August 16th 2015
THE HART OF LONDON Jack Chambers (CAN / 70mins / 16mm / 1970)
The masterwork of Canadian artist Jack Chambers is not a film about London, England, but and is centered around London, Ontario. This sprawling, ambitious film seems to deliberately embrace contradiction, both visual and thematic, it combines newsreel footage of disasters, urban and nature imagery, and footage evoking the cycles of life and death. It is one of those rare films that succeeds precisely because of its sprawl; raw and open-ended in a way that anticipates the postmodern rejection of a master narrative. Its dense, multi-image symphonic structure visually and thematically shares much common ground with the work of Stan Brakhage, whose influence, when watching the film, is hard to ignore. Chambers postulates the primacy of light using a number of techniques, and uses his footage of a Spanish slaughter house and the birth of a child (amongst other things) to stunning effect. The maintenance of the film’s tension, and its complexity of scope, however, pushes The Hart of London way beyond any reductive comparisons. Brakhage called it ‘one of the few GREAT films of cinema’.