45 Years of Canyon Cinema

NAFF says: “We celebrate their 45th birthday with this meticulously-chosen collection selected and introduced by Canyon Cinema’s executive director Dominic Angerame.” I don’t know what it means to be meticulously chosen. I mean, I assume Dominic is well familiar with Canyon’s films and he might’ve agonized over the selection, wondering how best to artistically and effectively represent his company’s holdings. Anyway, it was a very good selection, but NAFF could’ve been more meticulous with the presentation, misthreading one film which caused delays during which half the audience left early. But let’s face it, half the audience always leaves early during avant-garde film presentations. On with the descriptions… italic text is quoted from NAFF’s descriptions, regular text is from me.

Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (Martin Arnold, Austria 1998, 15 min.), where Arnold remixes several clips of a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland Andy Hardy film to form an erotic Oedipal musical.

I talked briefly about this one here and here. Seeing again on a giant screen in a nice theater with a packed audience was rewarding. Lots of laughter when people caught onto the oedipal/sexual jokes. Brilliant movie and concept – still one of my favorites.

Autumn Leaves (Donna Cameron, USA 1994, 6 min.), where the splendor and pleasures of autumn are the focus of this richly textured and brilliantly colored paper emulsion film.

I don’t remember it! I know I liked it – I liked all of these, but I do not remember in what specific ways I liked it. A shame, possibly.

China Girls (Michelle Silva, USA 2006, 3 min.), a short composition of women posing for skin tone and color slates used in film leaders that reveal some skin and the aesthetics of their day through film stocks and fashions.

Didn’t love this one, actually – all slates and countdowns and blips and test patterns. I see that stuff at work all day. I mean, yeah they were vintage test patterns with subliminal shots of women with carefully-maintained hairdos. A minute longer might’ve been too much, but this was harmless, probably of interest to someone else.

Delicacies of Molten Horror Synapse (Stan Brakhage, USA 1991, 10 min.), where four superimposed rolls of hand-painted and bi-packed television negative imagery are edited so as to approximate the hypnagogic process whereby the optic nerves resist grotesque infusions of luminescent light.

I mentioned this one previously here. Silent and gorgeous. Audience didn’t rustle around or yawn loudly or start to leave – they liked it too! Some of the multi-layered visuals are television images, and given the “molten horror” title you’d expect something like Light Is Waiting, but thankfully that’s not what you get.

Eaux D’Artifice (Kenneth Anger, USA 1953, 12 min.). Filmed in the gardens of the Villa D’Este in Tivoli, Italy, and accompanied by the music of Vivaldi, Camilla Salvatore plays hide and seek in a baroque night-time labyrinth of staircases, fountains, gargoyles, and balustrades.

Covered this one here. Light through water!

Ellipses (Frédé Devaux, France 1999, 6 min.), where a ripped strip of film is sewed back together following an aesthetic mode, in a celebratory end-of-century apocalypse of positive, negative, super-8, regular-8, black and white, color, saturated and faded found footage.

Oh god, I don’t remember this one either!

Georgetown Loop (Ken Jacobs, USA 1997, 11 min.), a reworking of 1905 footage of a train trip through the Colorado Rockies, where the original image is mirrored side by side to produce a stunning widescreen kaleidoscope effect.

Opens with the original film (discussed here) on the right half of a wide screen, kind of unnerving, then gloriously mirrors it onto the left. Images don’t overlap over themselves like in Light Is Waiting, but vanish into the center line, expanding and contracting, the train’s always-curving motion making it constantly split and merge. But it’s kind of an easy trick, doesn’t seem worth being called a great film, or even very “experimental.” I’m guessing they wanted to show something by big-name artist Jacobs and this was his shortest film?

In Kaleidoscope and Colour Flight (Len Lye, 1935/1938, 8 min.), Len Lye, pioneer kinetic artist, sculptor and experimental filmmaker, painted colorful designs onto celluloid, matching them to dance music.

Zowie wow, these are electric. They start out all hoppin’ jazz, colors and shapes and stripes and light and love, all in fast motion to the beat, then about three minutes in when you least expect it, they hit you with a cigarette ad. More, please!

Psalm III: Night of the Meek (Philip S. Solomon, USA 2002, 23 min.), a meditation on the twentieth century at closing time. Psalm III is a kindertotenlied in black and silver on a night of gods and monsters…

I guess it’s scenes from other films turned grey and treated with a heavy emboss filter. Often no recognizable details, then they’ll emerge suddenly from the murk. We see some nazi imagery at one point, pretty sure I saw Frankenstein a few times, and little Elsie’s balloon from M caught in the power lines. Longish, but nice, enjoyed it. Can’t remember the audio at all.

Martin Arnold shorts (1989-1998)

All seen on a wonderful DVD called The Cineseizure.

Pièce touchée (1989) – girl is reading, guy walks in the door, they kiss, he crosses behind her, she gets up. But for 15 minutes, painstakingly and obsessively re-enacted, rewound, stalled and repeated. Arnold mirrors the shot about halfway in, and flips it upside-down towards the end. An intriguing start. The main fault with this one is the annoying machine-loop audio.

Passage à l’acte (1993) – looks like a dinner scene from To Kill a Mockingbird. Boy comes running in, tells girl to hurry up, “I’m trying to”, “come on”, they run out but she stops to kiss her dad first. But all one frame at a time, with the obsessive back-forth repetition. The sound from the movie is here, so this is much less annoying than Piece Touchee… a large step towards the Andy Hardy movie, which, even had I not been told before I saw it, would recognize as the masterpiece of this bunch.

Extras: Psycho trailer (just a shower head, no text, clever), Jesus Walking On Screen trailer (“master, give me sight”), another trailer (in a train station), and a relatively serene montage of old clips called Der Osterreichfilm.

Also rewatched Alone. Life Wastes Andy Hardy (1998) a couple times. I had very little to say about it back in September ’06.

I’ll bet the actors in these films would be horrified by what Martin Arnold does to them, calling attention to every single tiny expression and movement and gesture. Sure is fun/interesting to watch though. IMDB says he did one in 2002 called Deanimated and it sounds like he’s working with some new techniques.

Arnold: “The cinema of Hollywood is a cinema of exclusion, reduction and denial, a cinema of repression. There is always something behind that which is being represented, which was not represented. And it is exactly that that is most interesting to consider.”