Vertical Features Remake  (1978)

 

Vertical Features Remake

 

Gang LionTulse LuperCissie ColpittsGang Lion, Tulse Luper & Cissie Colpitts

An examination by a group of rival academics to remake an incomplete and largely missing film allegedly made by Tulse Luper. The film in question is called Vertical Lists, or Vertical Features, which shows vertical objects like posts, poles, tree trunks etc in a domestic landscape. Each remake uses a differing structure of counting and musical technique to count the 121 (11x11) vertical objects that Tulse Luper allegedly planned for the project.

Greenaway on Vertical Features Remake:

"Vertical Features Remake is a love-hate, or more appropriately, celebration-criticism, of structural method, unthinkingly and stupidly dominant in film circles at that time. If you claimed to be a structuralist your credentials were good enough to receive film-financing. Five years before you had to be a good Marxist-Socialist Feminist and then the coffers would be open, five years later, you could get financed if you demonstrated Political Correctness and a love of California.

The subject of Vertical Features Remake is landscape, scrupulously filmed and framed in static 'bits' centring around verticals - nature-created and man-made. And the organisation is deliberately extra-frame, organised around rigid frame number-counts - after all, on the one hand cinema is truth twenty-four frames a second, and on the other, film is a self-consciously manufactured process using the cheapest methods to create the lowest common denomination of illusory movement - Nouvelle Vague crossed with Arte Povere. Cinema is itself. But, as always film-makers cannot agree amongst themselves and the film Vertical Features has to be made three times, one for the master, one for the dame and one for the little boy who lives down the lane. Everyone has his or her needs and everyone should be accommodated. The warring academics were an excuse to explain the methodology, always a structuralist bane, and maybe their explanations set down filmically between the three films, with copious apocryphal diagrams, visual aids, archival exposition and subjectively-viewed manuscript text and drawings, are the highlight of the work - how are film solutions and agendas arrived at, how are they manipulated, what intellectual devices are pulled out to justify schemes and propositions? After all there is no such thing as history, there are only historians. In the end though, it's the landscape 'bits' - trees, posts, poles standing in snow and sunshine along the Brecon Beacons, the Wiltshire Downs, and in the Suffolk marshes - that win out - the bricks of landscape that excite, please, surprise, console and delight us all."

~

"About the reorganization of the domesticated landscape. In Britain practically every sod of earth has been trodden on a thousand times; we don't have wildernesses here or anything remotely like a wilderness. It's probably one of the most painted and drawn and photographed landscapes in the world, and Vertical Features Remake was very much about this heritage."

~

"The fascination with academic methodicality which pervades Greenaway's work, sometimes in comic battle with its opposite - nature, spontaneity, instinct - sometimes standing alone, reaches fetishistic dimensions in Vertical Features Remake." - Nigel Andrews, Sight & Sound

"Vertical Features Remake is a partly autobiographical absurdist fantasy that could have been conceived by Lewis Carroll." - Chris Auty, Time Out

 

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AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE WORK OF TULSE LUPER BY THE INSTITUTE OF RESTORATION AND RECLAMATION


The Institute of Reclamation and Restoration are steadily examining and reappraising the papers of Tulse Luper. It is hoped eventually to make a complete and definitive reconstruction of his research. The papers we have discovered so far run into hundreds of thousands and almost daily more papers are being added.

Whilst working on “Visual Concepts of Time and Space” for Session Three,
Tulse Luper spent some time in the Black Mountains. As a primary contributor to the Session Three Landscape Programme, Tulse Luper was invited to stay at Buryglaze, formerly Glasbury-on-Wye, where he was given research facilities at the Session study-centre for a winter and a summer.

In the second or third week of his stay at Buryglaze, in the margin of a set of papers devoted to windmills,
Tulse Luper drew up some plans for a project to which he later gave the working title “Vertical Lists” or alternately “Vertical Features”. Basically, like a great many other projects of this time, “Vertical Lists” was a project of structure and organization. In this case, the organization of a number of images of vertical features that Tulse Luper found interesting enough to record, in the beginning at any rate, with pen on paper.

There is good reason to suppose that
Tulse Luper filmed these images and images like them and put them together in a short film. He apparently restricted his area of search to the square kilometre bounded by the Grid Lines 170 to 180 and 390 to 400 on sheet 161 on the First Series of the 150,000 issue of the Ordinance Survey of Great Britain. It was shown to Gang Lion and Cissie Colpitts, both of whom later participated in Tulse Luper's “Project for a New Physical World”. After Gang Lion had seen the film, it disappeared.

The majority of the papers, drawings, and photographs referring to
Tulse Luper's “Vertical Features” were found some years ago in a farmhouse at Bridzor. But it was only very recently that short, damaged, black-and-white sections of a film, supposedly duped from the original negative, were found in a house at Hammersmith where Tulse Luper was known to have lived until the completion of his work on visual concepts for Session Three.

The IRR also have in their possession a short section of 16mm colour-film consisting of eleven shots which has been regarded by some as being a section of
Luper's lost “Vertical Lists”. It was found wound into a grading-copy of Tulse Luper's film “Dear Phone” that had been stored in a converted water-tower film-vault at Goole on North Humberside.

Before he filmed the images for “Vertical Features”,
Tulse Luper drew up several schemes for arranging the material. Many of the schemes were organized on grids of varying dimension. He wanted an overall shape, a square, that could be divided up symmetrically, that would have a single central image and self-contained rows running both down and across. A multiple of any odd number would have given these characteristics, but Tulse Luper, in the end, appears to have decided on a format of one hundred and twenty-one images divided into eleven rows of eleven.

Tulse Luper gave four reasons for having chosen eleven instead of any other number. First, the number eleven, two verticals, echoes the subject matter of the film. Second, if the format eleven times eleven is rearranged it can be made to form a square complete with diagonals, thus echoing the total shape of the project and marking, by the intersection of the diagonals, the central image of the project. The third reason was that if the square of eleven, 121, is written this way (1 11 1), the strokes could be arranged to make a square. And the fourth reason was that 121 is the same backwards as well as forwards, suggesting that the total project was reversible.

With the information gained from the notes and with the drawings and sections of film as a guide, the Institute of Reclamation and Restoration have decided to make
Tulse Luper's film again, called this time “Vertical Features Remake”. There is a note on Drawing and Instruction 3007D which appears to organize the 121 images in a scheme of progressive image length. The Institute has adapted this device into a structure where each successive image of the 121 images is one frame longer than its predecessor.

It seemed that
Tulse Luper had also made elaborate plans to underline and contrast, with natural sound, the organization of the images in his original film, but having no clear idea of the total sound conception, we have conceived our own, trying to follow the spirit of his experiment. We make no claim that this film reproduces the film Tulse Luper made or would make now if given the opportunity again, though we believe it is made in the direction of his enquiry. As a further contact with Tulse Luper, we went to Buryglaze and the Black Mountains to find in the same area as Luper did the vertical images for the film.


VERTICAL FEATURES REMAKE

Since the making of “Vertical Features Remake”, two hundred and seventy pages of
Tulse Luper's papers written in Provender for Session Three have been rediscovered. The papers were found in a book-depository at Nevers. They were pinned in batches of eleven to every eleventh page of a copy of Tulse Luper's publication on bird migration. Lephrenic claims to have found amongst these drawings new evidence, which has also been substantiated by some film fragments discovered in the vaults of the cessation building in Vienna, that the IRR film “Vertical Features Remake” has some important inaccuracies.

It seems that not all the material for
Tulse Luper's original film was shot in Buryglaze. Gang Lion, after seeing the original rough-cut in London, apparently suggested to Tulse Luper that some contrasting material filmed in Bridzor and in Hammersmith might be incorporated into the film. Lephrenic also states that current research points to a far freer structural handling of the material. Fallast on the other hand writes that the material in the Institute’s film was not structured rigorously enough and suggests that the decision to start with a section length of eleven frames instead of a strict section length of one frame was an unnecessary compromise.

Fallast
has also called the attention of the Institute to Drawing and Instruction 4890F where the greying progression is in section lengths and not in individual image lengths. In such a structure, the eleven images of the first section would be eleven frames long. The eleven images of the second section would be twenty-two frames long. The eleven images of the third section would be thirty-three frames long, and so on.

Whilst the Institute of Reclamation and Restoration acknowledge that there is no conclusively demonstrative evidence to suggest our organization of the material is above argument, we feel it was in the spirit of
Tulse Luper's research. Nonetheless we have closely re-examined a great many of the available papers, and we have considered the suggestions of both Lephrenic and Fallast. The Institute has also listened to advice from Gallibeau that some form of musical punctuation was used. Taking all these opinions into consideration, we have made the film for a second time.

VERTICAL FEATURES REMAKE 2

Some six days after the completion of “Vertical Features Remake Two”, the IRR were accused of fraud. The Society for the Restitution of Film questioned the source of our funds, and Appenhost demanded to see a list of all the researchers and technicians that are employed at the Institute. Castaneye declared that the photographs that were supposed to be of Tulse Luper were in fact photographs of the film editor’s father-in-law. Rastelin doubted the very existence of Tulse Luper and made a film called “The Ubiquitous Wolf” which suggested that Tulse Luper was a figment of the Institute’s imagination, invented so that the IRR could undertake a project which was no more than an academic film-editing exercise.

The most useful and germane criticisms came as usual from those who have closely researched Session Three and its pernicious effects on the European Landscape. Oisinger, editing a catalog of the newly discovered Luper papers, suggests that the organization of material for “Vertical Features” was much more complex than the IRR have up to now appreciated. He suggests that the sense of development from shorter to longer shots gives a false impression of Luper's intention. Luper, he argues, was after a much more homogeneous scheme where, if there was to be any especial emphasis, it was to come in the center of the project.

Akinadoer argues that Lephrenic was wrong in his assumption that the verticals that Tulse Luper filmed outside the Buryglaze area were intended for “Vertical Features”. Indeed according to Tulse Luper's other projects of the period there is a strict and deliberate insistence in keeping a geographical unity. Akinadoer suggests that the extra material was in fact filmed by Gang Lion himself to inter-cut into Tulse Luper's original film to make it less elegiac and dangerous and to make it more satisfactory to the aims of Session Three. There is good evidence to support the fact that Gang Lion made a completely substituted film of his own material to show in Vienna and subsequently destroyed the original of Tulse Luper's “Vertical Features”. The black-and-white film sections found at Hammersmith, according to Akinadoer, are probably the remains, not of the film made by Tulse Luper, but of the film substituted by Gang Lion.

In reparation therefore for the apparent destruction of Tulse Luper's original film, and with regard to the new sources of information, the Institute of Reclamation and Restoration have reconstructed for the third time Tulse Luper's “Vertical Features”.

VERTICAL FEATURES REMAKE 3

Akinadoer’s first criticism of “Vertical Features Remake Three” was that its complicated structure was too ingenious, and the effect of inter-cutting short lengths of eleven frames with long lengths of one hundred and twenty-one frames was unsympathetic to the elegiac intentions of Tulse Luper. A month after the first production-copy of “Vertical Features Remake Two” had been seen, Castinager published an account of the events leading up to the Session Three Programme, and the subsequent collapse of the Policy for a Dynamic Landscape, the policy that Tulse Luper called the “Skipping Landscape Programme”.

Two weeks after a show-copy of “Vertical Features Remake Three” was first seen publicly, Castinager re-wrote his account and sent a copy to the Institute. First he urged us to look again and again at the colour-film clip that had been found at the Goole water-tower. Castinager suggests that Tulse Luper's film project “Vertical Features” was far more important than an incidental examination of structure and suggests that Tulse Luper foresaw to some extent the unsuitability of the Session Three plans with a future.

Three letters written by Cissie Colpitts to Gang Lion strongly support Castinager’s contention that Tulse Luper returned to Buryglaze at various times of the year to film the landscape to demonstrate, among other things, that it changed and would continue to change without assistance from synthetic sources. According to the new evidence, Tulse Luper was making the film as a record of domestic landscape to serve as a reminder of what had been achieved. Castinager suggests that the eleven times eleven structure was intended as a warning. He suggests that it was a simile for the eleventh hour of the eleventh month.


IRR

 

LephrenicFallastGallibeau (Michael Nyman)

AppenhostCastaneyeRastelin (Lacer Fallacet)

OisingerAkinadoerCastinager

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