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Saturday, September 27, 2014

'Bill Morrison: Collected Works 1996 to 2013" DVD and BD: Orchesteral (and Cinematic) Maneuvers in the Dark

Product Details
The difficulty regarding reviewing the recent indie. documentary giant Icarus Films combination BD/DVD release of "Bill Morrison Collected Works 1996 to 2013" is not because these wonderfully artistic and/or avant-garde "Fantasia" style blends of film and music are not spectacular; the challenge is that properly discussing the work and the man minimally requires a college course on this genius.

The better news is that the equally fascinating booklet that accompanies the four DVDs and one BD set goes beyond nice and detailed synopses of the films to include an interview with Morrison and a few short articles on his work. These discussions provide a good sense of the style and the artistic nature of these wonderfully unique movies.

The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, is of the man himself discussing his work against a backdrop of footage that is somewhat representative of his films. This "straight from the horse's mouth" approach conveys an excellent sense of the artist and his creations.

The simple (but comprehensive) booklet description of the 2002 film "Decasia," which is the Blu-ray disc in the set, both states it all and does not include a hint of a spoiler in referring to the work as "a legendary cinematic exploration of the beauty of decaying archival footage." Frequent Morrison collaborator Michael Gordon provides the symphonic score for this one.

Icarus shares that "Decasia" has the distinction of being declared "the most widely acclaimed avant-garde film of the fin-di-siecle (i.e., end of the century)." Watching it in Blu-ray supports that conclusion.

"Decasia" opens with grainy footage from the Middle East and goes on to offer a plethora of images from all over the world; the inclusion of  '50s era school children on a bus provides only a limited sense of the broad range of the footage in the movie.

The manner in which Morrison matches the images with the score is equally amazing and shows how music manipulates our mood. The eerie composition that accompanies the children both makes one think that those tykes could kick Damien's butt and makes the audience think that the students would merely seem depressed if Morrison paired the footage with sad music.

Another equally artistic (and painstakingly produced) film is "The Miners' Hymn" about the well-known coal miners strike in England; the wonderfully stark black-and-white images of the miners contrasts incredibly with the color footage of the mine location at the time of the making of "Hymn."

"The Great Flood" similarly uses apt music and historic footage to tell the tale of the devastation associated with the Mississippi River Flood of 1927. Once again, you will feel that you are there.

One DVD of spooky offerings includes a very Morrison take on "Frankenstein" and the perfectly titled "Ghost Trip." These make great choice for a cinephile Halloween bash.

A terrific selection of other creations from the minds of Morrison and his musical friends round out the "Collected" set.

All of this amounts to this set being a great chance to own some wonderfully produced art in a nicely presented format that includes enough background information to fully understand and appreciate what you are watching.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Collected" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.