British psychogeographic cinema

In my last tutorial, I was encouraged to revisit the genre of psychogeography. As I’m now planning to make a video of my work, I thought it would be interesting to focus on film. The British Film Institute (BFI) have a useful blog post: Your next obsession: the drifting explorations of psychogeographic filmmaking. (www2.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/where-begin-british-psychogeography-cinema).

I watched a few of the films mentioned. Curiosity drew me to Ringo Star’s wander around Camden during the film Hard Day’s Night (clip on YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIvEc4yhdpM). I also watched some of Peter Greenway’s A Walk through H (clip here: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x7axivb) and rewatched my own copy of Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins, part of the Robinson trilogy that the BFI consider defines British psychogeographic cinema.

All convey a strong sense wandering. The wander for wandering’s sake, with no specific purpose in mind, other than an intuitive response to the environment. I confess that I find Keiller’s work a hard watch – I think I would enjoy Robinson in Ruins more if it was 30 minutes long rather than 1.5 hours. The same fixed frame film shots are frequently revisited, cropped in or out. The narrative is deliberately unexpressive tonally.

All works make use of ambient sound to connect the auditory sense with the physical act of wandering. A signifier introduced through sound. This seems important in placing the works and is something I intend to incorporate into my video. The other strong attribute of the works in the sense of the ordinary or banal – there is zero chance of National Geographic featuring them. There is a a sensory revel in the everyday.

Where there is narrative present, it tends to deal with psychological response to what is seen, rather than a traditional plot. This too enhances the sense of ‘wandering’. I’m developing some prose to go with my own work and will keep this idea in mind. The words should not be descriptive of what is shown in the images but suggest a psychological response to the urban environment.