Following the fabulous Montreal Expo67 with its rich feast of multi-image films and a/v shows by the likes of Roman Kroitor (the inventor of the iMax format) and Christopher Chapman whose film A Place to Stand introduced his Multi-Dynamic image technique, it seemed only natural that Norman Jewison and cinematographer Haskell Wexler should use these multi-screen (multi-image) techniques in this stylish feature, showcasing the charisma of Steve McQueen and the sophisticated beauty of Faye Dunaway. Expo67 had been an inspiring world expo for those of us interested in a/v shows, ‘light-shows’ and the potential of non-linear pictorial narratives. No small number of artists and photographers were engaged in these speculations (Marc Boyle, Joan Hills, Malcolm Lewis and others in the UK, Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable and multi-screen films like Chelsea Girls (1965). The originator in the world of the movies was of course Abel Gance with his phenomenal 3-screen panoramic Napolean in 1927.
Haskell Wexler went on to make his masterpiece Medium Cool a year or so later. It is rumoured that Roman Kroitor whose multi-screen exhibit Labyrinth was one of the high-spots of Expo67, was called in as advisor on The Thomas Crown Affair, for the multi-image/multi-screen sequences, apparently used in the film to compress several long sequences of footage into one shorter multi-screen sequence.
Chris Chapman: A Place to Stand 1967
I was a post-grad at Clive Latimer’s Light/Sound Workshop at Hornsey College of Art the following year, and we produced a big show in conjunction with the Archigram group at Oxford MOMA, showcasing a number of multi-screen, immersive a/v work by the likes of John Bowstead, Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton, Peter Cook, Gary Crossley, Tony Rickaby and myself.
In 1970, Gene Youngblood’s Expanded Cinema traced the range of ways in which movie-making was stretching out beyond the confines of the single screen.
The use of multiple parallel strands of images and film-sequences strangely disappeared from the movies until the last decade or so, when Mike Figgis introduced the idea in his Time Code (2000). Then the use of multi-screen cascaded through TV shows like Spooks (2002) and 24 (2001). It is more in new media multi-window works like Chris Milk’s The Wilderness Downtown (2009) that the potential of this kind of pictorial narrative really becomes apparent.