Thursday, June 20, 2013

Towers Open Fire

GB © 1963 Armorial Film Services. PC: Antony Balch Films. P+D+DP+AN+S+ED: Antony Balch - in black and white with colour in the end. SC: William S. Burroughs. C: William S. Burroughs, Antony Balch, David Jacobs, Bachoo Sen, Alexander Trocchi. 11 min. A vintage KAVA 35 mm print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago, screened before Naked Lunch), 20 June 2013

The LUX website: "Towers Open Fire is a straight-forward attempt to find a cinematic equivalent for William Burroughs' writing: a collage of all the key themes and situations in the books, accompanied by a Burroughs soundtrack narration. Society crumbles as the Stock Exchange crashes, members of the Board are raygun-zapped in their own boardroom, and a commando in the orgasm attack leaps through a window and decimates a family photo collection... Meanwhile, the liberated individual acts: Balch himself masturbates ("silver arrow through the night..."), Burroughs as the junkie (his long-standing metaphor for the capitalist supply-and-demand situation) breaks on through to the hallucinatory world of Brion Gysin Dream Machines. Balch lets us stare into the Dream Machines, finding faces to match our own. "Anything that can be done chemically can be done by other means." So the film is implicitly a challenge to its audience. But we're playing with indefinables that we don't really understand yet, and so Mikey Portman's music-hall finale is interrupted by science-fiction attack from the skies, as lost boardroom reports drift through the countryside..." (Tony Rayns, "Interview with Antony Balch", Cinema Rising No.1, April 1972)

"Installations shattered - Personnel decimated - Board Books destroyed - Electronic waves of resistance sweeping through mind screens of the earth - The message of Total Resistance on short wave of the world - This is war to extermination - Shift linguals - Cut word lines - Vibrate tourists - Free doorways - Photo falling - Word falling - Break through in grey room - Calling Partisans of all nations - Towers, open fire" (William Burroughs, Nova Express, 1964) - See more at: - From the LUX website

Towers Open Fire belongs to the top examples of cinema as an expression of the poetry of a major literary figure - comparable to the presence of Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet, and Samuel Beckett in the cinema. All these are worthy, part of the essence of their art.

The presence of William S. Burroughs and his creaking voice in Towers Open Fire is so commanding that Antony Balch can incorporate anything in his movie without losing a sense of unity.

We have extreme close-ups of Burroughs, his eyes at half-mast. White white white. The recitation of his prose poetry is hypnotic. There is a masturbation scene like by Warhol, only the face of the man visible. There is TV static like in a work by Nam June Paik. There is found newsreel footage of the 1929 stock market crash. There is pre-cinema imagery of a Zoetrope. There are ultra fast edits like in the movies of Gance or Vertov. There is op art, kinetic art, and experimental music while Burroughs injects himself with his shots. There are subliminal edits like in Scorpio Rising. Exposed to Burroughs' raygun people are reduced to radiation like in Star Trek. Hieroglyphs vanish in the wind. The black and white movie turns into colour in the Len Lye style flicker passage in the conclusion. It's a history of the experimental cinema, yet it's all William S. Burroughs.

There are signs of wear in the start, but essentially it's top visual quality.

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