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A History Of The Avant-Garde:
Britain In The Twenties

directors: various

82 minutes (E) 1924-36 BFI VHS retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
The title of this compilation tape is actually a misnomer, as the most recent film here dates from 1936. Also, I am dubious as to whether anything here really is 'avant-garde' - or was, even back then.

The tape begins and ends with two animated shorts. Len Lye's Tusalava (nine minutes) is an abstract piece involving circles and chains and dots. The tape ends with The Equation (three minutes), also involving shapes, but this time with mathematics behind their movements.

In between are four live-action pieces. Crossing The Great Sagrada (13 minutes), directed by Adrian Brunel, which is often very amusing from the jokey intertitles onwards. An 'All-British Production', it contains the immortal credit "Sand by Blackpool Town Council."

Bluebottles (28 minutes), based on a H.G. Wells story, is an entertaining skit where a young woman intercepts a crime ring. Ivor Montagu directed, and the film is of interest for its other credits: Elsa Lanchester played the lead (her character is even called Miss Lanchester), and further down the cast is husband-to-be Charles Laughton. The cinematography is an early effort from Freddie (billed as F.A.) Young.

C.O.D. - A Mellow Drama (11 minutes) is the most forgettable and dull piece. By contrast, Every Day (17 minutes), directed by Hans Richter, uses montage (visual and sound) to convey a typical day, at home and at work. All the films are in black and white (except from some tinted shots in 'Sagrada). Every Day has its original soundtrack; the other films are silent with added music. These short films are more for the connoisseur than the casual viewer, but the fact that such material is commercially available at all is something to be grateful for.
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