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The Process Trilogy – Living Roots Micro Festival

Reviewer: Emma Sullivan

Writer: Georgie Bailey

Directors: Hal Darling and Georgie Bailey

The description of this trilogy of experimental shorts notes a process whereby the responses of a particular audience were used – via an algorithm – to create a series of different edits. The version now available to view is one particular edit. It’s an intriguing premise, but not one that’s evident in the final version. Here, the significance of process is unevenly developed.

Perhaps the most successful aspect of the films is the use of intermediality: the interplay between word and image; between the sequences of silent action and the intertitles, panels of white text on black background familiar to us from silent films. There’s a playful quality to this textual element right from the start, with a countdown that rattles down from 6 digits and occasionally pauses – teasing us with an enormous waiting time. This sense of textual dynamism is also evident in the quotations that precede each section, initially furnished without sources, which then subsequently arrive. The text in the intertitles is often slyly funny, as we move through the three episodes, with any semblance of objective description replaced by an often antagonistic, interrogatory stance towards the characters. It’s a claustrophobic, often cruelly judgemental perspective (the superego perhaps?), which threads through the struggles of the four characters.

The first film depicts an insomniac and his doppelganger, the next an artist desperately trying to finish an artwork, and the third, two clowns trying to connect. The filmmakers suggest surrealism as an apt classification of the project, and while the disjointed, perplexing style of the narrative may fit that description, there does also need to be resonant image making (think of that fur-lined teacup by Meret Oppenheim, say), and the sequences here are often just not interesting or rich enough. There are moments in the films that linger, however: the greedy slurping of slimy innards in the first film, the artist pouring paint over her hand, close ups of water sluicing over faces covered in clown make-up.

The ending is ingenious: the dynamism of the intertitles breaking into animated being, and becoming a character in its own right. But there is much here that feels under-developed, and the treatment of the themes is not sufficiently complex to fully engage us.

The Living Roots Micro Festival runs here until 17 April 2021

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