film event. Passion, Fehér’s adaptation of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, arrived shortly after.
Independent publisher, Test Centre, invited purge.xxx and five others to curate a space in a building formerly occupied by Stoke Newington’s Sea Cadets.
Will Shutes & Jess Chandler—proprietors of the banner T.C.—haemorrhaged mystery money on a handful of impossible imaginations. Under the cast of Hackney’s Sirius, Iain Sinclair, they hosted the final public reading of the poet Lee Harwood. They hosted Chris Petit, a car-boot full of his first edition novels and a shotgun. Stewart Home, a bag full of shopping bags and a collection of sta-ple guns. And after the guns, the powder paint explosion of Thurston Moore and Eva Prinz’s Ecstatic Peace Library: a riff on ‘the good terrorists’ of N16. But my highlight—my light of lights—was a borrowed Magyar Vizsla, Vigo, who led me away from the venue to the promise of red sauce and hot potato.
A woman enters the chip shop after us and produces a huge wallet full of pirated discs. “You wan’ DVD?” I wan’ liberty!
Shutes had already encouraged me to produce a catalogue of titles as the Liberat-ed Film collection developed. I was unsure about what or how to distribute the work, but the woman at the chip shop gave a smart angle.
The first catalogue was distributed through purge.xxx and a subsidiary of Test Centre. The revenue generated from our subscribers was used to produce more DVDs, which I would give in gratis to pirate DVD vendors across London. They began by handing a random Liberated Film disc ‘free’ with the mainstream fea-tures their clients bought. An unlikely network developed. By the third batch, a popular rapper from Peckham was dedicated to the fairytales of Czechoslovakia—Karel Kachyna’s Little Mermaid; Václav Vorlíček’s Cinderella, Juraj Herz’s Beauty and the Beast, etc.... “There’s something they have the American’s haven’t.”
Uploading the films online wasn’t really an option: by the time of LFC’s conception the Internet was already experiencing its first great depression (at least in terms of viewing habits). It staggers on today, of course, and as in the case of Twilight, and much of the Iron Curtain fairytale fun, clips or entire films have since been uploaded. Great! But it remains my feeling that in order to really celebrate and vindicate any film/creative intervention, people have to come together and contribute their individual sense(s) of discovery, journey and accident.
Behold! The insidious rot of a culture dictated by lump sums, flat bums and fear of the unknown is not all-pervasive. Close-Up in this moment exists to forge an illuminating cut across, and route beyond, the deficit.
Because you’re sick of knowing exactly what you’re going to get, and you’re sick when you get it: this programme was conceived and constructed to mark Close-Up’s first year of operation(at the Sclater S treet site). N obody knew the film screening on any given night: not Damien Sanville, not Gareth Evans, not the audience, not the speaker. I produced a short piece of text to tease / misalign, and each event began with the playback of a recording I sent from
Paris which introduced the introducer; the recordings, Interruptions Of The Man At The Next Table, are included on a DVD with this book (exceptions for Dawood, Petit, Roberts and the finale). To compare the three elements of interruption, introduction and Liberated Film is to uncover some extraordinary collisions . . . and in the spirit of . . . exposure, an edition [x3] of the Liberated Film Club book is available with an A2 print of me—your humble curator—nude, underneath a scratch-able surface.
The final question to posit is which image—if any—rises to prominence; why, and what makes the image definitive? And if an image, a film, has not been consid-ered or absorbed by the culture, are we entitled to resign it to a history? To re-assess our notion of what or where the contemporary is, brings us closer to the ‘true’ image; closer to identifying a form for ALL time; bringing light to mo-ments, movements and perspectives we’ve missed or overlooked (and where we might go next).
Liberated Film is a purge, a banner, a bumper sticker; a dogma-free deity in each and every instance. The more present we hold it, the more likely it becomes to realise not ‘a life in film’, but a film in life, and in that liberation, light.
* The institution at the administrative level tends to be consist of jobsworths and dullards, made worse by a leftist pretence: here’s looking at you, British Film Institute. But there have always been and will always be those on the ground willing to fiddle the bureaucracy, for love of the work and a sense of what’s at stake. Find them!