Notes on Film 01: Else (2002)

Five-panel video up top, starring a woman in what look like camera tests, sometimes holding numbered cards, while down below the word IF transforms into THEN and ELSE via lines slowly sliding. Big string music, the sliding lines are fun but the woman is far more eye-catching. The URL in the credits has expired.


Notes on Film 05: Conference (2011)

A cacophony of cinematic Hitlers, one after the other, their voices replaced by distorted static which gets louder according to how much each Hitler is shouting. After a Mel Brooks appearance we see film leader then a Hitler in a movie theater, so maybe all these Hitlers are being screened for another Hitler. The footage has all been processed with some heavy grain so it’ll match better.


Notes on Film 04: Intermezzo (2012)

Escalator chase scene from Chaplin’s The Floorwalker remixed to a rock song. “Play Loud,” it says, so I did.


Notes on Film 06A: A Messenger from the Shadows (2013)

Another multi-film montage, but this time Lon Chaney instead of Hitler – an improvement. The montage is fun, but really works because of the great music and sound design. More distorted-Hitler when people talk on the phone, at least one piece of actual sound footage. Love the climactic death-and-destruction montage.

Watched all these because of a rave article in Cinema Scope 56 about Notes on Film 06B, which takes the Lon Chaney approach but with Boris Karloff, and which I cannot find.

a 40-year-old who stays inside and watches movies, which is exactly what I did today – but I have a job and a wife and other things going on, and this is all he does. Secluded in Alsace, France, our man seems to have plenty of friends, and he finds a place in Paris with a roommate, so the end is in sight… but until then, he spends his days watching movies on video, creating the visuals of this movie from clips from what he sees, avoiding showing faces so we’re never distracted by recognition of movie stars. No music or sounds from the films, just flat voiceover in French. “I’m like an addict who decides not to quit his habit, but to observe and comment on it.”

Oh no, he’s talking about needing to move but realizing he has too many books and records – so relatable. He complains about his dad, who died while watching Le ciel est à vous. He discusses world events and famous deaths, and what films he was watching at the time. Out of 400ish movies, I recognized only Funeral Parade of Roses and The Maze. It’s first-person depression-recovery diary film set to the cleverly-edited montage, which would be more fun to watch without subtitles if I knew any French. On the minus side, a surprising amount of anti-bird violence in the footage, but on the plus side, Bonnie Prince Billy over the end credits.

According to a Filmmaker interview, the creation of this was more complicated than it appears. In Paris he rewatched every film he’d watched, then again with the editor while grabbing clips, then wrote the narration, then started laying down the clips in spots where they’d fit.

“It was plain, from the beginning, I wouldn’t use material coming from experimental works, animations or documentaries, the idea being to try to explore the polysemous quality shots acquire once they’re discovered out of their original context” – his love of unrecognizable insert shots reminds me of Morgan Fisher’s ().

Some really beautiful, extended clips from great films.

Nice to sit for 100 minutes and watch the clips. Frustrating, though, that I have no bloody idea what this movie’s point was. I’ve never understood Deleuze – his books The Time-Image and The Movement-Image have promising titles but I’m not smart or patient enough to read them through. Andersen doesn’t help, using no narration, just short scraps of written quotes. Just as I played guess-the-movie with the clips, which aren’t identified, I suppose film theorists can play guess-the-context for the quotes.

J. Cronk:

The Thoughts That Once We Had, in accordance with its analytical subject matter, is less a work of criticism than of classification and philosophical contemplation … The director describes The Thoughts That Once We Had as a “musical film,” and there is indeed a sequence dedicated to the movie musical, as well as interludes devoted to the allure of Maria Montez and Debra Paget, the differing though equally magnetic intrigue of Timothy Carey and Marlon Brando, and the use of blues music in American film—there’s even an extra-cinematic consideration of Hank Ballard and Chubby Checker’s nearly identical versions of their signature hit “The Twist.” As in his prior films, there’s a joy to be had in simply watching the clips unfold and comment on each other in alternately humorous and shrewd fashion, and Andersen seems particularly inspired here when diagramming the symmetry between images of a certain spiritual accord, even as they date from diverging periods.

Baldwin, director of one of my favorite 1990’s movies, Tribulation 99, and the great, more recent Mock Up on Mu, visited film-culturally-deficient Atlanta with a greatest-hits program of mostly montage/found-footage films (none made by himself, but some distributed on his label) streamed from laptops and DVDs. Baldwin seems as energetic and knowledgable in person as you’d expect from his films – overall an excellent program. Fortunately I took a photo of the chalkboard listing titles/creators and was able to find many of them online to watch again.

Urine Man (2000, Greta Snider)
Short doc starring a homeless conspiracy theorist who promotes drinking one’s own urine.

Assassination in Dreamland (2011, David Sherman)
Discussion of McKinley’s assassination at the pan-american expo, an event dominated by Edison’s new inventions (light bulb, x-ray) and documented by his movie camera. Sherman mixes different Edison company films to tell his story, which ends with the assassin executed in Edison company’s electric chair.

Way Fare (2009, Sylvia Schedelbauer)
Montage of footage inherited from a photographer. Mostly I remember the praying mantis from the beginning. More quietly paced than the others.

We Edit Life (2002, People Like Us)
Totally groovy, PLU remixing graphics and film clips the same way she does classic records in her music. Oriented around “new” technology of the 70’s, computer-generated music and picture, the dream of robots.

Altair (1995, Lewis Klahr)
Another pensive one, made from composited magazine cutouts. I loved the couple dancing inside a pitcher of orange beverage. Youtube uploader describes: “color-noir culled from late-40’s pages of Cosmopolitan, which induces a sense of claustrophobia and dread through its use of Stravinsky’s The Firebird.”

The LSD No-No (2009, James Blagden)
Dock Ellis’s voice, recorded off NPR in 2008, telling about his post-baseball career as a drug counselor. No of course not, he’s telling about the infamous LSD no-hitter. Music, sfx and original animation make this a hilarious little film, which I’ve gotta remember to show Katy.

The S From Hell (2010, Rodney Ascher)
I can’t put it better than its creator did: “a short documentary-cum-horror film about the scariest corporate symbol in history.” He edits stories about the traumatic logo with re-enactments of dreams and other fun graphic bits. I dug the use of footage from Halloween III. Can’t wait for his full-length treatment of The Shining conspiracy-theories.

Bigger Better (2004, Ton Meijdam)
America/corporate-power music video starring smiling Fuhrer Bill Gates. This has such a nice look to it. I kinda feel bad that it puts one of the world’s biggest philanthropists in a nazi uniform. Might I suggest Steve Jobs?

Walt Disney’s Taxi Driver (2011, Bryan Boyce)
Scenes from Taxi Driver with Disney elements added in. DeNiro’s Mickey ears looked too computery in you-talkin-to-me scene, but taking Cybill to a double feature of Lady & The Tramp and Steamboat Willie at the porno theater looked great.

Lord of the Rings (2003, Jino Choi, excerpt)
Scenes from LOTR subtitled to illustrate its political context, with Sauron representing Empire. After Dock Ellis, this is the one I most wanted to show Katy, but it’s not available online.

No Business (2007, Negativland)
Fun and creative music video about stealing music.

Hitler on SOPA (anonymous)
More Downfall meme. Not as good as the one about the limited availability of Kraftwerk tickets, but still golden.

Uso Justo (2005, Coleman Miller, excerpt)
Hilarious, self-aware experimental found-footage film, characters from soap operas coming to realize that they’re in a montage. The whole 20-some-minute work is available online (at the moment).

Not Too Much Remember (2003, Tony Gault)
Felt long compared to the others, but internet says it’s only 11 minutes. Conspiracy theories about the CIA and drugs, as imagined by a disturbed interview subject.

J. Skow:

Most of the footage comes from educational films dating from the 50’s and 60’s, concerning psychological experiments and mind control. The loose, narrative, structure is centered on a psychiatrist’s interview with a man named Richard. Richard is the subject of scientific experiments with LSD administered by the CIA. Throughout the interview footage from other films with similar experiments on children, and other cinereous that can be possibly interpreted as his life as a child, are spliced in. Collectively, the new arrangement of footage makes for an eerie tone that contradicts it original intention of the educational pieces.

A Movie (1958, Bruce Conner) / A Movie (2010, Jen Proctor)
I mostly watched Bruce’s. The synch was good and remaking a classic experimental montage film is a fun idea, though trying to watch two movies at once left me with little memory of either.

See, used to be I’d go to the video store and rent anything that looked interesting, and I’d come home with wild, awesome, insane movies. But one Tetsuo The Iron Man and a pile of Richard Kern films later, I start to get wary of the weird stuff. It seems the few weird, random films I rent these days are crappy movies trying too hard for cult success (Sukiyaki Western Django, Tokyo Gore Police). Eventually I get this crazy idea that I should seek out good movies instead of bad ones, and become obsessed with lists of great and important films and magazines like Cinema Scope. So imagine my surprise when C.S. did an article on Craig Baldwin, one of those purveyors of cult-reaching found-footage hyper-weirdness peppering the video shelves. Bug had been a C.S. recommendation and that wasn’t so bad, so I finally overcame my angry memories of Baldwin’s Negativland documentary Sonic Outlaws and I rented this.

And wow is it a mindblowing pile of awesomeness. Footage from ALL sources (godzilla/molemen/cartoons, star trek scenes played as news footage, actual news footage superimposed with sci-fi business) combine to form a tell-all exposé of aliens from planet Quetzalcoatl who landed on earth in the year 1000 and live underground for centuries, waking after nuclear bomb tests to affect global climate change and politics in South and Central America and the U.S., leading to annihilation of the planet in the future year of 1999.

Movie is a wild, hilarious masterpiece of montage, with the nutty stuff woven into actual history, then 45 minutes in, after I thought it had just ended, it refocuses on Africa and becomes kind of dull. Turns out this was the short RocketKitKongoKit (1986), with no opening title so I didn’t know what was happening. Story is more news reporting with less fanciful writing, with stuff on Mobutu (evil ruler of Zaire/Congo) and others I already can’t remember, and I think there was stuff about Germany in there. Loved the conspiratorial half-whisper of the narrator in the first film, so the dull, accented narrator of this one lost interest in comparison.

Next up on the DVD: Wild Gunman (1978), apparently featuring scenes from a dragon’s-lair live-action cowboy video game, but I guess they didn’t have laserdisc players in ’78. Clever montage of advertisements, cowboy shows, repeated bits back and forth (not quite Martin Arnold-obsessive, just for fun). All three movies are divided into numbered sections… the last one used reverse-images of a girl holding up numbers and this one’s got film countdown leader. Playful and fun, brings back the energy the middle film lost.

Internet says Baldwin is a Bruce Conner devotee – no surprise there.

Video distributor says:

Baldwin’s “pseudo-pseudo-documentary” presents a factual chronicle of US intervention in Latin America in the form of the ultimate far-right conspiracy theory, combining covert action, environmental catastrophe, space aliens, cattle mutilations, killer bees, religious prophecy, doomsday diatribes, and just about every other crackpot theory broadcast through the dentures of the modern paranoiac… a truly perverse vision of American imperialism.

T. Maloney in Senses of Cinema:

On the surface RocketKitKongoKit is the true story of a German rocket firm leasing land in the Congo (then called “Saire” under Mobutu’s reign), for testing rockets. The larger implications, that of Europe’s colonial attitude towards Africa in the 1960s and the exploitation of its people for a program the Europeans didn’t want in their own backyard, is not an entirely inaccurate one. History is, of course, highly malleable, and interpretations of any event can continue for decades – especially with relatively recent and well-documented events. The direct links between the ESA’s rocket program and deteriorating conditions in Africa are made more forcefully than would a more conservative historian, and the information is presented with the authority and integrity the documentary form affords.

and on Trib 99:

Organised into 99 chapters, each with a terrifying title screaming out in full screen capital letters, (9) the structure of the film invokes both conspiracy theories and biblical texts. And yet a great deal of the narration in Tribulation describes a readily verifiable history of American intervention in Central America from the 1960s through the 1980s. It is mixed in with vampires, voodoo and killer robots, but it is there.