Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Decasia is a creative film montage meticulously and passionately assembled by Bill Morrison from a wide variety of early 20th century silver nitrate films in various states of decay and deterioration. Many of these films are (or were) poised on the brink of an obliteration that, in its final stages, curls them up into a donut-like goo before turning to dust.
Initially, Morrison happened upon old documentary films from the Fox Film company, archived and forgotten in Columbia, South Carolina - but as his project took shape, and film archivists were impressed by his devotion, he gained access to films from the Library of congress and MOMA.
While putting the film together, he found a partner traversing a somewhat parallel path in the music world, composer Michael Gordon. Using deterioration, distortion, de-tuning of sounds together with a variety of ethnic, and even rock directions, in a layered, minimalist fashion Gordon created a soundtrack for Decasia that intensifies Morrison's vision but leaves enough ambiguity to let the listener's imagination and emotions run wild.
Among the images... breaking waves, a hand-driven ferris wheel, dervish dancers, nuns walking through a convent, light comedies (one featuring Pearl White), rocket ship rides at Luna Park in Brooklyn, geishas, boxers, butterflies,
court room scenes, baptisms, parachutists, a man saved from drowning, volcanic craters, newborn babies - all intertwined with the blotches, globs, pustules, explosions, dots like black swarms of insects, melting acid fireworks like bioluminescent sponges from the depths of the sea that are the emblems of the decaying film.
In one scene a boxer is sparring with a shape created by the decay that twists and turns into an amorphous, bubbling, curtain of glitter.
Part of the spell the film casts, is an interplay between the intention and innocence of the original films and the inevitability of decay, dissolution, and death inherent in everything that moves and takes form. Unknown to them, decay dances around the living people, the streets and palaces, never repeating itself in particulars; at times it seems to consciously follow a shoe or a face, it shimmers backward and forward between positive and negative exposure, radiating eerie lights, transforming the springtime frolic of lovers into shadow dancing figures in a haunted masque ballroom.
By all means, go straight to www.decasia.com and (on the second page, at the bottom)
select "footage". you can watch and hear two 5 minute clips from the film which runs more than an hour in its entirety.