Here is a fascinating excerpt from the audio commentary track on the British Film Institute’s Dual Format Edition of Riddles Of The Sphinx (Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen, 1977). In this sequence, Mulvey recalls the technique of re-filming found footage material using a motion analyser projector borrowed from Marc Karlin while he was filming 36′ to 77′ (known then as Nightcleaners Part 2) with the Berwick Street Film Collective.
Avant-Garde Film: Motion Studies by Scott MacDonald (Cambridge Film Classics:1993)
Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s visually accomplished and intellectually rigorous Riddles of the Sphinx is one of the most important avant-garde films to have emerged from Britain during the 1970s. The second collaboration between Mulvey and Wollen, both of whom are recognised as seminal figures in the field of film theory, Riddles of the Sphinx explores issues of female representation, the place of motherhood within society and the relationship between mother and daughter. Composed of a number of discrete sections, many of which are shot as continuous circular pans, the film takes place in a range of domestic and public spaces, shot in locations which include Malcolm LeGrice’s kitchen and Stephen Dwoskin’s bedroom. BFI
A research project focusing on the work of British Filmmaker Marc Karlin (1943-99).
In the Spirit of Marc Karlin was set up by Holly Aylett, fellow documentarist and founder member of Vertigo, Hermione Harris, anthropologist, collaborator on Nicaraguan project and partner of Marc Karlin, and film archivist Andy Robson. It aims to secure Marc’s film and paper archive, to facilitate research and publication, and to build a platform for future generations to have access to Marc’s work.
Marc Karlin is an important but neglected figure within the British film avant-garde of the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He was a founder member of the film collectives Cinema Action and the Berwick Street Film Collective, an active member of the film union ACTT and the Independent Filmmakers Association, and he established the journal of independent film, Vertigo, in 1993.
His groundbreaking films for television in the 80s and 90s combined documentary and fiction film tropes to explore the themes of memory, history and political agency. Karlin was, resolutely, a political filmmaker, but his dense, yet subtle films are also rich meditations on the nature of filmmaking, the formation and collapse of ideologies, and the endurance of the human spirit.
This project aims to secure Marc’s film and paper archive, to facilitate research and publication, and to build a platform for future generations to have access to Marc’s work.