Red Film (2019 Sara Cwynar)

“Technology disciplines its audience.” Dense and completely wonderful, fast overlapping voiceover with new age music accompanies saturated visuals of consumer conveyor belts, makeup tests and dance poses with a lot of face touching.

From the wikis: “Cwynar’s work presents a marriage of old and new forms that are intended to challenge the way that people encounter visual and material culture in everyday life.”

Kenji Fujishima:

Compared to its deliberately messy predecessors, Red Film feels like the work of an artist who has clarified her obsessions. For all its frenetic surface activity, Red Film is a coherent commentary on the vicious cycle of capitalism, which, with the aid of modern media, perpetrates our physical insecurities, creating impossibly high standards of beauty that only feed into people’s desire to consume more in the inevitably disappointing quest to reach such standards.


Rose Gold (2017 Sara Cwynar)

Focused on the iPhone instead of makeup – tech/marketing/desire – and just as great, though it’s maybe redundant to watch these two so close together. The only thing they have in common with Barneys New York is that she always seems to have ink on her hand, and we get to see her camera mechanism (I did get to try out one of those Barneys phone gimbals and decided I don’t need one). Closing credits list all the references – not direct quotes, unless Heidegger and Wittgenstein wrote about the iPhone.

Sicinski:

Rose Gold is as much a jumble of ideas and impulses as the very society it aims to critique. This is no doubt a conscious strategy, undertaken on the assumption that linear argument is inadequate to the task of understanding our neoliberal global structure. Nevertheless, this is a film that announces its intellectual intentions but adds to the cacophony instead of parsing meaning.


At Hand (2005 Andrew Busti)

The first time I watched a Cwynar short the program opened with a Busti short, so it seems fair to keep exploring their work together. This seems like photographed scenes, slowed down, and either Decasiaed or rotoed, all texture replaced with that of liquid metal, stained glass, beer bubbles, a pebble beach. I thought for a moment that it may be the abuse of an edge-detection filter, but it looks more organic than that, a low boiling rumble on the soundtrack.


26 Pulse Wrought (Film for Rewinds) Vol I (2014 Andrew Busti)

Somebody’s been watching Hollis Frampton? Flickering shots of different objects and colors and landscapes (including the camera lens in a mirror) stuttering to a morse code rhythm. Like a video essay where the voiceover and visuals are saying different things, only we don’t know what the spoken message is saying unless we load the movie into Adobe Premiere and decode its frames using the key from the opening titles – not tonight. Annoying to listen to but once I got used to the flicker the visual choices were interesting.


26 Pulse Wrought (Films For Rewinds) Vol III (2016 Andrew Busti)

Black and white flicker film – I can’t tell if it’s in morse code or not. “These words here are meaningless,” etc, large text on screen with matching voiceover, very annoying to watch, though very short, and I was thinking if you take the word “here” from this film and the camera reflection from Vol. I you could create the other Busti short I’ve seen. According to his vimeo (which doesn’t have Vol. II) this was produced on 16mm.


Night Swells (2015 Zachary Epcar)

Photographic study of potted plants on the sidewalk outside the mall, abrupt sound editing of street noise and a record about talking to plants.


Return To Forms (2016 Zachary Epcar)

Photographic study of waterfalls, and feet, and hand models – I prefer the waterfalls. Gliding camera tour of an apartment, and surveillance scan of the building from outside. The sound editing just as abrupt, but to cleverly humorous effect. An excellent final image brings together all the previous pieces: a gloved hand fondling a plant growing through a hole blasted through an iPad. Guess I was right to play these the same night as the Cwynar films.


Life After Love (2018 Zachary Epcar)

The title only comes in at the end, as an in-car hypnotherapy session. The rest seems like a languorous car ad set in a parking lot, made by people who don’t realize cars are supposed to move.

Sicinski:

Epcar’s camera moves around this space as though it were on rollers, controlled like an automatic car window. The filmmaker sees with windshield eyes. His name is an anagram for A CA CAR ZEPHYR.


New Fancy Foils (2013 Jodie Mack)

Stills of paper samples, different orientation, with advertising text, then faster and faster. At 12 minutes there’s time for a slow build, and the rapid fancy foil flicker was worth the wait – though for ten seconds there it got so fast that my mpeg copy broke down. Silent, I played the Attacca Quartet album with the pretty bird cover art.


Let Your Light Shine (2013 Jodie Mack)

A different sort of thing – animated white line segments surrounded by rainbow prisms, in increasingly rapid succession. The crap-atari sound effects give the impression that the white figures are computer graphics, but the line texture says not. From the Cinema Scope cover story, it sounds like the original film was just the white hand-drawn figures and theatrical audiences wore prismatic glasses to create the rainbows.


Something Between Us (2015 Jodie Mack)

A real audio journey in these three Mack shorts from no sound to bad sound to great sound that carries the picture. Taking gramma’s jewelry out to the yard to play, repetitive bird and frog noises get looped and warped into music. Closer look at the jewelry, and the pond, the RGB prism artifacts from the previous film returning with a vengeance here, and taking over as the second half’s soundtrack keeps adding new layers of bells.

Sicinski:

Something Between Us plays with the cheap shine of costume jewelry … Mack intercuts these close-ups with shots of a hazy lakeside forest, its early dawn refracted by the misty fog to produce rainbow prisms and flares. In time, Mack is alternating between this “natural” light and its highly artificial facsimile, the trinkets swinging to their own chiming electronic theme song. A game show bell dings mid-film, as though we’ve found the right answer when the organic is largely vanquished in favor of Mack’s pendular, sun-dappled Claire’s Boutique of the mind.

There is so much going on in this movie. In the beginning, a sink is dripping with stop-motion paper drops, which turn into fullscreen water collaged from paper, which zooms out to a flickering series of motivational posters on an office wall, then back into the flickering water upon which sails a poster-paper boat as the rhythm of the water drops begins to build into an autobiographical theme song – this is the first minute of a 40-minute movie.

Mack uses posters and packaging, markers and sales sheets, posters and shelves and office supplies, posters and boxes of posters, the parking lot and fluorescent lights, and just when it couldn’t get any more wonderful, her mom enters the movie, sped-up and stop-motioned, as Jodie sings about the family’s failed poster business as a homemade parody of Pink Floyd’s Money.

It ends in psychedelic mania, as it must, and meanwhile, it’s one of the most inventive, poignant and personal “experimental” films I’ve ever seen. Katy liked this more than The Grand Bizarre – probably same, but I’d like to see TGB again. Interesting that Cinema Scope had more to say about each of her 3 to 10-minute shorts than this longer piece, will have to watch a few of those and revisit the article.


Persian Pickles (2012, Jodie Mack)

We also watched this 3-minute short from her vimeo page, all rapid-fire textiles with curved patterns, like swimming swirling fishies. Surprised by the audio, a typical a/g noise track sounding like bassy factory robots conversing over staticky phone lines, considering the sound in her features is so fresh and upbeat.

True/False 2019! I’m writing it up almost five months late, but at least I took notes at the time.

This feature was not as frenetic as I expected from the few shorts I’ve seen – certainly frenetic in segments but not for the entire hour. Sunlit stop-motion, shadows moving across the frame, sometimes obscuring the textiles. Flashes of notes, sheet music, paper planes, representing work, grids, global commerce. I was on the “less drowsy” motion pills after a very heavy week and six hours of travel, so instead of my zoned-in attentive mode, I had to tired-watch and space out to the images and music. Maybe a third was set to upbeat electro music, featuring the cinephile-notorious skype-tone remix, the rest calmer and less dense sound, including the noises made while shooting a scene. She started taking materials with her on trips instead of sourcing locally, since the fabrics she found weren’t locally produced anyway. Mack seems smart and energetic, ends every Q&A answer with “was that an answer?,” K says she’d be a great professor. Opening act Gibbz was poppy and lo-fi/distant-sounding – that might’ve been a quirk of the sound system, but I really dug it.

Nov 7, 2020: Watched again, non-drowsy, on a momentous night. I’d intended to watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but felt like some positivity was in order.

Winnie-the-Pooh (1969 Fyodor Khitruk)

The A.A. Milne books made it to Russia, but the Disney film versions did not, so Khitruk’s team removed Christopher Robin and imagined their own versions of Pooh and Piglet for a series of shorts. In this first one, Pooh fails to score some honey by masquerading as a small black cloud, all against charmingly hand-drawn backgrounds with lots of singing.


Winnie-the-Pooh Pays a Visit (1971 Fyodor Khitruk)

I love the voices so much in these. Pooh and Piglet visit their friend Rabbit to scam some food off him. Rabbit has exceedingly good manners, so keeps feeding his guests until Pooh can’t fit through the doorway to leave.


Curses (2016 Jodie Mack)

First light confetti blows across a white background, then it gets ever more complex, introducing different swirl patterns, until finally the last section is a rotoscoped dance swirl animation against color-strobe backgrounds. This is all a music video to an upbeat piano-rock song by Roommate (“I sing my curses in reverse and what’s worse, no one notices”). Happy flashbacks to Jeff Scher.


Blanket Statement No. 1: Home Is Where The Heart Is (2012, Jodie Mack)

Blankets, I guess… rapid stop-motion shots of fabric panels, swirling about. Only three minutes, but with more colors and patterns per second than any other film. The chirpy bloop ‘n crackle audio sounds like when I hit fast-forward on the minidisc player. Katy disapproved, said they’re not even blankets.


Blanket Statement No. 2 (2013, Jodie Mack)

Knit rows of varying colors, washing past the camera in patterns that look like abstract computer graphics, then flickering gradually to black, and back into colorful rows, the audio like the road noise in an 8-bit motorcycle racing game.


Lost Camel Intentions (1988, Lewis Klahr)

Transformation journey of a guy from skeleton airplane pilot to male silhouette balloonist to his final form: a photo of a Monty-Python-looking mustache dude against a series of automobiles. I suppose if you’re Lewis Klahr, people bring up Monty Python to you an awful lot. This was the first part of a series called Tales of the Forgotten Future which I’m not finishing right now because it kinda looks like low-detail VHS and I can find better-looking Klahr works elsewhere.


A Wish for Monsters (2012)

Forgot I’d done this… I ran the trailer for Gareth Edwards’ Monsters and the first few minutes of A Wish for Wings That Work on top of each other, setting one semi-transparent, and submitted it for Shorts Club one month.