Written by: Christopher O’Neill on December 20th, 2010
Theatrical Release Dates: UK, 2010 (footage dates from 1970-1986)
DVD released: December 6th, 2010
Approximate running time: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 4X3 Fullscreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: BFI
Region Coding: Region 0 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £14.99
“The cordial gentlemen of the BFI led me blindfolded onto the roof at the BFI HQ Stephen Street and left me propped against an obsolete Steenbeck with instructions to sniff my way to the nearest nitrate room, ruMMage through the VHS mountain and not leave until I’d misinformed at least one reel of usable DVD in earnest…in the midst of ruptured telecine transfers and squealing reels a selection of COI films, redolent to my youth, unearthed me and I duly smeared them with my detritus…I imagined sounds & characters leaving one film & cropping up in another and that’s the way it eventually spooled…a narrative manifested itself and ‘a return to the sea’ would appear to be the iMMediate answer for future spores…” – Baron Mordant
The British Film Institute is currently one of the world’s most adventurous and exciting DVD publishers with its commitment to the preservation and education of Britain’s history. Undeterred by the lack of merit that genre cinema or public service films superficially maintain, the BFI have released a variety of works long forgotten or unavailable on any format that are not only criminally under-appreciated examples of cinema but are also invaluable sociological documents. With MisinforMation the BFI has gone one step further since it consists of newly-created video art pieces that utilises ‘found footage’ from the Central Office of Information archive. Musician Baron Mordant was commissioned to select the material. Each film work has been stripped entirely of its original soundtrack, some have been further modified by being shortened of their initial running time and a new electronic score has been added.
Essentially, the source material falls into either one of three categories. First is the reflection of past and present rural living in films such as Looking At Prehistoric Sites (1982) and The Sea In Their Blood (1983). Second is the documentation of emerging technology including items with such self-explanatory titles as Inkjet Printer (1979) and Cardiff Ship Simulator (1983). Third is the ‘scare’ films warning of the dangers in modern society such as Illusions: A Film About Solvent Abuse (1983) and AIDS – Iceberg (1986). Inevitably a project of this multitude can be in turns fascinating, illuminating, irritating and frustrating but this unevenness is part of the appeal. Although each of the fourteen films are accessible on the DVD as individual pieces, they should be viewed as a whole since as a collective MisinforMation morphs into a surreal depiction of British society bound by the traditions of the past, paranoid of the fears in the present and obsessed by the science of the future.
Presented in their original 1:33:1 aspect ratios, the footage used in MisinforMation has mostly been sourced from original film elements and looks incredible. With a healthy amount of grain (most of the films were shot on 16mm) the images appear as sharp and vibrant as the source material allows. Three of the films (Sinclair Pocket TV, AIDS – Iceberg and Perspective – Near Enough) had to be transferred from analogue tapes and, although softer-looking then the remainder of the collection, are acceptable.
Baron Mordant’s soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo and, with the exception of ‘Where Can You Scream?’ (which appears on the album SyMptoMs [MM035]), was created specifically for this DVD. The quality of the soundtrack is uniformly excellent.
The only bonus material with this DVD is a 12-page booklet which features the above-quoted statement from Baron Mordant, another by disc producer Tony Dykes, a breakdown of a each film (listing both the original name and retitling for this project) plus a list of credits when possible. The credits are frustrating since, due to lack of available information, many of the films appear anonymous. Of the fourteen films only four have the director credited (including Peter Greenaway who helmed Inkjet Printer and The Sea In Their Blood) which is unfortunate. It should be noted that AIDS – Iceberg was directed by Nicolas Roeg although only the producer’s credit can be found on the booklet (thanks to Brad Stevens for confirming this).
For further information on Baron Mordant check out http://www.mordantmusic.com