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April 17, 2017

Scratching Beyond the Surface - The Films of Paul Bush

Experimental director and animator Paul Bush (b. 1956) taught himself filmmaking while a member of the London Film-Makers' Co-op . By 1981 he was teaching film and established a film workshop in South London. Bush pioneered a technique– seen in a number of his films, such as The Albatross — that involves scratching, frame-by-frame, directly into the surface of color film stock over live- action footage.

This evening will survey his nearly thirty-year career, beginning with the early long-take documentary The Cow’s Drama (A Man’s Dream) and traveling through densely layered mixes of live action and illustration, frame-by-frame animation of insects, and a striking anthropological study created by machine-made institutional ephemera. Currently a Visiting Lecturer in Visual and Environmental Studies during the Spring 2017 semester, the filmmaker will join us afterwards for a conversation on his remarkable work. – Jeremy Rossen

All film prints courtesy LUX.

$12 Special Event Tickets
Paul Bush in Person

Monday April 17 at 7pm

The Cow’s Drama (A Man’s Dream)

Directed by Paul Bush
UK 1984, 16mm, b/w, 37 min

Drama, from the Greek: to do, act, or perform. A composition in which a story is related by means of dialogue and action and is represented with accompanying gesture, costume and scenery, as in real life, a play. The simplest story: a cow in a field, a day passes, articulated by a sequence of simple actions. Another day passes, and the actions only vary with the chance events that make one day different from any other. Between the days, three traditional songs about work, love and death are sung. These are stories too, but of generalization, metaphor and myth, whereas the cow’s drama follows only the surface pattern of events, the specific. – Paul Bush

The Rumour of True Things

Directed by Paul Bush
UK 1996, 16mm, color & b/w, 26 min

Most of the moving images produced for science, industry, commerce and medicine are seen only by a specializ ed audience, disappearing soon after they have been made. The Rumour of True Things is constructed entirely from these transient images—including computer games, weapons testing, production- line monitoring, marriage agency tapes—in which traces of our society are indirectly, but strikingly, etched. Within this moving image ephemera, the film seeks a revelation of our society, not as we would like it to be seen, but as it will inevitably by seen by future generations—through those remnants of accidental statements that we have made and recorded. – PB

The Albatross

Directed by Paul Bush
UK 1998, 35mm, color, 5 min

Bush’s adaptation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner brings to animated life Gustave Doré’s nineteenth- century wood engravings by scratching directly into the surface of color film. Bush combines black-and-white live- action footage with the cut-out engravings, model shots and footage of the sea, using many types of film to imbue the epic tale with a richly textured, densely layered, luminous, magical intensity.


While Darwin Sleeps

Directed by Paul Bush
UK 2004, 35mm, color, 4.5 min

More than three thousand insects appear in this film, each for a single frame. As the colours glow and change across their bodies and wings, it is as if the genetic programme of millions of years is taking place in a few minutes. It is a rampant creation that seems to defy the explanations of evolutionists and fundamentalists. It is like a mescaline dream of Charles Darwin’s.

The film is inspired by the insect collection of Walter Linsenmaier in the natural history museum of Luzern. As each insect follows the other, frame by frame, they appear to unfurl their antennae, scuttle along, or flap their wings as if trying to escape the pinions that attach them forever in their display cases. Just for a moment the eye is tricked into believing that these dead creatures still live . . . – PB


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