Sunday, 17 May 2015
I'm currently exploring the BFI's new Bill Morrison Anthology and have just watched Morrison's extraordinary 2002 film Decasia, an 80min montage of decaying and distressed b/w nitrate film footage that Morrison had photographed onto 35mm. If David Cronenberg introduced the notion of body horror, Decasia concerns itself with celluloid horror, the fragments of film - everything from home movies, medical footage, costumed melodramas appear to have succumbed to some terrible disease eroding the very chemistry of the film. But what a transformative experience Decasia is. Landscapes erupt, buildings and bridges buckle and bend, faces warp into strange grotesque contortions. Celluloid damage engulfs a city street scene like a blazing inferno. A fragment of film shows miners being salvaged from a collapsed shaft and one hopes they are rescued not before the mine collapses but before the film finally disintegrates into oblivion. In another extraordinary moment, a boxer is seen throwing punches at a damaged part of the film as if fighting off infection that will inevitably rub out his existence. Intrinsically tied to the visuals is Michael Gordon's magnificent, urgent score, a swirling experimental orchestral work that lends the images a vitality despite their terminal decline. In a word, stunning.