From John Stezaker’s collages of white rectangles in the empty spaces of film stills in yesterday’s sequence, we arrive today at a mysterious black form haunting a series of frames from John Smith’s 1987 film ‘The Black Tower’. Explaining why he chose this particular work for ‘the Unseen Masterpiece’ in the present moment John writes: “Like many of my films, including The Girl Chewing Gum (1976), shown at Ingleby Gallery in 2014, The Black Tower uses the power of the spoken word to fictionalise the reading of documentary images. Moving back and forth between representation and abstraction, the film incorporates a narrative within which an ominous building appears in various places around London, seeming to be spreading like a virus and eventually forcing the film’s protagonist to self-isolate at home.”
As with so much of John’s work he is playing here with what it means to make films, and with how ideas of implied truth and authorial control simultaneously establish and undermine our understanding of narrative. It is funny and terrifying in equal measure - the tower haunting the narrator, following him wherever he goes, and ultimately drawing him into a kind of horror story of paranoia and self-incarceration. It is hard to think of a film better suited to the weirdness of the world in which we currently find ourselves.