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

Abstronic (1952 Bute & Nemeth)

Animation based around electronic imagery from oscilloscopes, set to two catchy tunes. What the future looks like.

Bells of Atlantis (1952 Ian Hugo)

Very abstract imagery. You can often tell he’s filming real objects (woman in hammock) but it’s been blue-filtered and overlaid with patterns to appear underwater. Pulsing and whooping electronic sounds by the Barron couple, visual effects by Len Lye and narration by Ana├»s Nin – it’s a pretty cool movie, not a favorite, but made by remarkable collaborators.

Eaux d’artifice (1953 Kenneth Anger)

Seen this before. The imagery is supposed to be erotic but I always end up pondering fountain design and mechanics.

Evolution (1954 Jim Davis)

Wild, almost organic light patterns
Cellophane reflections give an electric glow.
Shifting light blobs that look like colored liquid being pressed under glass.

Gyromorphosis (1954 Hy Hirsh)

Hirsh filmed segments of a sculpture with colored lights and overlaid them spiraling around and inside each other. The result is spindly bits, lines and grids and spokes, all spinning in air like the visual representation of an Autechre song (it’s actually accompanied by some light chiming jazz).

Hurry, Hurry! (1957 Marie Menken)

Wriggling sperms behind a sheet of flames, set to battlefield sound effects covered in horrific scratching. Not nearly as much fun as her similarly-titled Go! Go! Go!. The liners say Menken was “physically imposing” and her relationship with her poet husband inspired Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which sounds just awful. Don’t I have a documentary about her somewhere?

NY, NY (1957 Francis Thompson)

Kaleidoscope-refracted fly-eyed process shots of NYC, with synched Disneyish orchestral music by Gene Forrell. An absolute stunner – maybe the best find of this collection. Film Quarterly reveals that Thompson worked on perfecting it for a decade, screening it at MOMA to “a thunderous ovation” in 1952, but still reworking it for five more years.

Castro Street (1966 Bruce Baillie)

Similar to the last film in a way: abstract-ish view of a city that ends up involving construction workers and transportation. Great sound layering on this one. I guess from watching Baillie’s Here I Am and Valentin de las Sierras I assumed he was less avant-garde and more a documentarian of the underclass.


Baillie occasionally uses slightly distorted images of the trains and the railroad yard with prismatic colors around the border of distinct shapes. He also uses images which were recorded by an improperly threaded camera so that they appear to jump or waver up and down on the screen.

Lucy Fischer, from an astounding 9-page analysis in Film Quarterly:

Castro Street is, above all else, a film of hyperbolic superimposition; from beginning to end it creates a uniform texture of densely enmeshed imagery … Rather than create a sense of superimposed images in dialectical conflict, Baillie works against this to create a sense of coherent union … As Baillie has phrased it in relation to Quick Billy, his matting strategy is one of overlaying imagery so that it “looks like it was all invented or occurring at the same moment.”

9 Variations on a Dance Theme (1966 Hilary Harris)

Dancer in a bare room does a short routine, then again from a different angle. When he starts with the extreme closeups, editing between angles and camera movements to match the dancer’s motions it gets really great. The liners: “informed by his notions of kinesthetics, in which images are structured around movement with the camera in constant motion.”

E. Callenbach in Film Quarterly:

The dancing is cool and straight, by a girl who wears long woolies and never bats an eye; she is not being Modern and not trying to express her soul, but doing a curious ritual action with its own internal logic and rhythm. Watching her is like watching a musician play; it has an immense technical interest as well as the delights of motion.

Zweigroschenzauber (1929, Hans Richter)
The intertitle says “Twopence Magic: a commercian in picture rhymes.” Movie shows us a thing, then crossfades to a similar-looking thing. Much better than I’ve made it sound.

Dada (1936, Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth)
Shapes in motion, quick.

Synchromy No. 4: Escape (1938, Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth)
A Bach music video, with black bars perversely imprisoning the viewer away from the orange and blue color geometric spectacle beyond.

War, etc. (1983, Leo Schatzl)
Crude drawings of planes, horizontal scratches give the appearance of speed, sound fx from old arcade games. Mix it up with some TV interference. Part of an installation which surely annoyed many (unless the sound was turned down).

OXO Wonder Vision (1996, Leo Schatzl)
Looks/sounds like the window of a plane flying through a cloud. Then the plane slowly sinks into a giant coffee pot. It must be endless fun to be an avant-garde video installation artist.

The Endless Sandwich (1969, Peter Weibel)
Pretty much this shot, a guy watching a guy watching a guy, until the TVs start staticking from the inside out, until our own TV statics, closing with a quote by the filmmaker.

Imaginare Wasserplastik (1971, Peter Weibel)
Meta-video-art using “television as a time-space switch,” only a minute long. Not great, but so far I like this guy better than Leo Schatzl.

Fluxfilm 1 (1964, Nam June Paik)
“pranksters”, “playful artists”, “ephemeral humor”: the Fluxus movement sounds like fun. But then the first film I watch is a pure white screen and silent soundtrack. What’s worse, someone has punk’d my DVD player so the clock is moving at half-speed.

Fluxfilm 2 (1966, Dick Higgins)
Still silent, closeup of a man’s mouth chewing. Okay, I’m done for now.