Tusalava is Len Lye's first film, made over the course of two years between 1927 and 1929. It doesn't get shown much, and it seems to have put Lye off cel animation for life; he went on to pioneering work in direct film (scratching and painting straight onto celluloid), live action, puppet animation and many other techniques, but never used this laborious approach again. The film's 'characters' are amorphous blobs, inspired by the witchetty grub and its mythical role in Aboriginal society. Lye summed up its message as 'Don't worry, everything is just the same'.
When first screened at the London Film Society in 1929 it was presented with a piano score by regular Lye collaborator Jack Ellitt. This score has since been lost, and when we show the film again on Saturday night it will be accompanied by a new score composed and performed by jazz pianist Alcyona (above right), co-commissioned by 7inch, Ikon Gallery and the British Film Institute. I first came across Alcyona Mick (the surname has since been dropped) when I was at Birmingham filmfest and she was studying at the Conservatoire. Someone recommended her as an accompanist, and after one viewing of Man With A Movie Camera she pulled off a terrific improvised score to the film at the Electric. Now she's based in London and getting some good reviews. Mr Lye was a massive jazz fan ("the best popular artform we've got") and we hope that he'd approve.
(You can also see Tusalava with Alcyona's score at BFI Southbank on Tuesday. Background info on the film courtesy of Roger Horrocks' brilliant Len Lye biography, out of print but well worth hunting down.)