The Black Tower

John Smith

1987 | 00:24:00 | United Kingdom | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 | 16mm film

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: City, Language, Mental Landscape

"John Smith uses humour to repeatedly subvert and frustrate potentially threatening content in an economically constructed tale of the narrator’s descent into paranoia and, ultimately, oblivion, as he is pursued, haunted, and finally destroyed by a mysterious peripatetic black tower. Throughout, both verbal and visual imagery are low key to the point of banality; shots of familiar inner city landscapes—terraces, tower-blocks and scruffy wastelands—are set against a narrative that is laconic and bathetic in the best traditions of English suburban comedy. There is a (frequently hilarious) reflexive relationship between sound and image and while the early sections appear to pursue a conventional storyline, this is gradually undermined by an increased emphasis on and deliberate misuse or overplaying of filmic conventions. The tower becomes a ‘trick of the imagination’ as the disappearing cars are shown to be a trick in the editing."

—Catherine Lacey, The Elusive Sign: British Avant Garde Film and Video 1977-87

"In The Black Tower we enter the world of a man haunted by a tower which, he believes, is following him around London. While the character of the central protagonist is indicated only by a narrative voiceover which takes us from unease to breakdown to mysterious death, the images, meticulously controlled and articulated, deliver a series of colour-coded puzzles, jokes and puns, which pull the viewer into a mind-teasing engagement. Smith’s assurance and skill as a filmmaker undercuts the notion of the avant-garde as dry, unprofessional and dull, and in The Black Tower we have an example of a film which plays with the emotions as well as the language of film."

—Nik Houghton, Independent Media.

"The hilarious and slightly menacing The Black Tower is one of the most accomplished films to come from the British avant-garde for years."

—Michael O’Pray, Independent Media.

This title is also availalbe on John Smith: Program 1.

16mm film transfered to video

Pricing Information

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Exhibitions + Festivals

Royal College of Art, John Smith Solo Show, 2010

Related Titles

Return of the Black Tower