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Marvo Movie (1967)


Main image of Marvo Movie (1967)
16mm, 4 min, colour
Director (uncredited)Jeff Keen
Production CompanyRayday
Sponsor (uncredited)BFI Production Board

The waters of the English Channel at Brighton beach and the woodland and tip in the surrounding area meet strange costumed happenings in a domestic apartment.

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One of Jeff Keen's most screened films - subsequently considered one part of the 'Jeff Keen Trilogy' - Marvo Movie emerged from a pre-existing structure: Keen started with two 100ft lengths of 16mm film (just under three minutes each), given to him by a friend. He intended to use these to make a two-screen piece (Marvo Movie 1 and Marvo Movie 2), but in the end found the lengths were too short and instead spliced the parts together.

The film features Keen, his wife, Jackie, and some friends dressed in a variety of costumes in Keen's flat and the surrounding Brighton area. These sequences are edited around and superimposed over cuttings from newspapers and comics and various moving toys. The details of the superimpositions were created by chance; Keen ran the film through the camera, rewound it and shot more material, not always knowing what would lie where and what new juxtaposition would occur. (One example of planning does seem to occur when Jackie Keen, dressed as Cat Woman, neatly superimposes over herself almost exactly.) These juxtapositions are very striking - we get Marilyn Monroe appearing over dark images of the English countryside, for one - demonstrating chance's potential positive effect. Keen inherited this approach from the Dadaists, who used it to escape reason and conscious control. Herein lies the key to Keen's art historical background - surrealism and Dada rather than the pop art with which he is more commonly associated. It also helps contextualise Ken Russell's comment about Marvo Movie: "It went right over my head and seemed a little threatening, but I'm all for it." The film does not necessarily hold onto any concrete rationale.

The soundtrack was recorded in two parts. Jeff Keen recorded one using his own speech, but then realised he required something different for the other and had the concrete poet and founder of the London Filmmaker's Co-op, Bob Cobbing, deliver some whispered abstract vocals. The recording session was undertaken in a single afternoon so the film could be completed in time for a screening in Liverpool.

William Fowler

*This film is included in the BFI DVD and Blu-ray compilations GAZWRX: The Films of Jeff Keen.

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (4:24)
White Lite (1968)
Keen, Jeff (1923-2012)
Psychedelia and the BFI