Industrial Films

film 1 of 4

Meet the Pioneers

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 9, 2015

Let’s remember that this is a work for hire, and that the industrialist/sponsor is calling the shots. These facts do not necessarily require Lindsay Anderson, or any other working media producer, to perjure himself, or do anything at all egregious. But even though it’s very much aware of Coal Face—the opening explicitly tells us that things in the mines are better these fifteen years later, substantially because of the sponsor’s conveyor belts—and Night Mail (the process/poetical narration, the quietly profound climax in which work is successfully completed), Meet the Pioneers has none of those films’ freshness, none of their shocking and anomalous ambition. It is smoother though—industry has its uses, doesn’t it? Also, it is good to know the different things that this technology does, or facilitates, good to see the various stages of manufacture and implementation. Still, in the end this feels lengthy, and dull. Anderson and his narration explain things well, but not all that joyfully, or, in the end, interestingly. (Contrast, say, with Norman McLaren’s Book Bargain.)

This musical score is really interesting. We get straightforward quotes, like the Copland at the beginning. It doesn’t quite fit. A little too perky? Too American? The Brahms follows, and goes under that plummy narration that makes you think of Buñuel’s ironic quotes and cues, in Land Without Bread (Brahms’ 4th) particularly. In other words, it all makes you feel kind of skeptical. In addition to the associative mental montage that might go on in the viewer’s head, the music rises so precipitously, then drops out so completely, and all this so repeatedly, that it actually registers as accidentally Godardian (as in Michel Legrand’s severely abridged and aggressively repeated musical motif in Vivre Sa Vie). The result isn’t exactly vulgar modernism, or the indirect critique provided by ineptitude. But the whole assembly does make you question the whole assembly. Hurray for industrial films. Less hurray for this particular one.