Minute Bodies: The Intimate Lives of F. Percy Smith
MAD | Music/Art/Design
Stuart A. Staples’ latest foray into filmmaking sees the Tindersticks’ frontman/mastermind reassembling F. Percy Smith’s pioneering, early 20th-century science films into mesmeric collages that explore the miniscule, invisible worlds surrounding us. Still astonishing a century after they were committed to film, Smith’s micro-photographic, time-lapse images (many captured in inventive DIY fashion with handcrafted equipment) demonstrate a fascination with the natural world that proves utterly beguiling. Rest assured: watching mould unfurl in intricate patterns has rarely been this entrancing.
Accordingly, the otherworldliness of these images has inspired a wonderful score by Tindersticks, who use this occasion to incorporate the ondes martenot—a landmark electronic musical instrument harkening back to Smith’s era—into their customarily dark, swirling melodies.
"Vines wind around nearby branches, a tadpole bursts from its jelly shell and cells divide and multiply, pulsing in unison like an infinite chorus line… The score… emphasises the musicality of these movements, filtering in forceful percussion before a microscopic ballet, and insinuating a sultry brass line as a creeper slinks around an upright stem… [T]his film reinvents its source material, emphasising the beauty of [Smith’s] work and its experimental allure. Minute Bodies, with its insistent sexual rhythm, is about the urgency of life on a cellular scale."—Pamela Hutchinson, Sight & Sound