Cinema Lumiere - Sala Scorsese > 21:45


Bill Morrison
Introduced by

il regista Bill Morrison


Friday 30/06/2017


Original version with simultaneous translation through headphones


Film Notes

Decasia seizes on those transitional moments, when the readable images of nitrate film are slipping into the many odd and curious distortions caused by the decay of the physical medium. Some images seem to flake away; some blossom into glowing effects that suggest the solarization that was a popular technique for evoking the psychedelic experience of the ’60s; others suffer distortions like those of a fun-house mirror; still others seem to be invaded by swelling masses of bacteria, like something you would observe in a Petri dish. 
Mr. Morrison’s film is founded on an enduring paradox: that decay produces its own kind of beauty, and even functions as a kind of creation. Originally assembled as a component of Ridge Theater’s ‘multimedia theatricalization’ of a symphony by Michael Gordon, first performed in Switzerland in 2001, Decasia has gone on to become that rarest of birds, an experimental film with crossover appeal.

On one level the film is a kind of Rorschach test in which the decaying images become animated inkblots, open to whatever identifications the spectator chooses to impose on them, from garden gnomes to genitals. On another, the film provides a kind of 2001 psychedelia, a rush of abstract images linked to the trance-inducing drone of Mr. Gordon’s score. […]

But Decasia is by no means a randomly assembled collection of footage. Mr. Morrison has clearly logged a lot of hours at film archives – including the Museum of Modern Art, the Library of Congress and George Eastman House – in pursuit of particularly evocative instances of decay. Some shots seem almost too good to be true, as when an early-20th-century boxer spars with the shifting mass of nitrate rot that has erased his punching bag, or when explorers discover what looks like a blobby space alien pulsing in the depths of a cave. […]

Conceived as a homage to Disney’s Fantasia, Decasia also moves through a series of distinct movements. Unifying the various sections are repeated newsreel images of film being processed in an industrial laboratory – the moment of birth for a movie, as it emerged from the amniotic fluid of the developing tank – as well an emphasis on circular images, like a Sufi whirling dervish, or an Indian homespun weaver at work at his wheel. No simple nostalgist, Mr. Morrison comes to emphasize the cyclical nature of creation. The new devours the old, which will be devoured in its turn.

Dave Kehr, Symphony of Compositions from Decomposition, “The New York Times”, 12 December 2012

Cast and Credits

Mus.: Michael Gordon. Prod.: Hypnotic Pictures. DCP. D.: 67’. Bn.