Film: Waves of sentiment and the changing tidal rockpools of life
Gallivant Andrew Kotting (nc)
Friday 19 September 1997
Moving from beach chalet to crag, from allotment to cliff top, Kotting's painterly compositions contrast the stark grandeur of the coastline with the institutionalised gaiety of the seaside. Whether riding on trams or comically accelerating footage of a sedate game of ladies' bowls, Kotting's images reveal a fascination with an anachronistic national iconography. Accruing a scrapbook of "found" places, Kotting's sensibility seems to swing between a real regard for cosily cultivated community and a more soulless kitsch.
Such scattershot symbolism is accompanied by a fragmented commentary, stitched together from encounters with community characters. Weirdly, while these interviews have a genuine sense of serendipity, they come across as involuntarily arch, as if the subjects had intuitively played up to Kotting's taste for quaint eccentricity. Occasionally, however, raw feeling breaks through. Talking with a group of unemployed Welshmen, Kotting captures their bemused anger at the English arrogance which leaves them forgotten in rural poverty before filling the screen with eerily beautiful close-ups of their lurid tattoos.
Unlike that other camera-touting traveller Patrick Keiller, Kotting strives to leaven his avant-garde tricks with a tone of flippant jollity, but, at 100 minutes, the informality slips into indiscipline, and intimacy into indulgence. Speeding and time-lapsing his 16mm film, jump cutting and sneakily splicing archive footage, Kotting creates a densely edited work that is both restive and overlong. It's a curate's egg of a film which is, by turns, poetic, repetitive and mundane.
Finally, it's the developing relationship between Gladys and her great- granddaughter that provides a real emotional centre to all the larking about. For while Gladys is herself the kind of game old bird that Kotting loves to collect, her growing understanding and affection for Eden make for some cherishable moments of unguarded sincerity.
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