Geoffrey Jones: The Rhythm of Film

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MichaelB
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Geoffrey Jones: The Rhythm of Film

#1 Post by MichaelB » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:10 am

Geoffrey Jones: The Rhythm of Film

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Since the 1950s, Geoffrey R. Llewellyn Jones has been making multi-award-winning short films that look, sound and feel like nothing else. With his extraordinary marriage of images, music and rhythm, he ranks alongside such luminaries as Norman McLaren and Len Lye, and remains one of Britain's true film artists.

Born in London in 1931, of Welsh parents, Geoffrey Jones trained at Central School of Art in interior design, graphic design and photography. Mesmerised by cinema since he was a child and later inspired by Dziga Vertov and Luciano Emmer, his first film project, a satire on the commuter society, envisaged images cut to very rhythmic music, a technique that became his hallmark. Although the film was never actually made, the drawings led to work, when he was just 24 as a one man band: 'The Experimental Film and TV Department' of advertising agency Crawford International, where early work included an acclaimed commercial for Martini. He went on to make films for global companies like Shell and BP, and innovative animated shorts.

Geoffrey Jones is best known as the director of three seminal films for British Transport Films; Snow (1963), which was nominated for an Oscar, Rail (1967) and Locomotion (1975), all shown at festivals around the world. In films such as Snow, where trains and railway workers battle against severe weather conditions, Rail, a commemoration of the steam age and celebration of the electric age, and the travelogue Trinidad & Tobago (1964), images react, combine and dance together to create a living, pulsing journey. In Locomotion, the entire history of the British railways is illustrated through a captivating and accelerating rhythm.

The Rhythm of Film brings a selection of Geoffrey Jones' films together in one collection for the first time to show what makes his work so special. Most of his work was in the sometimes precarious area of industrial shorts, but his unique vision is also revealed in his more personal works such as the Seasons Project and the two Chair-a-plane films.

DVD contents

* Snow (8 mins)
* Rail (13 mins)
* Locomotion (15 mins)
* Trinidad & Tobago (19 mins)
* Shell Spirit (2 mins)
* This is Shell (8 mins)
* Seasons Project (12 mins)
* A Chair-a-plane Kwela (3 mins)
* A Chair-a-plane Flamenco (6 mins)

Extras

* Filmed interview with Geoffrey Jones at his home in Wales, describing his career and working processes, interspersed with film clips (31 mins)
* Illustrated booklet with background information and credits

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MichaelB
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#2 Post by MichaelB » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:20 am

For me, Geoffrey Jones was one of the most exciting discoveries in the entire BFI catalogue - a master of pure cinema who ranks right up there with Len Lye and Norman McLaren, though unlike them he worked more or less exclusively in the commercially-sponsored industrial film sector - so while he had a legendary reputation in minuscule niche circles, he was almost entirely unknown outside it until very recently.

But you only have to look at his masterpiece Snow (which the BFI has generously uploaded to YouTube in its entirety) to see that his work is the other side of the planet from a corporate promo. The word "rhythm" in the DVD compilation title is all too apt, as Jones's cutting is as physically thrilling as anything I've encountered in the work of Gance or Eisenstein - though here it has no dramatic or polemical purpose but is merely part of an overwhelmingly physical celebration of movement.

Jones himself contributed extensively to the compilation, but sadly died mere days before its launch - this obituary is a good overview.

And the DVD is included in the BFI's 75th anniversary promo, so is currently available for a bargain price.

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What A Disgrace
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#3 Post by What A Disgrace » Sun Sep 14, 2008 3:59 pm

Michael's sentiments are worth reiterating. This was actually one of my very first region-free purchases, and my very first BFI disc...talk about a blind buy; there wasn't any IMDB information on the man at the time, and I couldn't find any other information. nevertheless, I bought it. And its easily the most rewatched disc in my whole collection. Snow and Rail are absolutely spellbinding.

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MichaelB
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#4 Post by MichaelB » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:10 pm

Here are Screenonline entries for Snow, Rail, This is Shell and Shell Spirit.

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Scharphedin2
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#5 Post by Scharphedin2 » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:28 pm

What A Disgrace wrote:Michael's sentiments are worth reiterating. This was actually one of my very first region-free purchases, and my very first BFI disc...talk about a blind buy; there wasn't any IMDB information on the man at the time, and I couldn't find any other information. nevertheless, I bought it. And its easily the most rewatched disc in my whole collection. Snow and Rail are absolutely spellbinding.
So, what prompted you to pick up this particular disc unseen? I just received it myself this past Friday along with a number of other BFI discs, and I picked it because I remember reading a really good review of it in "Sight and Sound" (was it your piece Michael? I do not remember now...)

Also, amonst other things, I picked up the Land of Promise set, which looks fantastic, the Mitchell & Kenyon discs, and the RW Paul collection. The most exciting of all (so far) was probably the Science is Fiction disc with films by Jean Painlevé.

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MichaelB
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#6 Post by MichaelB » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:39 pm

I've never actually written a review of Snow, though I must have seen it an untold number of times - as with What A Disgrace's experience, this must be one of the most frequently played DVDs in my entire collection.

But there was a DVD Times review when it came out.

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#7 Post by What A Disgrace » Sun Sep 14, 2008 6:41 pm

Scharphedin2 wrote:So, what prompted you to pick up this particular disc unseen? I just received it myself this past Friday along with a number of other BFI discs, and I picked it because I remember reading a really good review of it in "Sight and Sound" (was it your piece Michael? I do not remember now...)
I read a DVDBeaver review which sparked my interest, and...at the moment, financial matters were going well, so I could afford it. Most importantly of all, I was absolutely starving for something outside of my usual experiences with movies, and I still am.

I also picked out that UK Humphrey Jennings collection at the same time; two of the best blind buys I've ever made, even if it took me a little and more than one viewing to appreciate exactly what I had gotten myself into.

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zedz
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#8 Post by zedz » Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:06 am

I ordered this from a whim during the recent sale and can only add to the chorus of approval. Jones is some kind of master of rhythmic montage, and the way he orchestrates movement within the frame (the actions he films) with movement of the frame (pans, tracks, tilts) and the rhythm of his montage in his best work is phenomenal.

Excerpted in the extra here there's an amazing 'test film' for his 'Four Seasons' project which is basically a hand-painted (think Len Lye) draft for the finished work (which is conventionally photographed), showing Jones just what kind of footage, with what kind of movement and pattern, he needs to find to create his magnificently synchronised film. Unfortunately the film itself is the only substandard transfer on the disc.

The music is also pretty impressive, often screwed around and processed by Daphne Oram of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (think Dr. Who theme). Snow has a fantastic proto-dub (in the early 60s!) arrangement of "Teen Beat" that's been echoed, muffled and manipulated to match the on-screen action, and Locomotion (1975) has Steeleye Span, of all people, sounding like a great lost Krautrock band.

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MichaelB
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Re: Geoffrey Jones: The Rhythm of Film

#9 Post by MichaelB » Sat Nov 15, 2008 10:08 am

I've just published a review of Locomotion on Screenonline.

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MichaelB
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Re: Geoffrey Jones: The Rhythm of Film

#10 Post by MichaelB » Mon Feb 02, 2009 6:34 am

YouTube now features a higher-resolution version of Snow.

My fellow countrymen will have already realised why this is an appropriate link today...

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