The Lacey Rituals
d. Lacey Family / 1973 / UK / 63 mins
VT1 @ BFI Stephen Street (London, UK)
There’s something glorious, something quietly revolutionary about this underrated gem of 1970s documentary experimentation. Bruce Lacey – artist, filmmaker, inventor, urban spaceman, pagan ritualist and Beatles lawnmower – guides his young family in a demonstration of the quotidian rituals that are largely written out of everyday cinema.
Part home movie and part conceptual process, Bruce Lacey, his wife Jill Bruce, and three of their children – Kevin, Tiffany, and Saffron – use The Lacey Rituals to demonstrate their ‘rituals, obsessions and habits’. Presenting these rehearsed scenarios wholly unedited (replete with clapper-boards, references to the amount of film left in the camera and plenty of multiple takes), the family aim to demonstrate everything from making breakfast to picking your nose, going to the toilet and taking a bath. Echoing an earlier collaboration between Lacey and Bruce – How To Have A Bath (1971) – The Lacey Rituals continues the artist’s desire to provide ‘documents of human behaviour (for the benefit of Martians)’, a suggestion which links it curiously to his obsessions with space travel and the Apollo missions which featured heavily in various film and performance works throughout the 1970s.
Interestingly, despite featuring family rituals which have been prepared and rehearsed – either verbally, in the sense that some descriptions have been pre-planned, or physically, in the sense that they are demonstrations of everyday activities – The Lacey Rituals manages to reveal a lot about the family dynamic, and a lot about the manner in which this particular family interacts with each other.
Like Bruce Lacey himself, The Lacey Rituals is wonderfully unique, a gloriously unfettered example of 1970s artists’ cinema and a totally unabashed portrayal of post-bohemian family life in 1970s East London. Sadly, however, there are no clips of the film online (nor is there much of Lacey at all), but you can read more about Lacey (and his constant robot companion, R.O.S.A. B.O.S.O.M.) on Cybernetic Zoo or watch this British Pathé newsreel from 1963.