Albie Thoms 1948-2012
Duration: 76 minutes
For starters, I think that it’s important to state that Thoms sees his film Marinetti as a tribute or homage to the Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944), who’s 1908/9 “Futurist Manifesto” kick-started a revolutionary nationalist movement which spanned a wide range of mediums such as painting and sculpture and sound art (Luigi Russolo’s manifesto “The Art of Noises”  and his highly unique and unusual instruments that captured industrial and mechanic sounds are usually what critics point to as the first instance of intentional “noise music”). As the film is a tribute or homage, we can deduce that the film has ties to the Futurist movement in some capacity, whether that be stylistically, structurally, aesthetically and so on.
In twenty minutes, Guerassio seemed to provide a very good overview of the Italian Futurist movement, outlining some of its major artists, historical developments and ideas (including those imbued in Marinetti’s manifesto). It also summed up quite well an idea developed in Futurism which Thoms adopted for Marinetti. In 2003, Thoms stated, in interview with Danni Zuvela for Senses of Cinema, that, in Marinetti, he “adopted the Futurist notion of minimalisation of plot and characterisation”. This gives way to an experience that is largely non-verbal and highly subjective which bypasses verbalised pigeonholing. This was the intention of filmmaker Stanely Kubrick for his brilliant 2001: A Space Odyssey (released in 1968, coincidentally the same year as Thoms’ Marinetti), who in an interview with Playboy Magazine from 1968 argued that verbalising a single message would shackle an audience “to a reality other than their own” and “erect an artificial barrier between conception and appreciation.”
On a stylistic and artistic level, Battaglia’s Boccioni’s Bike was as much a tribute or homage to the painter and sculptor Umberto Boccioni (1882-1916) as Albie Thoms’ film Marinetti was to Marinetti. In his adventurous nine minute animation, Battaglia depicts a cyclist in a style that alludes to the dynamism of form and style quintessential in Futurist painting and sculpture.The image of a bicycle is pivotal as it references an event which influenced Marinetti’s decision to write the “Futurist Manifesto”. In 1908, Marinetti was involved in a small car accident, after trying to avoid two cyclists on a road just outside Milan. Helping himself out of the ditch, Marinetti vowed to “destroy the museums, the libraries, every type of academy”. He wrote that the Futurists “will glorify war - the world's only hygiene - militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.”
Above everything thing else I appreciated and enjoyed about Thoms’ Marinetti was its brilliant score. Thoms employed “blank verse voice-over narration as part of a sound montage” which mangled together with experimental and/or psychedelic rock music and a large palette of non-musical sound sources. Contextually, Marinetti was released roughly the same era as “The Gift” by The Velvet Underground from White Light/White Heat (1968), which is considered an experimental track because it combined spoken word with rock music, and likewise the same era as Frank Zappa’s avant-rock compositions, which played with language in a similar way to Thoms (but perhaps not as extreme).
In conclusion, just as Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) was a translation of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness (1899) from a Belgian-Congo era context to a Vietnam War context, Marinetti is as if Thoms was looking at 1960s Australia quite literally through the lens of a Futurist. Today I spoke with Brett Garten about how the film was received on its second screening. Roughly forty years since the film was first screen it still received the same response, with half of the audience walking out according to Brett. This time around however, most of the people who left were still hanging about outside until it finished to discuss the film, conveying a much higher level of interest in the film that was perhaps non-existent 40 years prior from an Australian audience.
-- Brett Garden