Along with all the routine pixillation, I had the pleasure of seeing the best example I’ve seen anywhere. It was called BONNE SOIREE. This Canadian film showed a man sitting down in front of his television. The camera was kept in one position. We saw the back of the man in his armchair and across the room in front of him was his television. A series of bizarre and very funny pixillated events then took place between the man and the television set – none of which he appears to notice. It used the technique to good effect, and was just the right length – stopping while we were still enjoying the film.
In the small cinema was a programme of films which had been screened by a French TV station which occasionally uses Super 8. These included three short examples of plasticine animation. I found these very interesting, because plasticine animation is my first love. They were all made by the same Frenchman. One amusing short showed a piece of (plasticine) spaghetti coming to life, another a live-action man’s attempts to get rid of a very determined plasticine flea, and the third showed how the pieces in a chess-game actually come to blows on the chess board. It’s odd that I have been kicking the same idea around in my head for some time now, but have never got down to making the film. Now I never will…
There was a strange atmosphere over the festival which I find hard to describe, about the nearest I can get is a sort of artistic decadence. Many of the films, and a large part of the audience, were ‘ARTY’ types. I must confess that I was worried what they would make of my fairly routine story films. I need not have worried, it became clear throughout the Festival that this audience, despite it’s ‘ARTY’ appearance was just like any other. They wanted to see properly constructed films in a recognisable format. So many of the films in the competition were not films as I understand films to be. That is a starting title, an end title and some recognisable ‘goings-on’ in between. In one respect the audience was different to any other I’ve known. If they didn’t like a film, there was no pitter-patter of polite applause at the end, it was raspberries and cat-calls. But if they liked a film, they greeted it with rapturous applause.
I showed an hour’s programme of 6 films, and got the best reception I’d ever had. My programme was shown on the first night, which turned out to be an advantage. It meant that they all knew who I was straight away, and that I only spoke English. They were all keen to talk film, and made me feel like an old friend. One of the more outrageously ‘arty’ types, he looked like a Dahlia attacked by the frost, came up to me after my show. He said he’d enjoyed my films, and had cried through JOE SOAP and BONZO. So you can’t go by appearance, I’d have thought he would prefer all the ‘experimental’ work on show. A group of Belgian students got somebody to write them a note in English saying how much they had enjoyed my films. They all signed it, and a pretty Belgian girl gave it to me with a kiss on the cheek. “For you, Monsieur Lewis.” she said.
The Brussels Festival was a wonderful experience, by far the best of many good experiences I’ve had since taking up this fascinating hobby. Perhaps I’ve made it sound that many of the films were bad, but there were ample good ones to compensate. Meeting so many enthusiasts made you want to dash home and start the next movie. Despite the language barrier, we were all able to communicate, and were all brought together by the common denominator of film. I’ve made many new friends, and been staggered by the number of Festivals there are every year around the world for the Super 8 film-maker. The week was made perfect by the stunning hospitality of the Belgian Festival organisers. So keep working on that old kitchen table on your animated dreams, and maybe you’ll be as lucky as I have been.
Originally printed in Animator’s newsletter Issue 8 (Spring 1984)