Wednesday 9 December 2009

Tate Modern Starr Auditorium: Wednesday 9 December 2009, 5:30PM

Recently completed and the most ambitious of Sutcliffe’s works to date, Despair, is inspired by and titled after the 1934 Vladimir Nabokov novel, a story of mistaken physical resemblance, murder and identity theft. Sutcliffe’s film features a parade of society portraits and a sequence of photocopied handouts for lectures entitled Theories of Montage amongst references to Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1978 adaptation of the novel and baroque music composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully for the seventeenth century French king, Louis XIV. Nabokov’s themes of power and delusion, doubling and gameplay are anchored in a prismatic treatment of visual material and sound.

Sutcliffe’s film is followed by a screening of Laughter in the Dark (1969, 101 min) by Tony Richardson, one of the iconic directors of Britain’s Free Cinema movement. Richardson’s adaptation of Nabakov’s novel presents Sir Edward More, a wealthy art dealer, who becomes infatuated with a young cinema usherette, Margot, and tries to initiate a discreet affair. His fascination with the young girl backfires at every turn.

“One reason for making my version of Despair was my inability to track down a copy of Fassbinder’s version. In the spirit of this I have chosen a film to accompany my video that I also haven’t seen. The idea of Tony Richardson directing Nabokov is very interesting and almost impossible to predict. A somewhat mercurial director adapting an author who was notoriously spiky about interpretations of his works.”

— Stephen Sutcliffe

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