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Len Lye's first film. The London Film Society premiered TUSALAVA in 1929 with Jack Ellitt’s original piano music [which] has unfortunately been lost. The film imagines the beginnings of life on earth. Single-cell creatures evolve into more complex forms of life. Evolution leads to conflict, and two species fight for supremacy. The title is a Samoan word which suggests that things go full circle. In this film Lye based his style of animation partly on the ancient Aboriginal art of Australia. TUSALAVA is unique as a film example of what art critics describe as “modernist primitivism”. In contrast to the Cubist painters (who were influenced by African art), Lye drew upon traditions of indigenous art from his own region of the world (New Zealand, Australia and Samoa).” - The Len Lye Foundation; www.lenlyefoundation.com/films/tusalava/66/; retrieved 20/06/2016
For two years, between 1926-28, Len Lye completed more than [9,500] drawings for the film. Each “was photographed; a process known as cel animation. Lye rarely used this technique again ... [He] subsequently struggled to find financing for his films until the mid-1930s, when his experiments with painting directly onto film began to transform his status.” - British Film Institute; www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/442453; retrieved 20/06/2016.
Lye had said of TUSALAVA: “I doodled to assuage my hunger for some hypnotic image I'd never seen before, drawing upon Maori, Aboriginal and Samoan tradition" and that he had “imagined I was myself an Australian witchetty grub who was making this animated ritual dance film”.
Until it was screened again in 1967, TUSALAVA had become a forgotten part of film history.
With the original score lost, the 2008 print is married “with alternative music selected by Len Lye, ‘Rhythmic Dance for Two Pianos, Op.30’ by Eugene Goossens (1920) performed by Antony Gray” (End credits)
For TUSALAVA with a score improvised by Jonathan Besser in 2009, see F252161.
Reference number F1861
Collection Film and Video Collection
Media type Moving Image
Place of Production UNITED KINGDOM
Production company London Film Society
Director: Len Lye
Producer: Robert Graves