A night of avant-garde shorts watched in memorium of a fellow enthusiast who died young.
Let Me Count The Ways (Minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6) (2004, Leslie Thornton)
“August 6, 1945 – Dad observes the bomb drop on Hiroshima from a reconnaissance plane” Processed stock footage, some of it labeled “dad”. Motion seems sped up. Japanese dialogue, a woman is questioned about having lived through the Hiroshima explosion. “Not one white person was burned.” Onscreen text about plant mutations. Flyover camera with a blue circle flashing on and off, scrolling faster and faster. Stills of Hitler striking poses warp into one another, with confusing voiceover in German and English.
The Whitney uses big words: “By editing together controversial or transgressive material, she creates discursive cinematic spaces in which to consider humanity’s inexplicable behaviors, as do fellow avant-garde filmmakers Chris Marker and Chantal Akerman. . . . Thornton’s employment of footage relating to Hiroshima and the atomic age, elucidating her preoccupation with anxiety, trauma, and culpability, derives in part from her grandfather’s and her father’s roles in developing the atomic bomb and from her up-close childhood experience of the Cold War.”
Tusalava (1929, Len Lye)
Animation that looks like it’s inspired first by cellular biology, then at the end by an abusive relationship, all with great piano music.
Glimpse of the Garden (1957, Marie Menken)
Brief static and longer motion shots of the garden, with nice extreme close-ups. It’s all set to the ceaseless chirping of a bird whose song I know well, since my parents had a mechanical singing version. But which bird?
Wintercourse (1962, Paul Sharits)
Quick movement and fast cuts form light patterns with recognizeable images: trees, statues, a gutter gushing water, flashes of nudity. The movie pauses to watch some TV, then goes on and on. I dozed, but I think there was a wedding near the end.
Pixillation (1970, Lillian Schwartz)
I liked the inky liquid-on-glass effects more than the computer graphics, though those are probably impressive for 1970. Music that gets increasingly harsh, loud and grating, so I kept turning it down. Didn’t count on me being able to do that, huh Gershon Kingsley? Lillian Schwartz did computer animation on The Lathe of Heaven.
Dirty (1971, Steven Dwoskin)
Two topless girls drink a bottle of wine then roll around in bed, printed with differing levels of extreme slow motion, the light all pulsating. There’s supposed to be music but I just hear a staticky rumble
Yantra (1957, James Whitney)
A million colored specks slide into different patterns, surely animated by some mathematical obsessive. Soundtrack goes from annoying to nice and quickly back – sounds computery, but this was 1957 so maybe not.
Rat Life and Diet in North America (1968, Joyce Wieland)
Illustrating current politics using rats, wonderful. Nightmarish soundtrack: from a siren to a sax solo to carnival music to the beach boys (but covered in buzzing flies). Joyce was married to Michael Snow at the time – wish he’d provided some lighting or sound editing help.
Valentin de las Sierras (1968, Bruce Baillie)
A Mexican family at work and play, shot in extreme close-up, with music and some voice on the soundtrack.
Carabosse (1980, Larry Jordan)
More madcap cutout animation, made less madcap by the dour piano tune on the soundtrack. Maybe cropped at the top?