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Film Scratches: Euphoria Unmasked – Careless Camera Work on Clapham Common (2016)

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Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.

A Review by David Finkelstein.

In Jack Wormell’s aptly named five minute silent video Careless Camera Work on Clapham Common, he assembles shots taken from a pretty park in South London where he takes his daily lunch breaks. A rapid-fire montage of moving shots and stills, edited in a jaggedly irregular rhythm, the camera work is more than merely careless: Wormell often swings the camera wildly, maximizing the “motion blur” effect and creating shots in which circular and lateral streaks make the imagery almost abstract. This disorienting visual near-chaos is occasionally overlaid with single words of text, such as “average,” “pretty,” and “rubbish.”

Careless Camera Work on Clapham Common from Jack Wormell on VimeWormell writes that he tried to capture the sense of euphoria which is latent in ordinary moments, and this piece actually achieves this pretty well. In real life, the motion of our heads, from walking and looking around, sends motion-blurred images exactly like these to our visual cortex, but our brains normally compensate for this, so that we don’t get dizzy or nauseated, a process known as Saccadic Masking. Wormell makes a good case that, on a subliminal level, there is a seething, drunken joy underneath ordinary consciousness, something we sense on a certain level when we find ourselves in a terrific mood for no apparent reason. Anyone who has ever tried to edit “unusable” film clips, where the camera was swinging around, and been struck by the beauty of individual frames in these clips, will recognize what is being referenced here. The overlaid text reminds us of the constant, subliminal judgements our brains make, evaluating every micro-moment of consciousness.

Wormell’s program of articulating the joy of heightening your awareness of everyday life, and his use of superimposed text, recalls the work of Henry Gwiazda, but to greatly different effect. Careless Camera Work is indeed exhilarating to watch, and it might bring a bit of ecstasy to your next lunch break.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact lakeivan@earthlink.net.

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