Sunday, 14 June 2009

Theodore Ushev "Drux Flux" (NFB 2008)

Theodore Ushev has been featured here on several occasions. He has the intellect to confront powerful subjects, applying a range of film and animation skills in his work. Drux Flux handles the issue of man's place in a post-industrial age. The movie commences with the mechanical clatter of a printing press where a battered, sepia edition of the opening title and credit is run off. Thereafter we are on a train journey in which the the ruins of a heavy industrial landscape are explored in a swift moving collage of photographs that move from desolation to molten metal rolling through the steel works; men are seen slaving in a cacophonous industrial hell, before one progresses to the soviet era of propaganda posters, celebrating the worker, an ironic commentary on the preceding images. Elements of the posters are strikingly animated before one is presented with a vision of man reduced to his mechanical skeleton, a figure that collapses in a heap of junk. I knew of Theodore first for his work in Flash where his graphic skills were much in evidence. Here the live action montage is manipulated in After Effects, arranged and overlaid with geometrical arrangements in Flash. The quickfire, mesmeric speed of the action is sustained throughout the piece, machinery seen in close-up, split screen, soviet workers suddenly launched from their frozen stances on the posters, filters of colour and light, a gyrating carousel of action at bewildering pace. He acknowledges the influence of "One-Dimensional Man" (1964) by philosopher Herbert Marcuse who took a swipe at both capitalism and soviet style communism. Alexander Mossolov composed the impressive music whilst the overall sound design is by Olivier Calvert. I live near Sheffield, once the steel capital of the world. The footage Theodore uses of abandoned factories was filmed in Germany though he could as easily have visited the UK. Juxtaposed images galore; and contrasting ideas - a dehumanising environment, industrial ruins devoid of man, the fiction of the glorious workers in the propaganda poster wielding their mighty mallets.

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