Size M (1970)
Cast: Julie Sinden, Colin Kluge, Jim Duke
Duration: 12 mins
Year: 1970Original formats:
16mm FilmMedia types:
FilmType of work:
Funding source: BFI Production Board
Technical details: 16mm, 12 min, colour
Size M (1970)
Synopsis: A collage of imagery from the world of pop art, including references to classical painting, horror comics and films, pop art itself, underground films, pornography, and surrealism, among others. A strange decadent gang spend time out in the wood. A man with a gun and a masked man on all fours appear to chase the leather-jacketed ‘Size M’ through trees and water. Size M continues to change his appearance and finally reveals himself to be a woman.
Size M is more sinister in tone than the other underground films made by Tony Sinden at the end of the 1960s. Arcade (1970) uses sunny Brighton locations and up-beat garage rock music. Size M, in contrast, is dark, murky and soundtracked with reversed speech and atmospheric tones.
Sinden’s actors are very relaxed in front of the camera but still manage to convey something peculiarly transgressive. The man with a shotgun and his masked accomplice led on all fours like a dog are unsettling, but the identity- and gender-shifting ‘Size M’ is more peculiar still. Our sense of him keeps changing as he moves between different landscapes, adopting different masks and hairstyles. The final revelation that ‘he’ is a woman, however, still fails to provide any kind of neat, unifying resolution. The uncertainty surrounding both who he is and what he has done is as much a chase as the one contained in the narrative.
The film’s air of transgression and many of its stylistic tropes, such as the cross-cutting and superimpositions, have parallels with the work of the celebrated New York underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, whose Scorpio Rising (1964), among others, presented a series of pop tunes cut to images, in a way mirrored by Sinden‘s Arcade. Like Scorpio Rising, Size M fetishises gang culture and the rebel; both films make a prominent feature of the leather jacket, archetypal signifier of the rebel. In Anger‘s film, the hero, Scorpio, has his name written on his jacket with studs. In Sinden‘s, the name ‘Size M’ is boldly emblazoned on a T-shirt worn underneath the character’s heavy leathers. The use of ‘Size M’ – a clothing size (medium) – as the name of a rebel, as well as the reference to Scorpio Rising creates a dynamic play to counter the otherwise sinister tone of the film. It also adds a stamp of British quirkiness to something of American origin.
Size M is one of several films made by Sinden with support from the BFI Production Board in the 1960s and 70s. Many were made in Brighton in the orbit of fellow experimental filmmaker, Jeff Keen. Keen worked with some of the same people and also used fantasy and costume.