On Thursday I visited the National Portrait Gallery for screenings of Dada films connected to the work of Man Ray, who has an exhibit at the NPG (not yet seen). A healthy queue had built up before the doors opened, and it ended up being quite a packed screening. Not surprising as: the films were shown on 16mm and had a live accompaniment by the quartet Collectress.
While I had seen some of the films (including Richter's Rhythmus 21 and Rhythmus 23 and Eggeling's Symphonie Diagonale), I had never seen them with musical accompaniment, let alone a live score. So, I was rather giddy with excitement. In truth, the first few films (see above) didn't seem to really benefit from the score. But things picked up with Moholy-Nagy's gorgeous Lichtspiel Schwarz-Weiss-Grau and Man Ray's La Retour a Raison, even if there were some problems with the projector. We held our breath as a long pause between films (during which the musicians gamely kept playing) was followed by some grinding noises and then.... Silence. Then.... the machine sputtered into life and voila: light and movement on-screen. Such drama.
The programme concluded with two delightfully witty pieces, Richter's Vormittagsspuk, with its dancing hats, and Clair's Entr'Acte. I had seen the former but in this showing was more aware of its use of gun imagery, perhaps a warning of the violence to come in Germany. The concluding film was one I have been keen to see and it didn't disappoint. Watching the assemblage of great and good of the Paris art scene prancing in slo-mo after a runaway hearse gave me a good laugh. If only there were captions to identify the artists!
The series continues with two more programmes to be announced. Here's hoping the later years bring some women filmmakers into focus.