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Blackbird Descending - Tense Alignment

Malcolm Le Grice
1977
120mins Colour 16mm

Blackbird Descending - Tense Alignment

MALCOLM LE GRICE is tiptoeing so gingerly backwards into that forbidden zone for the English 'Structural' filmmaker that is known as 'Narrative'.

Here lurk those evils 'mystification' and 'manipulation'; there is a third, of course, more horrible: the all-encompassing 'illusion'. Have the Le Grice and his Blackbird emerged unscathed and untainted? The answer is unequivocally yes, and what is more, they bear with them a whole new set of options. And this at a time when avant-garde film seems to be in need of a new direction, of renewed energy.

Le Grice, of course, is not alone in his endeavour. It is absolutely not a question of a 'return' to narrative; it is more a wholly new approach made possible by the investigation of 'first things', the foregrounding of cinematic procedures, characteristic of Le Grice's work - and that of other avant-garde filmmakers - over the last ten years. It might be better to speak of narrative - the act of talking - for in BLACKBIRD DESCENDING as in AFTER LUMIERE before it, the focus is not so much on the 'what' as on the 'how', the way the film describes or involves - in Michael Snow's words - "one thing or another". Significantly the events of the film are simple.

Spoken dialogue, written text and elaborate montage here join strategies that will be familiar to those acquainted with Le Grice's early work. The result is a film of great vigour, ambition, even playfulness. Simon Field from London Filmmakers' Co-op Catalogue 1997.

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