Chris Kennedy

“Rhapsodic Rhythms: Len Lye’s All Souls Carnival and Other Postwar Films”. November 11, 2014

All Soul’s Carnival by Len Lye

Rhapsodic Rhythms: Len Lye’s All Souls Carnival and Other Postwar Films
Curated by Paul Brobbel, with presentations by Brobbel and Alla Gadassik.

A pioneer of direct animation techniques, the New Zealand-born Len Lye (1901-1980) was a major influence on generations of artists interested in visual music, from animation great Norman McLaren to early music-video directors. This special programme takes as its centrepiece the first-ever Canadian screening of Lye’s 1957 film All Souls Carnival, an astonishing experiment in visual harmonies and colour rhythms.

All Souls Carnival was developed by Lye in collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning Canadian composer Henry Brant, and intended to be screened with a live performance of Brant’s contemporary classical score. Although a definitive print of the film has not been preserved, Lye biographer Roger Horrocks carefully assembled this well-researched restoration, which has been set to Brant’s original six-part composition. A later Lye-Brant collaboration, Fountain of Hope—in which musical and visual rhythms are organized into a plea for world peace—will also receive its first Canadian screening tonight.

The programme begins with three excellent 16mm prints of Lye’s “scratch films,” which were created by directly etching animated figures onto celluloid. Free Radicals, Lye’s most recognized film, is a pulsating and vibrant animated dance set to percussive tribal music. Particles in Space continues Lye’s experiments in isolating and animating visual figures in movement, set to a soundtrack that combines tribal percussion with oscillating sounds produced by Lye’s kinetic sculptures. Tal Farlow, Lye’s final, posthumously completed film, is named after the famous jazz guitarist, whose music forms the basis for the film’s geometric figures.

University of Toronto film scholar Alla Gadassik will give a talk on Lye’s contributions to “visual music” filmmaking, focusing especially on the links between visual and sonic rhythms in the films screened in this programme. Paul Brobbel, Len Lye Curator at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand, will introduce the programme and answer questions about Lye’s work and legacy.

Free Radicals dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1958 | 4.5 min. 16mm
Particles in Space dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1957 | 3.5 min. 16mm
Tal Farlow dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1980 | 2.5 min. 16mm
All Souls Carnival dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1957 | 10 min. | video
Fountain of Hope dir. Len Lye | New Zealand 1959 | 1 min. | video

Prints courtesy of the Len Lye Foundation, from material preserved and made available by The New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound Nga ̄ Taonga Whitia ̄hua Me Nga ̄ Taonga Ko ̄rero.

Tuesday, November 11 6:30pm