Girl Chewing Gum, The (1976)

Original Title : Girl Chewing Gum, The
Director : John Smith
Genre : Short
Country : UK
Language : English
IMDB ID : 0125118
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poster for "Girl Chewing Gum, The" by John Smith (1976)
Girl Chewing Gum, The (1976) - John Smith


Funny if a little long for a one-joke short but the intelligent comment behind it more than carries it the rest of the way On a busy London Street, video installation artist John Smith directs a scene the exact way that he wants it. As his 'cast' come and go in front of his camera he directs them in a constant narration, telling them exactly what he wants them to do. As he moves his camera around he demands increasing control over his environment and obedience from his subjects –, be they people, cars, trucks, birds, clocks or buildings! For the first few minutes of this short film I did actually think that things were happening in response to Smith's instructions, but then he order the big hand of a clock to move at the rate of one revolution per hour and the smaller hand to move at the rate of one revolution every twelve hours –, then he got into birds and trucks and I got the joke (what can I say –, I'm slow!). This was actually pretty funny at the start but after a while the joke worn a bit thin as it was basically the same thing over again –, it would have been better if the film had been 5/6 minutes long, 10/11 was just too long for such a thin idea. However the film did work for me as both a funny short and a clever one. I took it to be an expression of the artist John Smith's desire to control everything that he sees through his camera and that his 'direction' here is practically his ideal working situation! He wants everything just as he wants it but, as he shows here, the only way he is going to get that is by narration over film he has already shot. It was a clever and interesting idea and this carried me to the end of the short even if the laughs had worn out –, contemplating this was the main goal I suspect and it achieved it and more! Overall, like another review has snootily observed, very few people has seen this short film and it is a shame because it is sublime in its simplicity. As a comedy, the one-joke approach doesn't have the legs to last 10 minutes but as an expression of Smith's creative frustration that things never go quite how he wants them to, this is great stuff. I started the short laughing here and there but ended it in thought about how it must be hard for directors and artists to ever really put on canvas/film/video the vision that they truly have in their minds' eye. An intelligent and funny short!