Pilgrimage From Scattered Points

Pilgrimage From Scattered Points


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Combining fresh interviews, affectionately shot on decaying film stock, with excerpts from Hanne Boenisch's 1971 film Journey to the North Pole, Luke Fowler's documentary tribute to the Scratch Orchestra is visually intriguing, politically dynamic, and surprisingly watchable. Presenting avant garde art to the public is always a challenge, yet the atmosphere which Fowler creates is warm and human and capable of drawing in even viewers with little prior awareness of the issues involved.

Conceived as a tribute to Cornelius Cordew (though it doesn't hesitate to let his former colleagues say just what they thought of him), Pilgrimage uses archive footage and a barrage of unconventional imagery to tell the story of scratch music from its conception to its gentle demise. It rarely focuses for long on any one of those involved, yet a strong sense of Cordew's personality comes across, and with it a sense of how others connected to build up the whole, "each composing an accompaniment".

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The chaotic nature of scratch music may have newcomers bewildered at first but there's plenty to watch and think about as the story builds. Fowler's experiment involves building a piece of avant garde film-making around his subject, matching diverse interwoven soundscapes with equally esoteric imagery. Grainy colour footage mingles with fuzzy black and white. Waterfalls accompany drums and sometimes all we have to look at are geometric shapes dancing around one another, but overall it works surprisingly well. Simple colour filters evoke shifts in atmosphere; shots of grafitti sprayed on monuments mirror what the film and the music are trying to do.

Pilgrimage From Scattered Points is not a film for everyone but, considering its subject, it's remarkably accessible. Likewise its analysis of the movement's Maoist politics is both perceptive and endearing.

We don't need to write these people off as naive nor as extremists - whether or not we agree with them, we can respect their intelligence and their will to make a real, significant change to a society they saw as inescapably corrupt. Their developing awareness of corruption within their own movement - the loss of confidence which saw their artistic pasions turn to bitterness - is the irony which underscores the tale, and the charm of the piece is that those who remain now seem able to look back on all this and view it as something which still mattered. With Fowler's help, it can be something which still matters today.

Reviewed on: 16 Feb 2007
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The story of Cornelius Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra.

Director: Luke Fowler

Writer: Luke Fowler

Starring: Cornelius Cardew

Year: 2006

Runtime: 45 minutes


Glasgow 2007

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