Born in France in 1957, Michael Maziere spent a large part of his early years in England. He went to school at the Lycee Francais, London between 1963 and 1974, then spent two years at school in Aix en Provence (a province celebrated in Cezanne's Eye), before attending Trent Polytechnic where he studied Photography, Film and History from 1976 to 1979. He gained a place in the Film and Television department of the Royal College of Art where the influential structural-materialist avant-garde filmmaker Peter Gidal was an important influence, both filmically and theoretically. However, Maziere's early work at Trent, e.g. Clear Cut (1979), already revealed his radical and distinctive camera work of vertiginous rhythm and repetition which he refined at the Royal College.
The film titles of the early 1980's (Untitled (1980), Colour Work (1981), Silent Film (1982) and Skylight (1983)) signal their intense experimentalism, stressing filmic problematics of space, representation and materiality (a la Gidal). During this period, Maziere published 'Practices Against Film' in the London Film Makers Co-op's magazine 'Undercut', whose editorial he shortly joined, finally becoming co-editor in the late 1980's until its recent demise. Maziere's article is a defence of filmmaking as a materialist practice of transformation of labour, materials and signifying discourses. To an extent, Maziere's film stressed intrinsically filmic processes in a formalist manner and, whilst not reverting to abstraction, nevertheless marginalised so-called content. If Maziere was a structuralist filmmaker during this period, his films were quit different to the muted, rough-grained work produced by other the same aesthetic stance. Maziere's work displayed the beautiful, often voluptuous, colour which his later work celebrates even more, plus a photographic quality of sometimes astonishing emphasising image-clarity, detail and sharpness with compositional qualities associated with a painterly disposition. During the 1980's, Maziere was a programmer at the London Film Makers Co-op and film and video editor of the magazine 'Independent Media'. In the past few years, he has been Exhibition and Distribution Manager and is now Director of London Electronic Arts (formerly London Video Access).
American domination of the avant-garde film tradition in the post-war period has meant, among other things, that the Mediterranean has rarely been a mis-en-scene, let alone a subject-matter for experimental film. It is Michael Maziere's most recent and most mature films which have provided a substantial body of work in which the warm, light-bathed Mediterranean climate (as opposed to the cold barbarism of the Northern Europe) so loved by Ruskin, Turner and Stokes, suffuses, not only imagistically but also in its aesthetic stance. Maziere belongs to this tradition. Openly distancing himself from "anglo saxon puritanism", Maziere now believes his work, "stems from a mediterranean aesthetic." Importantly and interestingly, for him, the Mediterranean invokes an aesthetic whilst the anglo-saxon tradition represents a moral stance. The disparity of terms highlights what is oblique here and that is Maziere's rejection also of the political orientation (in its widest sense) of much British avant-garde film in favour of a visual poetics unencumbered by an anxiety for transparency of meaning inevitable in political art of any hue, even where semantic ambiguity is the aim.
In the The Bathers series, Cezanne's Eye I and II and The Red Sea, Maziere has gradually moved towards a poetic and imagistic aesthetic which allows for content, if not narrative, in any full-bodied sense. Music is an intrinsic part of Cezanne's Eye II, transforming the original formalistic and beautiful silent version into a moody portrayal less of what Cezanne saw and more how we are to understand what he saw in terms of mood, feelings and atmosphere. In The Red Sea, there is an exploration of memory, history and a muted sexuality through images of newspaper titles, found-footage and home-movies which marks a distinct shift in direction. What was obliquely suggested in the Bathers Series - figures in the water, voices on a beach, a radio overheard - is fleshed out with all the brilliant resources of colour, light, camera movement and editing which Maziere has developed over a decade and more. The sheer beauty of the colour, light and texture of the photographic image situates films like Swimmer and Cezanne's Eye outside the rough-edged aesthetic British tradition now valiantly sustained by such artists as Nicky Hamlyn and Nick Collins. Maziere's achievement is exceptional in his integrity as an artist wedded to an aesthetic of enormous power, beauty and subtlety.
Beaubourg Film Catalogue
Museum of Modern Art