Saturday, August 2, 2014
CHUMLUM by Ron Rice
Chumlum was Ron Rice’s fourth and final film, which he made in the same year he died at the age of twenty nine. (He and his wife, Amy, were in Mexico City, where he caught bacterial pneumonia.) I’ve lost count of all the times I’ve seen frame enlargements from this film presented as being from Jack Smith’s Normal Love: an understandable mistake since this film was shot while the cast members of Smith’s movie were hanging out before and after the other’s filming. However, this is an altogether different experience (and a good bit shorter.) Though some double exposure occurs in Normal Love (most extensively in the long dance between Beverly Grant and the Boa Constrictor,) in Chumlum pretty much every frame involves either double or triple superimpositions. Though it uses the same cast as Normal Love, it includes a very important addition in front of the camera, namely Jack Smith himself; who acts not only as guiding spirit, but as resident clown and Mesmer. There is also the very important matter of the soundtrack, which here actually is composed and performed by Angus MacLise (with Tony Conrad’s assistance.) It all shows how someone with a very different sensibility than the one Jack possessed could take the materials, which clearly bear his stamp, and compose a film dramatically different in mood, texture, and form. Though one may feel a slow surging of the pace at times (especially in an early sequence shot from the stern of a boat) the overall rhythm is that of a trance. In this film, as a performer, Jack literally sets out to hypnotize the viewer.