June 21, 2013

Frankensteinian : Le Robot (1970)

A reflection on technology, here’s a short sketch directed by Adrian Maben for a 1970 episode of Variances, the avant-garde arts and culture TV magazine broadcast over the French ORTF between 1969 and 1975. Set to electronic music, Le Robot's mime channels the Frankenstein Monster — and, perhaps, Caligari’s Cesar  — in black suit and neck bolts. The Frankenstein inspiration becomes even more evident when the Robot asserts itself at the end.

If you watch closely, you’ll figure out the tricks employed to sometimes startling effect by the unidentified performer. Typical of a time when television was often live and resolutely experimental, the whole sequence, some five and half minutes, is done in a single take, no editing.

Variances explored the arts of its time and its archives, bits and pieces of it available on the INA.fr (French National Institute of Audiovisual) includes performances and interviews with artists, musicians — Serge Gainsbourgh, for example — and writers and film directors — among them François Truffault and Jean-Pierre Melville. INA has over 350,000 videos on its sites, for free or pay viewing.

Scottish-born director Adrian Maben worked for the French ORTF in the early Seventies, and went on to create documentaries about Hieronymus Bosch and Magritte, the Helmut Newton film Frames from the Edge (1989) and his most famous work, Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972).

The INA.fr site, and the Le Robot page.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic video and performers! Although I have to say in reviewing it a third time, it is somewhat edited, not all live as mentioned. It is extremely difficult to get sequences this precise done in a single take, so that being said, this is still a superbly constructed and well realized piece.

Anonymous said...

Would like to know how the 'robot' did the extreme forward lean atop the stairs!

Dr. OTR said...

You can spots some of the edits if you pay attention to that diamond shaped lattice in the background. Most of the time it is expanded; it shrinks slowly while the robot is being assembled; then at 2:10 it is full size again.

Anyway, by 1970 very little TV would have been live any more.