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Archive for November 11th, 2010

(New Zealand / UK 1940 4 min)

Director Len Lye

by Stephen Russell-Gebbett

Painting straight onto celluloid lines that squiggle like arcs of lightning and patterns worthy of London dress-makers, with Swinging the Lambeth Walk Len Lye matches his more illustrious counterparts Norman McLaren, Stan Brakhage and Harry Smith. This technique, raw and impressive, is called ‘Direct Animation’.

What marks Swinging the Lambeth Walk out is purpose. It doesn’t have a story as such but it sure gets on with telling it. Ever-changing patterns march and flash across the screen in a confident gait, pulsing circles approximating the soundtrack’s jazzy drumbeat. It feels like each musician has his portrait done in stripes or triangles. See, for instance how he illustrates the vibration of a guitar string. The animation is called “a color accompaniment” to the music, the Lambeth Walk, which was popular in the 1930s yet its relation to the music is not pat. The animation and the soundtrack do make a handsome couple but they take time, too, to swirl in solo.

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