Slapstick of Another Kind (1982, Steven Paul)

1982: the year of Blade Runner, White Dog, Poltergeist, The Thing, Gandhi, Britannia Hospital, Fitzcarraldo, Fanny & Alexander, Tron, the Sting version of Brimstone & Treacle… and this, the legendary Worst Kurt Vonnegut Adaptation Ever. From young hotshot Steven Paul, one of the producers of Doomsday, and I know I just said I wouldn’t waste my time watching anything created by anyone involved with Doomsday, but the Vonnegut connection combined with this movie’s reputation for being one of the worst comedies of the 80’s forced me to watch it out of morbid curiosity.

Laurel and Hardy? The book was dedicated to them.
image

Opens with narration by Orson Welles, surely giving even less effort than he did as the voice of the planet in Transformers: The Movie. You can immediately tell that the movie has no comic sense whatsoever. It looks cheap despite the big-name cast, and every “joke” is dead on delivery. The comedy is mostly people falling down, moving fast, talking funny (slapstick, I guess) and it’s badly staged… for instance, the twins are giant-sized, but only when convenient.

I don’t think Vonnegut was as mean-spirited towards the Chinese. And of course, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita is not of Chinese descent, but better him than Mickey Rooney I suppose. He plays the shrunken thumb-sized ambassador, a reference only understood by readers of the book since it’s unexplained during the movie. Other bits from the book are also rethought and bungled, and the twins are from SPACE now (and return to space in the ridiculous ending). All traces of Vonnegut’s trademark sadness and humanity are lost, unless you consider the sadness of the cast and the releasing studio and the audience. Rogue Cinema points out that the movie’s cast (Khan, Feldman, even Welles) and poster and title (and renaming the doctor “Frankenstein”) aimed to make audiences think that this would be a Mel Brooks Close Encounters parody. That particular advertising lie is probably the most well-thought-out part of the whole film.

Lewis!
image

Khan!
image

Madeline Khan and Jerry Lewis double-star as both the super-genius twins and their rich, detached parents. Marty Feldman is the butler in the twins’ secluded home. John Abbott plays a guy with a cool beard and Samuel FULLER is the colonel at the Military School For Screwed-Up Boys.

Feldman!
image

Fuller!
image

One of the last films of Jim Backus (Mr. Howell on Gilligan’s Island, voice of Mr. Magoo), John Abbott, Marty Feldman, and even Jerry Lewis (had starring roles in 6-7 more movies, most of them bad) but Jerry recovered in time to make Arizona Dream. Yes, Slapstick was a mega-career-killer, destroying the respectability of everyone involved! It ruined cinematographer Anthony Richmond, who previously shot the beautiful Man Who Fell To Earth and Bad Timing but went on to shoot Dane Cook movies and Dumb & Dumber 2. And – little known fact – it contributed to the death of Orson Welles and was directly responsible for his never completing Big Brass Ring, The Dreamers or Other Side of the Wind. Orson’s female co-narrator’s career was so thoroughly demolished that the internet has no record of who she was. But on the bright side, the movie helped launch the film career of Pat Morita, who would star in The Karate Kid two years later.

Morita! (he’s the one not looking at the camera)
image

Music by Michel Legrand and a song with lyrics by Vonnegut were edited out of the movie after the original release – why?? Assistant-directed by Michel’s son Benjamin Legrand, ending his short career as assistant-director (begun the year before on Rivette’s Merry-Go-Round).

Everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads? The incest scene doesn’t go very far, because we need a “PG” rating.
image

Released around the same time as Scorsese’s awesome King of Comedy, also with Jerry Lewis, though I think this was shot first and shelved for a while. Gene Siskel calls it “shockingly bad” and Ebert calls it offensive but makes a point of not blaming Vonnegut or Lewis. I heard one detectable Jerry joke: “You know, do as the romans do… when in rome, that is – I had it backwards” (it’s all in the delivery). There’s an occasional passionate line-read by Madeline or Jerry, the occasional animated bit of action, but mostly the movie moves mechanically from one laborious scene to the next, a simple motion illustration of a screenplay written by a guy who knows a guy who talked to a guy who once read the Vonnegut novel (which wasn’t one of KV’s best stories to begin with). I would looove to say that Fuller, Lewis and Feldman were excellent and the movie was slightly worth watching, but they weren’t and it wasn’t. I’m not in any hurry to rewatch Breakfast of Champions to decide whether this one is worse, but I think it probably is.

Close Encounters of the Dumb Kind:
image

A Valparaíso (1962, Joris Ivens)

UPDATE DEC. 2008: Wow, check out these stills from the new restoration. DVD box set will be out soon – check http://www.ivens.nl/ for updates.

image

image

image

—————
Directed by Ivens, narration written by Chris Marker, assistant camera by Patricio Guzman. Wow! Not to discount Ivens’s achievement, but this plays just like Marker’s travel documentaries. Definitely belongs with that group in some imaginary DVD box set, hopefully with far improved image quality over the awful version I just watched. I want to say this had better camera work than the Marker docs, but in this state, it is hard to tell.

image

A decade before the Battle of Chile events would begin, Ivens and crew give us an overview of life in this port city built on a series of steep hills. Focus is on things that affect the residents (like the funicular system) and events they participate in (huge annual fireworks show, a kite flying festival), not the popular tourist sites and historic buildings mentioned on wikipedia. Or maybe Ivens just hired a local tour guide and didn’t check wikipedia before going over there. A humorous tone to the commentary (when appropriate), shots of penguins, seals, pelicans and cats (no owls in town), a fire, some jump-cutting in line for the funicular. One very non-Marker-esque bit when a staged (I assume) bar-fight shatters a mirror and leads to a splash of blood, audio dissonance, a kaleidoscopic shot cutting to a burning pirate flag to introduce a history of colonialism in the state… awesome.

buildings that look like ships:
image

Wikipedia: The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso, though the city has staged an impressive renaissance in recent years.
image

Senses of Cinema gives a shout out to Ivens:

… à Valparaiso has regularly been regarded as more of a Marker film than one truly belonging to Ivens. This reading prioritises and favours sound over image – a common mistake even when reading Marker’s wholly “owned” work – and fails to recognise the range and often explicitly lyrical nature of Ivens’ broader filmography.

The Battle of Chile (1975-78, Patricio Guzmán)

“Popular unity against the criminal bourgeoisie!”
image

Other street protest chants:
“Bourgeois shit, the street belongs to the left!”
“We need an iron hand!” (?!)

I alternately see this referred to as an epic 1979 movie, a long two-parter with a third-part postscript, or three separate movies. I guess they were presented theatrically in different ways in different countries. The 2/1 split seems right to me, as I’ll explain.

Part one drops me into the middle of an election in March 1973, which I didn’t understand until towards the end of the movie. I wondered why nobody was saying Salvador Allende’s name – turns out it was a senate election, and either the pro-Allende party lost, or they just did not gain enough seats in congress to prevent the opposition from holding a majority. So for the rest of Allende’s short reign as president, the country’s senate is mostly against him, undermining his authority. Movie is on the street, taking opinions from everyone, kind of slow at the start since I don’t know what’s happening, but excitement is in the air, and things straighten out soon enough. Cameraman is terrific, patient but curious, always looking for the best thing to shoot even if it means wandering off the person talking. I can’t believe the sound guy can keep up with him, but he does.

Salvador Allende:
image

A politician:
image

image

image

Part two picks up right where the first one ends, with an attempted military coup on June 29 1973, and part two ends Sept. 11 1973 with the successful coup that killed Allende and instated General Pinochet as ruler. In between those dates, Guzmán covers everything that happens in the whole country, it seems, with access to the marches, the debates, worker meetings, everything but the secretive military that turns against its country (with help and provocation, it turns out, from the U.S. government). This is by far my favorite of the three parts, and could easily work as a standalone movie… I see the Film Forum in NYC thought so as well. The events themselves, a democratic country swerving communist then falling military-dictatorship, is the best movie material you could hope for and Guzmán and his crew make the best of it, watching from ground zero as history is made, producing one of the best docs I’ve ever seen.

Military man who shot and killed Argentine cameraman Leonard Hendrickson at the end of part one:
image

Salvador Allende, file photo:
image

Bombing of the presidential palace:
image

Pinochet addressing the nation on TV:
image

Military rule:
image

Pinochet: “After three years of support for the Marxist cancer we have been given a disaster that is economic, moral and social, that could not continue to be tolerated by the sacred interests of the mother country.” (or something like that – I think it’s all amateur-translated)

Guzmán: “From the 11th of September, all resources of the Chilean army are mobilized to repress the popular movement with the compacency of the North American government. The first armed resistance offered by some industrial cords, agricultural populations and student centers are squashed quickly in unequal fight. Thousands of people are killed and the main sport fields become concentration camps. The longest democracy in the history of Latin America ceases to exist.”

I don’t exactly wish I’d skipped part 3, but it would’ve made a nice recap six months later instead of watching it right after 1 and 2. Filmmaking in Chile wasn’t easy during Pinochet’s rule, since Pinochet was killing and imprisoning everyone who disagreed with him, including the cameraman of Battle of Chile (to whom the completed work was dedicated), so Guzmán backs up and shows further details of the workers’ movements during Allende’s presidency, not again mentioning Pinochet or the violence. The many worker meetings and the creation of multi-factory blocs and the attempted attack on Allende’s credibility by the “Christian Democrats” (his primary opposition) via a U.S.-funded transportation strike had all been covered in the previous films, but now we see them in greater depth… “depth” meaning lots of guys with sideburns talking into microphones at meetings. Since I’m not personally interested in creating a communist worker’s paradise in my own neighborhood, part three wasn’t of much use to me, but I’ll bet it’s exactly what Chris Marker was hoping for when he helped fund Guzmán’s efforts to document what was happening in the country. Marker’s own angry reaction to the coup is documented in his short Embassy, which I’ll have to watch again now that it’s on a new, clean DVD.

The transportation strike:
image

The people:
image

The sideburns:
image

The revolution:
image

25th Hour (2002, Spike Lee)

“This life came so close to never happening.”

A movie about sadness and mourning, loss and bad decisions, real friends and sham friends. Picked this as the first of my Seven Favorite Movies To Show Katy but forgot to mention to her that it’s my favorite heartbreakingly sad movie and that I can start crying at work just by thinking too hard about it. Oops! Still, a little sadness can be good for you and once she stopped crying Katy said it was a good movie.

Came out late 2002 and proceeded to be pretty much ignored. Won two awards for best music score and some film festival in Barcelona gave Edward Norton “best foreign actor”. I guess it was nominated for a golden bear in Berlin, beaten out by Michael Winterbottom.

image

D. Edelstein doesn’t think the 9/11-WTC connections belong in the film: “The story of 25th Hour is fueled by the threat of anal rape: It’s what preoccupies Monty, and it’s the heart of the sexual-panic motif that runs (subtly, mischievously) through the screenplay.”

Where Are They Now: writer David Benioff put an X-Men reference into his “25th Hour” script (which starred two X-Men movie vets) and is now writing the Wolverine movie. Good job. Spike’s doing a TV movie with Amy Ryan and a WWII movie set in Italy, and I still feel bad for never watching When The Levees Broke. The “sheeeeeeeeeit” detective was on The Wire, Rosario Dawson may or may not be in Sin City 2 or 3, Anna Paquin’s starring in a TV show and Ed Norton is HULK.

My Blueberry Nights (2007, Wong Kar-Wai)

Cowritten by Lawrence Block, longtime mystery writer once adapted by Oliver Stone for a film directed by Hal Ashby! This is his first screenwriting credit. Cinematography by Iranian Darius Khondji, who shot a lot of other visually-distinctive stuff like the Caro/Jeunet films, The Beach and Panic Room.

Norah Jones is dumped by her boyfriend, leaves her keys at the cafe for him in the hands of Jude Law. Talks to JL every night over blueberry pie, starts to like him, one night she takes “the long way” across the street to his cafe and goes on a year-long trip across the country, getting waitressing and bartending jobs, saving up for a car and writing poor Jude Law lots of postcards but never giving a return address.

First major stop is in a Memphis bar where cop David Strathairn (Good Luck and Good Night, Mother Night) pines for his separated wife Rachel Weisz (The Fountain) and drinks and drinks. Violence escalates, he dies in a car crash, Rachel is sad and Norah is outta there. Then somewhere in Nevada, a casino where Norah gives all her money to Natalie Portman with NP’s nice car as collateral. NP tries to teach a convoluted lesson about mistrust by faking that she lost all the money, giving up her car and having Norah drive them both to Vegas to see NP’s dying (oops, dead) father, but the lesson doesn’t come off very well.

With both of her extended stays in foreign cities and attempts to make new friends having ended in death and sadness, Norah comes home to NYC, where Jude has decided to let go of his ex-girlfriend Cat Power (on account of her being an unconvincing actress in her only scene) and the two are free to fall in love in their own distinctive way (bonding over security-cam videos, eating too much pie, Norah falling asleep and Jude kissing her without permission). A sweet ending.

So the story is kinda muddled, though the characters are all pretty strong (if a bit unbelievable and cliched) but the movie flows more or less like a WKW film, with slow-motion and emotional edit/flashbacks, a dreamy pop soundtrack (Ry Cooder, Otis Redding, “The Greatest” played three times, and a touch of Yumeji’s theme when Jude first falls for Norah). Strong colors, close-ups without establishing shots, the camera like a hazy memory lingering behind glass and slowly creeping behind obstructions, but focus always sharp. Glad I was warned not to expect too much, but I ended up liking it a whole lot.

Dil Chahta Hai (2001, Farhan Akhtar)

Katy showed me this Bollywood movie to wash away the pain of Partner. This one wasn’t hateful, loud, empty, an extended music-video ripoff of an already-bad Hollywood film, but I didn’t love it either. Katy said the camera work was very good and often beautiful, but I found it uninspired, generic. Music was unmemorable but not bad. One nice music segment when a couple is at the movies seeing themselves onscreen reminded me of Pennies From Heaven. Story is alright, a light romance about three buddies and their love lives.

Akash (Aamir Khan – ice candy man in Earth, main dude in Lagaan) has a little beard patch under his lip, kinda arrogant but becomes a Good Guy as movie progresses. Gets sent to Australia and falls for a girl his parents previously tried to set him up with.

Sid (Akshaye Khanna – played Gandhi’s son last year) has an uneven hairline, is an artist and a Good Guy to begin with, falls for an alcoholic older woman with a kid and an ex-husband but she dies in the end.

Sameer (Saif Ali Khan – once played a character named Jimmy, but not THE Jimmy) has no distinguishing features or characteristics except that he falls in love with every girl he sees.

Also some women with names like Preity and Dimple, but don’t confuse me here.

Was nominated for 13 Indian academy awards, but got trampled by Lagaan.

The Major and the Minor (1942, Billy Wilder)

What a wonderful coincidence that I watch You’re Never Too Young, and then find out the next day that the film it remade is on Turner Classic.

Robert Osbourne introduced as a screwball comedy, but the only thing screwball here is the premise. Movie is played as a straight, semi-romantic comedy. Same story as the Lewis flick but minus the jewel thief and with a sex reversal (and predictably there’s no equivalent to the Dean Martin character). So Ginger Rogers is the scalp-massager lured to an apartment under a false premise which gets her to leave town and have to pose as a kid to afford a ticket. She hides out in Ray Milland’s room, same thunderstorm and morning discovery scene, then has to keep up the ruse so Ray won’t get in trouble and kicked out of the military. Again, a happy ending with Ray getting his wish to be sent on active duty (makes more sense in the nationalistic war-ragin’ 40’s than in the 1955 remake) and happening to meet a finally-acting-her-own-age Ginger on the train platform (where she gives him a Katy-disapproved line about how all some girls want is a letter from their husbands-abroad every couple weeks).

Cute movie, with some major Creepiness Issues (Ginger cuddling up to Ray, wanting him while pretending to be a little girl and calling him “uncle”). Not the madcap funhouse of the remake, though… no Dean songs (they’re not missed) or speedboat chases, choral performances or marching band shenanigans. Turning the all-girls school into a military academy surprisingly doesn’t change much. Some scenes are very similar, like the long-distance call at the phone switchboard (though Jerry ups the humor with his nutty dancing and a voice-dubbing stunt). I’m sure there’s some auteurist reason why I should prefer the original to the remake, but sorry, I sorta don’t.

This came out a full decade before Ginger Rogers had a lot more fun playing a little girl in Monkey Business (another movie comparison which does this film no favors), and TWO decades before Ray Milland acquired his X-RAY EYES. Back in the 40’s he was cast not for the x-ray eyes but because he is an effective leading man, and an exact cross between Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Wilder sez: “I wrote the part of the major for Cary Grant. I always wanted him in one of my pictures, but it never worked out.”

15-year-old little Lucy would grow up to play the love interest in the remake. Ray’s meddling fiancee (and Lucy’s big sister) was Rita Johnson (The Big Clock, Here Comes Mr. Jordan). The strict colonel (Lucy’s father) was Edward Fielding, who managed to portray military men, doctors, ministers and shopkeepers in over 70 films in the 1940’s despite a fatal heart attack halfway through the decade. Ginger Rogers’ mom, in her only screen appearance, played Ginger Rogers’ mom. Guy who gets a scalp massage at the beginning was Robert Benchley, the Jaws author’s grandfather. The young high-school age kids were actually 22, 21 and 16 (x2). That’s more accurate casting than the remake managed to get. The one familiar-looking boy had played Rudy in Shop Around The Corner, the kid the shop owner takes out for Christmas dinner in the final scene.

And what do I know about Billy Wilder? Not very much! Just enough to see plot parallels between this and Some Like It Hot. Saw none of the cynicism for which he’s known, but Wilder explains: “I was very careful. I set out to make a commercial picture I wouldn’t be ashamed of, so my first picture as a director wouldn’t be my last.”

Internet says the screenwriter invented the bad pickup line “Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”.

You’re Never Too Young (1955, Norman Taurog)

“Dig that crazy homework.”

I appreciate that none of Lewis’s movies have even vaguely believable plots. Plausibility is an unnecessary weight on the shoulders of comedy. This one has Jerry playing an aspiring barber in a fancy hotel who gets caught up in a jewel-heist plot along with haircut customer Dean and Dean’s girl Nancy (both teachers at a girls school in a distant town). Jerry mugs an oversized 11-year-old and steals his sailor outfit in order to get a half-price ticket home, but hiding out from the gun-toting jewel thief he bunks with Nancy. Once discovered, he has to keep pretending to be 11 so Nancy won’t be exposed for having a man in her private room. Of course he falls in love with her (and has to fight off teenage girls at the school), but Nancy still marries Dean, awww.

Besides playing the romantic straight-man, Dean sings five dreamy but unmemorable songs. I always think it must be hard to be the woman in those scenes, having to smile through a whole song without attracting attention away from Dean or looking too vacant.

Remake of Ginger Rogers/Ray Milland-starring Billy Wilder-directed The Major and The Minor, in which it’s the girl pretending to be a kid. Hmmm, it’s on TCM tonight. Bosley Crowther’s original New York Times review calls Lewis “noisy and ungraceful” and says the film is “on a mental level that will not demand an exertion from anyone.” Thankfully, Crowther didn’t live to see Neil Marshall’s Doomsday, but yeah, nobody would call You’re Never Too Young challenging. I just found it a cute comedy with Lewis actually at his most likeable and everyone else (Dean included) pleasant enough to watch without adding anything very distinctive.

Good DVD quality. I put this on while paying bills, expecting it to be the lesser of the Artists & Models double-feature disc, so I didn’t pay strict attention but it gradually roped me in. Perfectly fine cinematography by Daniel Fapp (Lord Love a Duck, Let’s Make Love, West Side Story) and direction by Taurog (everything from Andy Gump for President in 1924 to Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine in 1965). Written by Sidney Sheldon, screenwriter of Anything Goes and creator of I Dream of Jeannie. IMDB says his family can expect a big royalty check in 2010.

Look at these two. Hard to believe they were involved in a sinister bisexual mafia prostitute murder conspiracy. Oh wait, they weren’t… that was an Atom Egoyan movie.
image

Dean’s girl Nancy was Diana Lynn, the youngest brother’s girlfriend Gwen in Track of the Cat, went straight to television after this and died of a stroke sixteen years later.image

Nancy’s uptight co-teacher (not pictured here, since I haven’t forgiven her for being a nosy, moralistic tattletale) is Nina Foch of a buncha period films like Spartacus, The Ten Commandments and Scaramouche.

Not the first time that American Hans Conried (left) played a Frenchman named Francois – and he was also Dr. T in The 5,000 Fingers.
image

The very sinister Raymond Burr (center), fresh from playing the bad guy in Rear Window, is the jewel thief. Veda Ann Borg (left), vamped as the thief’s wife in this scene. Besides having a very awesome name, she costarred in the 1940 serial The Shadow and appeared in Guys & Dolls and Mildred Pierce.
image

Orpheus! Don’t look back!
image

Appropriate that in the water-skiing stunt-double chase scene, Lewis says “I don’t know how to do this!” against a rear-projection screen. It’s a great comic action scene, but I preferred the music performance that preceded it, with Jerry as conductor of Dean and the women’s choir. Similar to a section near the beginning when Jerry leads the girls at a march, only now instead of aping his spastic movements, they vocalize them.

All the “young high school kids” look to be in their twenties. IMDB says they were indeed. Gags involve a milk-shooting water gun, eating cigars, drinking disgusting liquids, falling into a swan pond, and other slapstick stunts, but it’s not over-the-top physical comedy. Or maybe in this post-Dumb and Dumber America, Jerry Lewis humor seems subtle. One of the gags, when Jerry pretends to be a gangster towards the end to escape the school, is referencing 1940’s William Castle movie series The Whistler. Weird how the happy ending involves the girl being left alone as Martin goes back on active army duty, which he’s been hoping to do all movie long. It’s the anti-Stop-Loss.

image

Film Without Boundaries 2008

Experimental shorts program at the Nashville Film Festival. Below in italics I’ve quoted their online program notes for each film and added my thoughts in regular text. Unfortunately my memory is very bad and I was neither taking notes nor concentrating on remembering details during the screening, just getting lost in the films, so my thoughts might be wrong or meaningless. I will say it was a cool program, a little saggy in the middle/end but mostly high-quality work, very enjoyable. Most of these were on video, but not the first few I don’t think.

Olivo Barbieri’s Sevilla (06) (Italy 2006,13 min.) is a tale about the perception of Europe in Africa…from the vantage point of an airplane.

Deceptive to call it a “tale” since it’s non-narrative. Also I thought it was from a helicopter – there are helicopter noises on the soundtrack (along with harsh electronic sounds coinciding with some edits, mostly near the beginning and end). I struggled throughout this one to tell if it was out-of-focus, if my eyes had gone funny, or if it’s just supposed to look that way. Didn’t know what city I was ever in, assumed Sevilla, Spain. Whether caused by the focus effect or not, it looked very much like models, a giant, detailed model city, until I’d see traffic moving. Think I liked it, anyway a nice way to start the program. I still remember the percussive music, but I bet I won’t the next time I read this. How to describe music?

Combining live action, stop-frame animation and a kinetic sculpture, Harrachov (Matt Hulse, Joost van Veen, Netherlands 2006, 10 min.) explores the effect of an arcane force that, like a black hole or an immensely powerful electromagnet, exerts a far-reaching and irresistible power upon certain objects and materials, willfully seducing, centralizing and internalizing them.

Junk moves across uninhabited ground towards a sinister shed, pulled by unseen strings, magnets, animated by stop-motion or simply tossed and rolled. Very cool movie, black and white, really brought to life by the great sound effects. We never see the final assembled creation, unless it was obscured in darkness or I blinked and missed it, but it’s shown on the website:
image

In The Drift (Kelly Sears, USA 2008,9 min.), a mysterious disappearance on a space journey gone awry launches the counter-cultural revolution at the end of the 1960s.

Not quite slow-zooms on still 1960’s photos, because slight motion is added to the “photos”. This one had a story and a voiceover, unusual for the program, and the woman next to me whispered “was that experimental?” From the director’s website statement: “The Drift uses frame-by-frame techniques to weave an absurd fable about our country’s unflinching frontierism and the desire to push too far, too fast. Images dug out of thrift store bookshelves and flea market bins are animated to create an alternate take on what really happened behind the face of ground control, the space program, and the American psyche.” A cool little movie about a contagious space-disease, certainly better than The Astronaut’s Wife. The drift theory would probably answer some of Werner Herzog’s questions about the inhabitants of Antarctica.

Sera Sera (John Murphy, USA 2007, 3 min.) sets atomic-bomb-testing footage to a reggae-ized version to hypnotic effect.

Director was in attendance but I had to haul ass to Phantom Love (which it turns out was cancelled, so I could’ve stayed, sorry Mr. Murphy, and sorry also for not being able to remember your film clearly but I do recall that it was short and felt like a good music video and that’s not an insult because I like a good music video). Come to think of it, the music was a trippy “que sera sera” remix. Wait, it’s coming back to me, 60’s footage treated with Tscherkasskian film-off-the-rails effects.

With water imagery as the foundation, Number One (Leighton Pierce, USA 2006,11 min.) engages the experience of elasticity between varying states of mind.

A flowing, sometimes symmetrical composition with a sliver of image in the center, and mirrored or continuous images on the left and right. And sometimes it’s something else entirely. Put me in a happy mood. Can be bought in digital form from the iTunes store.

Dig (Robert Todd, USA 2007, 3 min.) is a constricted frame in agitation, with the sweet music of jackhammers raging throughout – with intermission.

Haha, Mr. Todd, the “sweet music of jackhammers,” I get it. A desperately irritating movie about the annoyance of road construction. Actually, it’s pretty cool visually, rapid-rapid-fire shots of painted road markings spinning and sliding – would watch it again with the sound turned off. This is when people started walking out, about 3-4 per film from now until the end.
image

Kip Masker (Maria Petschnig, Austria 2007, 3 min.) disguises body parts in altered pieces of clothing to create semi-abstract compositions that defamiliarize the human form.

J. Schaffer says: “Soft, strained breathing accompanies the picture, intermixed with the occasional crackling of latex. From the start, I am faced with the task of disentangling the compositions magnified on screen: a hole purposely cut into a white bra with a shoulder muscle swelling over the seams? A white supporter for a packer (a silicone penis), worn the other way around?” And so on. I actually got and appreciated the intention of this film, a rarity for me. People next to me didn’t like it one bit.

The Green Bag/Documentary Happens (Tim Sharp, Austria 2007, 7 min.) is a single take, real-time documentary shot from the terrace of the Circle Hotel restaurant in Gondor, Ethiopia. While it allows a brief look at the density and multiplicity of everyday interactions taking place around the camera, the film also stimulates questions related to defining the essence of what documentary film is as a cultural artifact.

I was mesmerized by a green plastic bag blowing in the wind… dancing with me. Just kidding, I was actually bored to tears by this dull documentary by Wes Bentley, errr Tim Sharp. It stimulated questions like “when will it end?” and “how many more people will walk out?” Movie had a stunt ending: the appearance of a different-colored plastic bag. A different bag! Reminded me very much of Hidden In Plain Sight. Apparently there’s a new trend in filming stuff nobody cares about and calling it an experimental documentary. Paging Andy Warhol…

With super high-speed cinematography, reminiscent of adored science education films from our childhood, gun fetishization is taken to a surrealist extreme in Kogel Vogel (Frederico Campanale, Netherlands 2006, 6 min.).

Gun shoots bullet through glass in super-slo-mo – whoosh! Liked it, but not much there besides art-i-fying those mentioned education films.

In Ariana Gerstein’s 96 (USA 2007, 7 min.), the space between being 90 and 6 is always shifting in this moving picture portrait.

Something about photographs and a little girl? I don’t remember! I think the sensual overload of the next film acted as a memory-blanker.

Daddy I’m Scared (Tijmen Hauer, Netherlands 2006, 4 min.) is an iconoclastic video piece consisting of thirteen different children’s cartoons layered on top of one another, transforming their innocent qualities to an aggressive and mesmerizing inferno of image and sound.

Almost interesting, but the clips don’t seem to be meaningfully combined, just thrown atop each other to form a red-tinted fiery Disney nightmare. I recognized Aladdin by sound and Hunchback by visual. It was short at least.

In Light Is Waiting (Michael Robinson, USA 2007, 11 min.), a very special episode of television’s Full House devours itself from the inside out, excavating a hypnotic nightmare of a culture lost at sea.

The one I’d been looking forward to (and the reason I didn’t wander away unhappily during the green plastic bag doc) didn’t quite live up to expectations. Funnier as described to me than to actually watch. Excerpt of a Full House ep (which Katy remembers) where they drop a TV from a great height turns into SCREAMING BLINKING PAIN turns into a mirrored, folding-in-upon-itself color-tinted noisy nightmare, an extreme slow-mo excerpt from a different episode on some fantasy island (which Katy also remembers). Good move equating Full House with shrieking hell, but not actually much fun to watch. I want some Peter Tscherkassky, please.