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Black Bird Descending: Tense Alignment

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Black Bird Descending: Tense Alignment

A brilliantly constructed, melancholic ode to the passing of time by Malcolm Le Grice

Animation & Artists Moving Image 1977 109 mins

Director: Malcolm Le Grice


The ritualised actions of daily life in a suburban house gradually unravel in this film by Malcolm Le Grice, as numerous tasks are performed and then fragmented through careful camera placement and the manipulation of expectations. The first feature by experimental filmmaker Le Grice, it's a masterwork of construction, and is quietly existential and melancholic in tone, evoking Reginald Perrin and Groundhog Day.

The first of three features by Le Grice, Black Bird Descending took him away from the London Filmmakers' Co-op, where he had been a prominent figure, and instead placed him in the domestic sphere, exploring what it can mean to make art not just at home, but somehow through it. In rigorous and extremely engaging fashion it not only plots out the space of a suburban house and its garden, but also fragments that space through the cutting up and blurring of activities and expectations. At one level Le Grice's film is a giant elliptical puzzle, ready for the viewer to untangle, but at another it's a melancholic ode to the passing of time and the patterns of daily life. Its existential qualities make for a very different pastoralism from that evoked by Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending, to which the title alludes.