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Burroughs Towers Open Fire

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Published on May 24, 2012

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It's difficult to describe this film! A shot list would take some time to compile, despite its short length.

It starts with a still photo of Bela Lugosi (actually, this still is lacking from the print of Towers Open Fire used on Mystic Fire Video's copy, or they accidentally omitted it). Antony Balch, the director, was a particular fan of Lugosi's and used to project Lugosi films (among others) on 16mm film for people to watch in his home. From there on, there's some Moroccan music courtesy of Brion Gysin, and some voice-over from William Burroughs, perhaps reading from some of his works. There's a brief shot of a demonstration of Gysin & Burroughs' cut-up technique, whereby pages are cut into quarters, reassembled and the new text read. Probably anyone watching this unfamiliar with that would not know it from watching this, since it goes by so quickly and unexplained. There are also several shots of Gysin's flicker invention, the Dreamachine, a zooetrope-like device meant to be watched with the eyes closed.

A lot of the editing is really done in a barrage of montage, so it's difficult to see what is flashing before our eyes. There are some shots of Burroughs in a sort of scientific presentation, and also as a gas-masked soldier with a ping-pong ball rifle, and as a radio man giving the order (?) "towers, open fire!"

Very much an experimental film. I don't know what to make of it, but it's quite watchable. I first saw it on the VHS Towers Open Fire and Other Films by Antony Balch from Mystic Fire Video, but it is now also available on DVD as a bonus feature on Synapse's release of Balch's horror anthology film Secrets of Sex (1970) AKA Bizarre.


W 1957-59 r. Burroughs przebywa razem z Brionem Gysinem w Paryżu, w słynnym "Beat Hotel", przy ulicy 9 Rue Git-le-Coeur, gdzie zapraszają go, zafascynowani tym miejscem, Allen Ginsberg oraz Peter Orlovsky. Tam też natyka się na kontrowersyjną legendę filmu undergroundowego, Antony'ego Balcha, przyjaciela i dystrybutora filmów Kennetha Angera. Wraz z nim powstają trzy perły podziemnej kinematografii: Towers Open Fire (1963), The cut-ups (1966), Ghost at no 9 (1963-1972) oraz krótkie kilka ujeć, William Buys a Parrot (1959) -- wszystkie realizowane metodą cut-up. Zdjęcia do filmów powstają w Tangierze, Londynie, Paryżu i Nowym Jorku. W tym miejscu razem ze swoim kochankiem, Ianem Sommervillem, Burroughs przeprowadza też pierwsze próby ze skonstruowaną przez Gysina, „maszyną snów" (dream machine) - urządzeniem wywołującym w mózgu stany alfa.

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