Film review: Cargo, Camera...Action!

The cast and audience'as'extras all had plenty of work to do in the on'set cinematic spoof
The cast and audience'as'extras all had plenty of work to do in the on'set cinematic spoof
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A CINEMATIC epic boasting “the poetry of Francois Truffaut, the politics of Elia Kazan and the sexual mania of Michael Bay” was the amusingly deranged pitch served up by the amusingly delusional director of The Search for the Rattus Orlova – the pseudo film production that formed the centrepiece of Glasgow art collective 85A’s latest immersive multimedia show Cargo, Camera…Action!

Cargo, Camera...Action! - Custom House Quay, Glasgow

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A joint collaboration with Glasgow Film Festival, the all-day outdoor event recreated the chaos of a movie shoot by transforming the amphitheatre at Custom House Quay into a maritime set, replete with an elaborate kinetic sculpture of a rusting salvage ship perched prominently against the Clyde.

Matching the design of this nautical structure were the film crew, who zipped around on motorised camera-rigs, “shooting” the action on old-fashioned VHS cameras while the aforementioned director – a “Teutonic charlatan” by the name of Rudolph Haagen-Dazs – barked orders in a fluctuating Euro accent. Very much a playful riff on the kind of behind-the-scenes drama witnessed on Terry Gilliam and Werner Herzog productions, the show (which was performed five times over the course of the day) was conceived so that audiences would be involved as both extras and suppliers of budget-saving sound effects. And so it was that they found themselves being encouraged to bark like seals, squawk like seagulls and squeak like rats while members of the 85A crew ran around the amphitheatre with boom mics, mock-recording their efforts.

As with past 85A productions, that participatory aspect was designed as an unpretentious way to challenge audiences to be more than passive observers and while the weather was against some of the later performances, the second show of the day – sound-tracked by Glaswegian electro outfit Golden Teacher (dressed as rats and jumping around the ship’s engine room stage like rodent Iggy Pops) – benefited from the added tension that came from not knowing if the heavens were going to open and ruin proceedings or not.

With the occasional pointed observation regarding the Commonwealth Games finding its way into the wry script, the show’s setting also tied in neatly with Glasgow’s history as a shipbuilding city.

As such, it was an inspired choice to round out the day’s events by turning the set into an open air cinema to show short films reflecting that, with the back-to-back screenings of the 1961 Oscar-winning documentary Seaward the Great Ships and local artist Chris Leslie’s newly commissioned The Last of the Govan Cranes in particular adding a real sense of poignancy to the earlier irreverence.

Seen on 26.07.14