The life and work of highly influential, yet little known, Canadian composer and microcomputer pioneer Martin Bartlett is resurrected in this lovingly constructed biographical essay which conveys a sense of intimate, holistic personal history.
This film is not currently playing on MUBI but 30 other great films are. See what’s now showing
Electro-Pythagorus: A Portrait of Martin BartlettDirected byLuke Fowler
Things that go to make up a life. I wish the credits included a “Soundtrack Available at x.com,” the music had a strangely improvisational feel, much closer to jazz. It is sad when one’s musical search ends with exotic instruments hanging in glass cages, it feels like nobody remembers how to play them. It reminds me of a physical library with paper and leather-bound books from Nabokov, Chekov, Balzac, etc.
In using a principally artistic approach - and not following the usual I-want-to-tell-you-everything-from-birth-to-death-and-have-a-lot-of-uninteresting-contemporary-witnesses-to-tell-you-details-you-never-wanted-to-know documentary style - Luke Fowler transformed the main principles and main demands of Martin Bartlett's aesthetic into a challenging portrait with many visual and acoustic counterpoints.
I could've watched that all night. A visual treat; some of the best video essay type work I've seen. That + Bartlett's brilliant black box compositions/interactions (via its Deleuzian "topography of uncertainties") & I easily got through his annoying chant-lectures & past the drippy-voiced narrator of initially-insipid letters, and into what turned out to be a pretty compelling bio. Hope he got that professorship!
You know you're far gone in cinephilia when you feel like this should be the default approach to biographical documentaries. Time, memory, and words all seem to skip along musical stones, and the whole thing is so thoughtfully wrapped up in its chosen aesthetic. Makes me want to see more of Luke Fowler's stuff. Makes me want to make music again.
There's an interesting story here that unfortunately gets lost in the technique. We see masses of letters, correspondences, and notebooks, we see personal photos, interviews, lectures and performances, and we hear the music...but I do not come away believing I know any more about the man or his music then when I went in.
Intriguing documentary - instead of typical narration plus footage or interviews, what we get here reminds me of a collage of memories, fragments of the lost moments of someone's life (Martin Bartlett's life that is). Perhaps, this this is the natural way to remember an artist, a free spirit. Unique experience, definitely not in-your-face, requiring an open mind and a bit nostalgic in its core.
"The intimacy of handcraftedness softens the technological anonymity creating individual difference making each instrument a topography of uncertainties with which we become acquainted through practice"....