Watching shorts from the Flicker Alley blu-ray, part four.

Film that Rises to the Surface of Clarified Butter (1968 Owen Land)

Repetitive little piece in which people draw a character, then it comes to brief stop-motion life, then they ponder this, then it happens again with a constant, quiet burbling horror of a soundtrack. Not as much fun as I’m making it sound.

Our Lady of the Sphere (1969 Lawrence Jordan)

I was rather dismissive of this last time but I’m starting to find its variety of techniques and combinations of images and cutouts from old-time illustrations pretty charming. It’s certainly a funnier and more imaginative way to spend nine minutes than the last movie was. “Jordan orchestrates the film in terms of a rake’s progress” say the liners, but I couldn’t make out much of a story (though I could identify recurring characters, at least).

Mouseover to hit the bear:

Mouseover to BZZZZZZT the donkey:

DL2 (1970 Lawrence Janiak)

Differently colored patterns fill the screen to varying degrees, from starfields to spaghetti-o’s to shower-curtain dots to bright silly-string and confetti parties, all created by organically Begotten-ing strips of film. Chiming, percussive soundtrack. Hypnotic and strangely relaxing to watch, though next time maybe play my own music.

Love It, Leave It (1970 Tom Palazzolo)

Speech from a car show plays over a nudist festival. Speech honoring the military plays over clowns. Then the soundtrack goes into a hypno-loop of “love it, love it, love it, leave it” under images of contemporary America (sports and recreation, demonstrations and celebrations, people and get-togethers and riot police), the sound finally mutating into a patriotic song layered over itself like that remix I made of the Brave trailer. The liners say he had a “sharp eye for Americana,” true. And the last page of Cinema Scope #66 points out where more Palazzolo films can be found, if I get into an Americana mood later.

Transport (1970 Amy Greenfield)

One of those dance shorts where the camera moves with the dancers, only the movements here are not too exciting – small group of people lifting each other across a dirty field. And the sound is completely unbearable, a series of horrible tones like the ones they play in movies after a bomb goes off to indicate tinnitus in the lead character. Also, two minutes of opening credits in a six minute movie?

Sappho & Jerry, Parts 1-3 (1977 Bruce Posner)

Early film by one of the anthology project’s many film restorationists. Three two-minute pieces where Bruce takes existing film elements, combines, mutates and split-screens the living hell out of them, adding more simultaneous frames in each ensuing chapter. Great fun.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Ch’an (1983 Francis Lee)

Pans, zooms and crossfades of black and white watercolors, with some short bursts of animation. Nice texture closeups of the watercolor work. I preferred Lee’s 1941 from earlier on the disc (these are his first and last films).

Seasons… (2002 Solomon & Brakhage)

Gorgeous variety of textures and patterns, colors and rhythms. “Intentionally silent” doesn’t fly with me, so I played the second half of the new David Grubbs album, which I would highly recommend. If I understand correctly, Brakhage did the textures and patterns, and Solomon did the lighting and coloring? Bravo to both.

I dig this frame because it looks like a dragon crashing into an aerial antenna:

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?