Descriptions of films
28th of July, 09:45
1st of August, 12:45
Shown in Laura Mulvey – short films with:
AMY!, Disgraced Monuments, Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti, Untitled (reworked footage of Marilyn Monroe; taken from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; 3 minutes)
Sale of individual film tickets from 12 pm, 8 July
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Laura Mulvey – short films
subtitles: Polish and English
UK 1980 / 30’
director: Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen
screenplay: Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen
cinematography: Diane Tammes
editing: Larry Sider
music: Poly-Styrene oraz X-Ray Spex
cast: Mary Maddox, głos Yvonne Rainer
producer: Patsy Nightingale
production: Modelmark for South East Arts Association
language: English
colouration: colour & b&w

‘Happy the land that needs no heroes’ Brecht once said. AMY!, the last part of Mulvey and Wollen’s loose trilogy, after Penthesilea and Riddles of the Sphinx, contemplates ways in which societies create heroines. The pioneering English aviatrix Amy Johnson gained fame in 1930 after her legendary solo flight from Britain to Australia and the film marks its 50th anniversary. Johnson’s persona is explored through the use of various fictional images, sounds and readings of her private letters. Set in the 1980s, the music by legendary punk formation Poly-Styrene and X-Ray Spex, marks the conceptual rather than historical nature of the film. The directors aimed at making ‘an anti-heroine film’, which explores Johnson’s struggle with celebrity status: ‘We want to enquire into the idea and image of the heroine […] by putting fragments on display to suggest both the frustrations from which heroism is born and to which it is condemned, and at the same time something of the exhilaration it provides for the heroine herself […].’ Thus the film is not so much about the heroine herself, as it is about the very idea of constructing heroes and their exploitation by the media and society.


Kamila Kuc

Disgraced Monuments
Canada, UK 1994 / 50’
director: Laura Mulvey, Mark Lewis
cinematography: Thomas H . Turnball
editing: Tom Hayes
producer: Monumental Pictures for Channel Four
production: Monumental Pictures
language: English
colouration: colour

‘Every turning point in our society has begun its new history in a struggle with old monuments’, says art critic Natalya Davidova. Filmed after the failed coup in the Soviet Union, Disgraced Monuments sees Mulvey collaborating with the Canadian photographer Mark Lewis in an attempt to answer the question ‘how can seventy years of Soviet history be told and represented in a post-Communist era?’ The archival footage from the 1920s, 30s and 40s merges with the present day interviews with artists and critics to suggest that this destruction of monuments creates a ‘reactionary nostalgia for the pre-Communist world.’ The film brings to mind Mikhail Yampolsky’s essay ‘In the Shadow of Monuments. Notes on Iconoclasm and Time’: ‘Destruction and construction can be understood […] as two equally valid procedures of immortalisation…A tradition has developed historically to build a new monument precisely on the site of the old one, as though accumulating in one place two commemorative gestures: vandalism and the erection of a new idol.’ Disgraced Monuments is about alienation that accompanies the transition from one political system to another.

Kamila Kuc 

Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti
UK 1982 / 30’
director: Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen
screenplay: Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen
cinematography: Aurora Mosso
editing: Larry Sider, Nina Danino (asystent)
producer: Rodney Wilson, Patsy Nightingale
production: Modelmark for the Arts Council of Great Britain
language: English
colouration: colour & b&w

Diego Rivera’s 1929 mural that includes portraits of Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti serves as a starting point to a documentary about the lives and work of these two extraordinary female artists. Both women worked in Mexico in the aftermath of the Revolution, when Mexican culture underwent a cultural Renaissance. The film is divided into seven sections to mark differences between the two artists: ‘Each defined herself differently in the face of the necessities and accidents of history and biography and in relationship to her own body.’ What unites Kahlo’s paintings and Modotti’s photographs is the representation of women and their position in society. The film contains rare colour footage of Kahlo and Rivera in their ‘blue house’ in Coyoacan and Modotti starring in a Hollywood film The Tiger’s Coat (dir. Roy Clements, 1920). Mulvey and Wollen’s film reflects upon choices for women, as presented in opening and closing a commentary read by actress Myriam Margoyles: ‘Two choices for women. The personal, the traditional sphere of women, their suffering, their self-image. On the other hand the political: the renunciation of home and family to produce images dedicated to social change.’

Kamila Kuc 

Untitled (reworked footage of Marilyn Monroe; taken from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; 3 minutes)
UK 2000 / 3’
director: Laura Mulvey
cinematography: Harry J. Wild
editing: Larry Sider
music: Leigh Harline, Lionel Newman, Hal Schaefer, Herbert W. Spencer
language: English
colouration: colour

In her recent book, Death 24x a Second, Mulvey recognises the impact of home viewing technology and its facilitation of a shift from voyeuristic to fetishistic spectatorship. In her self-manipulated extract of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) Mulvey brings to life this transferral of power as immobile audiences move from darkened rooms into interactive, remote-controlled environments.  Consisting of a short, slowed-down and repeated extract from Hawks’ celebrated film, Mulvey captures and repeats Monroe’s evocative dance moves from the film’s opening performance of ‘Two Little Girls from Little Rock’, both celebrating and immortalising the actress’s iconic capacity for expressive gesture, while foregrounding her mask-like face and glittering body in slow-motion re-edits that reference the cinephilic fascination with Hollywood that is seen in the video art of Martin Arnold (Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy, 1998) and Douglas Gordon (24 Hour Psycho, 1993). As Monroe dances in delayed, repetitious reverie she appears caught between life in the image and death outside the screen, captured in a recurring moment of eternal image fascination.

Lara Thompson


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