David Rimmer b. 1942
Watching for the Queen (1973)
Watching for the Queen continued Rimmer's investigations of minimal narrative and the anonymous/autonomous shot. The results are quite interesting and innovative, and can be approached best from three main considerations.
The first is the original shot, a crowd of expectant, smiling faces, which features little camera motion. As in Surfacing, each frame is subject to time expansion. There is little indication at the onset as to what will constitute movement, and in what capacity. What is initiated (along with the familiar trademark of edge fogging announcing the "beginning of the roll") is a curious form of visual analysis, proceeding along the lines of segmentation and collage. Each change in perceptible movement, which corresponds to a change in original parent frame number, appears as a spatial rearrangement, segmented by a cut. In Surfacing, each frame is joined via a dissolve. In Watching for the Queen, each frame features a displacement. It appears as if the cinematic cut has found its graphic correlation.
Secondly, this "collage" changes in the process of projection according to defined time constructs which are based on arithmetic progressions. For example, the first frame of the original shot is frozen for 1200 frames (approximately one minute), the next two for 600 frames, the next four for 300 frames, etc. The result is a slowly accelerating montage and a concretization of the "real" event through time. It is as if a re-invention of the motion- picture domain of "reality" was being undertaken. The transformation of a "sea of anonymous faces" into a "narrative of personalities" becomes a distinct possibility as movement and reflexive action are consolidated. In a psychological sense, as we become more familiar with the details of the scene, our attention shifts to identifying reflex actions and changes in the crowd.
Thirdly, Rimmer creates a parallel narrative between specific people in the crowd. For example, the first stage of the narrative concerns identifying individuals in the crowd. This is accomplished by noting, or having our attention drawn to, the person who exhibits the greatest motion. As the freeze-frames lessen in duration, other degrees of more subtle movement engage our interest. The narrative elements that each character represents are parallel, because they are only connected by the theme of "watching for the queen" (as we, in turn, are "watching for the characters"). Over several viewings, I arrived at the following ordering of the narrative "story": the crowd is composed of... a bald man smoking a cigarette... a man with a cap looking up... a man holding a pair of binoculars over his head.., a man stretching to see over the crowd, etc. It is curious, indeed, that I saw these characters in the present tense, rather than the past. I would attribute this last point to the fact that Rimmer requires the viewer to discover the narrative and participate in it through this discovery.
Pattern recognition, saccadic eye movement and feature rings are well known phenomena in the behavioral sciences. However, in Watching for the Queen, Rimmer has succeeded in employing these mechanisms in the telling of a story, by employing mathematical ordering in an aesthetic manner.
In contrast to Watching for the Queen, the short sketch entitled The Dance displays expansion of time by the use of an invisible cut. The parent footage featured a pair of dancers, seen from a fixed camera point of view, rapidly pirouetting across the foreground. Rimmer's use of the invisible cut proliferated this motion to the point of humourous exaggeration. The dancers become both spinning tops and an Astaire-Rogers duo performing feats beyond human endurance. The frenetic rhythm of the dancers, and its proliferation, becomes a distinct foreground effect in contrast to the background musicians. Although the use of the invisible cut historically belongs to the domain of "deoupage classique" or "Hollywood" action cutting to condense the scene, Rimmer uses it for the purpose of montage or the "building of an idea". Once again, as in earlier films, the anonymous event is the cause for analysis and celebration; once again, the dance motif figures prominently. The presence of this film also supports the notion that Rimmer's filmmaking exhibits links to both sculptural and painterly concerns. Typically also, this film features formal opening and closing movements; in this case, curtains which open and close as an auteurist gesture. -- Al Razutis