Associations (John Smith, 1975, UK)

John Smith (b. 1952) is an experimental British filmmaker who came to prominence during the 1970s. Influenced by conceptual art and structural materialism, his work plays with the assumptions of the film medium. His 1975 work Associations has a text from the book "Word Associations and Linguistic Theory" by Herbert H. Clark. This text, which provides some background on word association games, is read against a black screen and provides some context for what will follow. The narration continues, and we begin to see associations - what appear to be images from magazines - appear on the screen. 

It becomes clear that the images on the screen begin to mimic what is being said in the narration, thus providing the central joke of the film. The word "but" prompts a cigarette butt to appear on screen, while the word "to" shows an image of the number 2. The images begin to appear in more and more rapid succession, and it is not always immediately evident what their association is to the individual vowel sounds within the narration. Many will find that it is simply too fast to follow, and this was undoubtedly some of Smith's intentions, as the film is an extended joke about the English language.

Some of the jokes will likely not land with those particularly attuned to English slang in the 1970s. For example, Smith repeatedly introduces a visual joke with the word "ponces" - which refers to effeminately-dressed men, although now considered offensive. Every time the word "response" comes up, this image emerges, and only with external research were we able to determine the significance. The film ends on a particularly humorous note, with the narrator cursing and the image of a bucket - you can guess what is ultimately trying to be expressed here. Worth a watch.



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