Thursday, 14 October 2010

Type | Music | Celia, by Nicky Davidson

Something a bit different this week. One of the things we’re real interested in getting going over the next few weeks is some sort of platform for filmmaking, hitherto untouched by the hairy Silkworms hand. And as an early indication of the sort of thing we’ll be interested in receiving and advocating, welcome to Celia, a film by Nicky Davidson, a writer/filmmaker who various Silkworms editors and contributors alike have worked with in the past. It’s only been posted on Vimeo for five days like, and we have no doubt you’ll agree it deserves to reach as wide a virtual audience as possible…

Celia, by Nicky Davidson via Vimeo.

…And here, in order to at least vaguely tie proceedings in with this week’s theme (although I suspect that, whatever follows, my piece from a couple weeks ago about the letter ‘X’ represents a better fit) are fifteen wee reflections on Celia drawing together the twin headings, Type and Music. And listed, like any self-respecting list, in order of appearance:

1.    1:21 – have you ever seen typography constructed out of hair before?
2.    Celia’s soundtrack is made up of three original compositions by a chap called Cotty, who used to be in a super-rad band called the Walk Off. The Walk Off’s singer, Blake, is now one half of BITCHES, who are putting together a Music As Reading mixtape for us as we speak. I daresay Cotty will be doing one soon enough as well.
3.    2.05 – This film comes with TITLE CARDS. This is important, both because they have to be read against a background of Cotty noise (Music As Reading) and because of the way the handsome typography contrasts with the scrawled ear-holes that frame it. This could very well be read as a visual reflection on the theme of clear language emerging out of noise, like little crystals of truth sprung in amongst all the delinquent fug. I daresay the ear-hole image will be explored in more detail later on, anyway.
4.    2.32 – The typography, or perhaps symbology (you know, the study of symbols, like Tom Hanks does in Dan Brown books) of facial hair is a book waiting to be written. Rafferty’s reminds me of the Beano’s various patriarchs – Dennis’ Dad, the Bash Street Kids’ Teacher… Clearly the typography of hair is one of Celia’s overarching themes: here, it forms the visual accompaniment to unheard words, becomes itself a hairy title card.
5.    3.10/3.39 – Here, a title card uses something like the formalised, archaic language of silent film in order to situate its ‘text’. The fact the film is ‘silent’ no longer jars: it proves itself coherent, rather than affected.
6.    3.45/4.07 – And then, just like that, all that's inverted: in short, we know that Celia will be a film reflecting on its own modes of construction.
7.    4.26 – See what I mean: the text is suddenly liberated from its title card and changes colour. That didn’t happen in Albert Capellani movies. (Also, ‘blue eye’ is a lovely turn of phrase.)
8.    The typewriter: probably the most important junction where ‘type’ meets ‘music’, with its evocative percussion. Cotty isn’t the first soundtrack-maker to take advantage of this phenomenon – it’s also utilised in the stunning first half of the 2007 Atonement adaptation (wasn’t the second half dreadful though?).
9.    5.10 – I’m delighted Nicky resisted using a hideous typewriter font for the title cards – in a gesture towards an unnecessary consistency. That would have been horrid.
10.    7.12 – What did I tell you: here (hear) comes an ear!
11.    This technique of suddenly situating a film’s soundtrack as representing what the protagonist is hearing, and not merely an adornment for the audience, is memorably utilised in Mary Harron’s American Psycho – Patrick Bateman takes off his headphones and Huey Lewis and the News’ Hip To Be Square suddenly fades into a tinny layer and we suddenly realise that everything, the whole film IS ALL IN HIS HEAD, WHAT A TWISTY TWIST!! – and confirms my suspicion that Cotty’s noise = the fuzz of Celia’s delinquency.
12.    7.39 – I’m sure Rafferty’s saying FOR FUCK’S SAKE here – but apparently not. Unless the title cards aren’t telling the truth, like modern fiction’s all-important UNRELIABLE NARRATOR. That would be a treat.
13.    8.12/8.30 – Font-size is suddenly defined as an indicator of emphasis. But whether this emphasis is a matter of mere exclamation or of something a little stranger is a question worth asking.
14.    9.06 – Pencil-line animations begin to dominate the screen. Word and image are finally reconciled.
15.    Look, 1/- 2/- 3/- 4/-: the film wanted me to make this list.

Compelling stuff. Perhaps we’ll do this to all the films we feature. Gotta work them into the weekly theme somehow, and talking about the symbology of facial hair seems like as good a way as any to do so.

Sam Kinchin-Smith,
Music Editor

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