Regular readers might notice that this one has no quote from the film beneath the image up there. Well, that’s because there is no possible quote from this, this pure distillation of weirdness. I’ve seen Un Chien Andalou, I’ve seen Blonde Cobra, but even these absurdist pieces have nothing on what Harry Smith does with his films. While I was watching Heaven and Earth Magic, I couldn’t help but get the impression that I was watching the precursor to the Internet culture of today. I’ve seen numerous Flash animations and would-be mash-up music videos on Youtube that are structured along the same lines as Heaven and Earth Magic; a collection of cut-out images crudely animated to an almost incoherent smattering of sound effects and music (though this film does without the music). For some strange reason, those always entertained me; they were like a window into a bizarro world, where it wasn’t just that the rules were inverted or that they didn’t apply, but that the very acknowledgment that there were any rules whatsoever was a complete impossibility. Heaven and Earth Magic is exactly that, and the best part was, it didn’t pretend to be anything more.
This would normally be the part where I tell you what the film is about. Well, this film is about… um. Give me a minute… Okay, never mind; this film has no plot. You could literally go into your fridge or pantry, grab various types of foodstuffs, and pour and slap and throw them onto the floor with no degree of structure or intention, and the result would have more of a narrative than Heaven and Earth Magic. Now, this would be where I talk about the technicals, in order to give you a picture of what the film is like before you watch it yourself. Soooo… yeah, Heaven and Earth Magic doesn’t have that either. What it does have is a slew of images – random cutouts, really – that are thrown about the screen in a phantasmagoria of insanity. Here, though, the film really got me; there is actually structure here. The random images interact with each other, albeit through no discernible fashion, but they do interact; otherwise, you’d just have literal randomness on the screen, and that… why, that would be too easy. This is structured randomness, even if the structure is just the clang and clash of these elements slamming into each other, and it is that thin veneer that makes this actually watchable, and perhaps even (dare I say it) entertaining.
Here’s the thing, though; as weird and nonsensical as this was, I found myself liking it. Much like the Flash animations and Youtube videos I’d watch in the Internet’s waning days of pre-pubescence, this had a charm to it. There were no falsehoods to be had here, no airs to be put on, no intentions for us as viewers to put what we’re watching together into a narrative form so we can be entertained by it. This is just random, and because it is just random (and more important, doesn’t pretend that it is anything more than that), we can just sit back and watch the randomness as it unfolds, without a care in the world. To say that this is an experience unlike any that I have ever had in my life, film or not, is an understatement; I can certainly vouch for this so-called film’s place in a book of “must see” experiences in cinema – it is that ‘out there’. And me, personally, I enjoyed it. Who knows; as long as you don’t go into this expecting anything other than absolute pure randomness, you might end up enjoying it too. It was a bit long, though, even at 66 minutes; after about 20 or so, you’ve just about experienced all that the film has to offer, and yet it goes on for another 40. Still, even if you don’t finish it, try this one. I don’t think you have ever seen anything like it, and I doubt if you ever will again.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10