Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith’, directed by Stuart Staples of tindersticks, was first screened at the 60th BFI London Film Festival in October 2016. It is a meditative and immersive film tribute to the astonishing work and achievements of the early twentieth century naturalist, inventor and pioneering filmmaker F. Percy Smith.
Today the band announced the release of the film and musical score to be released on June 9th 2017 on limited edition LP & DVD as well as CD & DVD, plus a series of live cine-concert events.
‘Minute Bodies’ is an interpretative edit that combines Smith’s original footage with a new contemporary score by tindersticks, with Thomas Belhom and Christine Ott, to create an hypnotic, alien yet familiar dreamscape that connects us to the sense of wonder Smith must have felt as he peered through his own lenses to see these micro-worlds for the first time.
With tindersticks at its heart, the music was created from a loose collective of invited musicians: Thomas Belhom (percussion), Christine Ott (Ondes Martenot and piano), David Coulter (Musical saw and Nose flute) and Julian Siegel (Saxophone) and recorded in the bands studio in France.
Since its London premiere ‘Minute Bodies’ has gone on to be screened at a host of film festivals including International Film Festival Rotterdamn, Gothenburg Film Festival and Dublin International Film Festival. With screenings lined up this year at FabioFest Prague, Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Istanbul Film Festival, BAFICI, Buenos Aires and Indelisboa, Lisbon.
‘Minute Bodies’ will also be an installation at the Pompidou centre, Metz, as part of the much anticipated exhibition ‘Jardin Infini’ curated by Emma Lavigne 18.4 – 28.8
Through the spring and summer the band will be performing a small number of special Cine – Concerts playing the score live with the film, followed by a second set of tindersticks songs and music – New dates include Barbican London and Centre Pompidou, Metz.
- 19.03. DK – Copenhagen – CPH:DOX
- 06.04. NL – Rotterdam – Schouwburg
- 14.05. BE – Brussels – Cirque Royal
- 17.06. UK – London – Barbican
- 29.06. FR – Metz – Centre Pompidou (Festival Ondes)
- 02.07. FR – Paris – Cite de la Musique (Days Off Festival)
- 16.08. DE – Hamburg – Elbphilharmonie
- 05 – 16 April 2017 – Istanbul, Istanbul Film Festival
- 19 – 30 April 2017 – Buenos Aires, BAFICI, Buenos Aires
- 03 – 14 May 2017 – Lisbon, Indelisboa, Lisbon
- 18th March / 28th August 2017 Pompidou centre, METZ – part of the ‘Jardin Infini’ exhibition
“Radiating from within the classic ‘Secrets of Nature’ educational film series is the pure, breath-taking photography of Frank Percy Smith. Mostly filmed at his north London home using equipment designed and built by himself, his work seems as fresh and bewildering today as when it was first screened.From a small glimpse of that work, I was compelled to learn more. The more I saw, the more I felt a need to collaborate with this F. Percy Smith. I felt the beauty and adventure in his images to be somehow trapped within their time and format. As I started to cut them loose, the musical forms and connections began to emerge. My main aim for Minute Bodies – The intimate world of F. Percy Smith is that it invites Smiths work to breath and exist in the present. Smith was a major, unique figure. His work transcends the constraints of its time, and now it teaches us about patience, commitment, ingenuity and determination. ” – Stuart A. Staples, director.
“The world now sacrifices everything to speed; quiet seems to be regarded as a detestable condition to be expurgated by any means which applied science can devise; and this state of affairs does not encourage the production of the type of individual who can satisfy himself in an investigation of the hidden beauties of Nature.” – F. Percy Smith
F. Percy Smith Biography:
A dapper man in a fancy waistcoat, wearing protective gloves and goggles, endeavours to feed two baby herons who seem intent on biting the hand that feeds them. The man is Percy Smith (1880-1945), doyen of interwar natural history filmmaking, performing for the camera in one of the shorts he made for the American entrepreneur Charles Urban in the years immediately after the First World War. In the years afterwards, as he became increasingly well known he disappeared behind the camera, but for occasional sitings of his hands. As a cameraman specialising in time-lapse, microcinematography and pond-scale underwater filming, he had no peer in his period of activity.
Already a keen amateur naturalist and photographer, Smith had come to Urban’s attention in 1908, more than a decade after he had joined the Board of Education as a clerk, aged 14. In that same year they released The Balancing Bluebottle, a series of close-ups of a tethered insect seeming to juggle various objects. It became a sensation, inspiring not only fascination and amusement but even some political cartoons. In 1910 came his The Birth of a Flower, probably one of the very first time-lapse films to be seen by the general public, so amazing to an early audience that they refused to leave the cinema until it was rewound to be shown again. These films are emblematic of Smith’s signature capabilities: knowledge of, and sensitivity to, the plants and animals that were his subjects; and a knack for creating gimcrack devices to film the almost unfilmable. Cuckoo clocks, cocoa tins and alarm clocks could be modified to become the timing devices that would enable the time-lapse exposures to continue day and night, feather boas could be deconstructed to make animated bees, and drawings could be animated to show what could not be filmed.
Birth of a Flower was so successful that Smith could devote himself full-time to filmmaking, establishing a ramshackle studio in his new house and its greenhouse in Southgate, north of London. By 1914, he had made 54 films for Urban, for whom he provided footage until 1923. After some difficult years, he benefited from the decision of British film entrepreneur Harry Bruce Woolfe to move into nature films. Smith joined Woolfe from 1925, staying until his death twenty years later, providing the footage for well in excess of 50 films in the Secrets of Nature series and its successor, Secrets of Life. He was often the subject of profiles in newspapers and popular magazines. He was also highly respected; the biologist HR Hewer described him as ‘a genius with apparatus’ and explained that ‘Smith understood to a very great extent what he was filming because he was an amateur biologist of distinction’. – Tim Boon, The Science Museum London, author of Films of Fact (2008)
“With its insistent sexual rhythm, Minute Bodies is about the urgency of life on a cellular scale… a richly steamy experience.”
Sight and Sound
“A cinematic wonderland…”
“A beautiful hypnotic melange…”