Friday, 29 November 2013

Incident

Director: Norman J Warren
Writer: Norman J Warren
Producers: Norman J Warren, Brian Tufano
Cast: Carol Isted, Bob Mallon
Country: UK
Year of release: 1959, no wait, 2007
Reviewed from: screener DVD


A silent, black and white short film about a young couple who meet at a fairground, Incident is thoroughly French in every way apart from one, which is that it’s not actually French. It is, nevertheless and without a doubt, the most Gallic motion picture ever filmed in Battersea. It has even got an accordion on the soundtrack, for Heaven’s sake.

If it looks like it was shot in the 1950s, there’s a good reason for that. It was. Norman J Warren directed and edited this footage in 1959 when he was a callow youth of seventeen and then, for some reason, stuck it on a shelf. Around the same time he got his first film job as a runner on Peter Sellers comedy The Millionairess and one thing lead to another yada yada sex films yada yada Satan’s Slave yada yada Inseminoid yada yada Bloody New Year...

So Norman never actually got round to finishing Incident (meaning that his directorial debut was technically the 1965 short Fragment) and the film just sat there as the decades passed. In 2007, Norman decided to finish the picture, which is why it has two copyright dates 48 years apart. It was first screened at the 2007 Festival of Fantastic Films and must surely hold the record for the longest period of post-production of any motion picture ever. Has anybody actually tried contacting Guinness World Records to see whether they will accept this for the next edition of their book?

There’s precious little story to Incident - the narrative is as brief and open to interpretation as the title - but it’s a beautifully shot little film, using the fairground setting to full effect. Our teenage heroine wanders around the funfair on her own, soaking up the atmosphere and generally revelling in being a teenager during the first period in history when there actually were teenagers. It’s all very hey-there-Georgy-Girl but in a Jean-Luc Goddard sort of way. Cinematographer Brian Tufano does a grand job of capturing the exuberance of the fairground and indeed using it for his own devices, most notably in what appears to be an expensive crane shot but turns out to be filmed from the big wheel.

The girl (Carol Isted, who was in fact only thirteen) meets a boy (Bob Mallon, who now lives in South Africa), they have a lovely time - but perhaps she’s a little na├»ve about his intentions and hopes. When she runs away from him, the fairground becomes a scary place, full of noise and strangers and disorienting lights - though it should be firmly stressed that this not in any way, shape or form a horror film.

The story behind Incident is that Norman and Brian met in their early teens at the West London Film Unit, a club for budding 8mm auteurs. Norman was working on a ridiculously over-ambitious war feature called The Bridge for which Brian offered to handle photography. Though The Bridge was never completed, Warren-Tufano productions went into business filming weddings and parties before shooting Incident on 16mm.

This is the film exactly as it was edited together back in 1959, the only new parts being the music and the titles. All the sound effects are from a BBC recording made at Battersea funfair in 1953, Norman of course went on to great things in the 1970s and has in recent years been working on DVDs of his and other people’s films. Brian Tufano is now one of Britain’s leading cinematographers with more than forty years of film and TV credits including Quadrophenia, Billy Elliot, Virtual Sexuality, Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. He also shot some second unit stuff on Blade Runner!

Incident is a lovely little curio. Brian and Norman are planning a DVD release that will include an interview with the two of them discussing the film. In the meantime, festival programmers looking for a short to play as support to a late 1950s feature would do well to see if Norman can lend them a copy. [Incident was subsequently released as an extra on the BFI DVD of Norman's feature Her Private Hell. - MJS]

MJS rating: A
review originally posted 12th March 2008

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