ROMEO was a lovely woman from Vienna. Let’s call her “R-protagonist”.
R-protagonist had a bravo-bravado that could only be found in B-movies. This was pre-found as a loop floating on the “c” or should I say in the key of “c”. After swimming four days in this particular grainy black and white film noir, she got a Charlie hoarse (or should I say in a horse voice) and also a horse named Charlie. She swam with it to shore. As the horse exited the water in the shallows of the nearby Delta, ROMEO spotted the shadow of a “D” as a stretched apparition.
Or should I say the light fell perfectly across the skin of darkness, as was the habit in film noir movies. On the marquee the “D” was tilted in the title of the movie named after itself “D.” Not to be confused (or perhaps in this case, to be confused was the nature of the beast) with the “B” Movie which Charlie was nested in. The real Charlie was merely an echo of the cinematic star who was prone to making a horse-like “eeeeeeee” “eeeeeeee” “eeeeeeee” sound which shifted pitch in a lovely sing-songy manner. Since this particular film noir was silent, one could only project a sense of awe and deference to Cage.
But there was no Cage to be found here, only Romeo’s erotic glance into the evening landscape. The film also included a foxtrot, which was rendered in slow motion, suggestive of a particular variety of sound. One scene also had a 20’s golf match including flappers. One could easily project the sound of the club as it hit the black and white ball, with noir strings flowing on underneath. In fact this sound was also looped and became quite a nice rhythm, falling only once as foley for itself. This particular scene contained a Hitchcock look-a-like. He was staying in a nearby hotel. “Homage to the Entrance of the Silent H” flashed as the subtitle. This splashed across screen with all of the subtlety of slowly drying india ink. Actually, I cut an image of Hitchcock in secretly…“I” was resolved to meet R-protagonist who looked exactly like Ingrid Bergmann. In fact it was Ingrid Bergmann, who was edited into this scene.
It is hard to meet people who are no longer living, except in films.
Enter Juliette. Juliette was Romeo’s foil (not to be confused with Olivia Hussey). She poisoned the waters of this abstract film (made only of words Homage to Mr. Snow and Rrose Selavy) with her own elusive beauty. The two of them appeared to perfectly mimic the taste of Hitchcock in casting leading women. Perhaps we could call her Tippy, after actress Tippy Headron. Did you know that they used the sound of Tape recorders for the bird foley in the Birds? I digress. There isn’t an ounce of truth to any of this. Well perhaps a kilo. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so what does a Kilo give us?
I sent off to Lima for a kilo of those tippy birds that drink water. In fact this was the next shot of the film. 1000 little artificial birds oscillating randomly in a small room, lit in film noir fashion. My stunning assistant Mike helped position the oscillating birds, with the precision of a perfectionist, although he was hired as the projectionist. This was in the November of his career in that everything was going digital. But we projected the movie across this artificial landscape of birds oscillating none-the-less. And he was quite excited by the whole affair. Mike had the look of a Calvin Klein underwear add-boy, or should I say ab-boy, and dressed the part. Anyway, he enjoyed his job and devoured approximately 1000 films a week, many sporting Oscars from across the history of cinema. He was sometimes called the Papa of Dada, because he also loved early film. Romeo thought he was way too young to be called Papa.
The film cut to an incredible shot of Niagara Falls, shot on location in Quebec. Here again was a perfect shot of Romeo and Juliette standing side by side gazing into the abyss. Again the theme of water (and you know my name is Seaman). The two of them asked Papa if he wanted to tango on the edge of the abyss, and he of course said yes. This was my allusion to the sirens. Not the sound, heard in the distance (in that this was a silent film) outside of the theatre (it could also be edited in later).
The next cut took us to the etched landscape of the Sierra Madres. Traveling in film had no expense (well only in the real world) so we moved about the world effortlessly… And film history! This was a kind of tangle or tango of films that of course had doomed sexual attraction at it core. The film momentarily moved to a series of uniform edits of the 7 wonders (who were they?). Papa decided to date R-protagonist. And of course this made Juliette quite jealous. M. set up the camera so he could get himself in the shot, but with his wanton whiskey hangover, the camera slipped over the edge. Actually this made for some quite compelling filming as the camera fell thousands of feet, but was later recovered.
Here the film cut to an x-ray of the camera itself showing a novel crack in the metallic case. Quite a nice self-referential abstraction in black and white, given the crack also made a mark on the film itself. This was just an example of Papa’s yankee ingenuity, or should I say his proclivity for the ingénue, he was secretly dating Juliette as well. Of course we all know the ending.
Footnote: This was a false ending, the film cut to Historical footage of Zulu warriors (notice that there had been no violence in the film thus far so this was added for gratuitous effect) except for the poison, which was now taking effect in all three. Leni R. and her African adventures were entirely cut from the film, but Impressions of Africa still had its say in the aesthetics of Papa.
Bio ~ Bill Seaman.
Bill Seaman, media artist, scholar, and media researcher, has had over thirty major installation works and commissions around the world, a dozen solo exhibitions, and numerous performance collaborations, video screenings, and articles/essays/reviews in books and catalogues. His work often explores an expanded media-oriented poetics through various technological means. More recently he has been examining notions surrounding “Recombinant Informatics” — a multi-perspective approach to inventive knowledge production.