The Exquisite Corpus (2015 Peter Tscherkassky)

More exquisite, sensorial film manipulations from the great Tscherkassky, this time with lots of nudity. And as always with his films, I had to watch it twice, and it’s completely incredible.

M. Sicinski:

The film’s odd mismatches of erotic styles and tendencies (70s Eurotrash, early stag loops, bucolic nudist films, hardcore porn, surprisingly genuine-looking lesbian expression) ultimately comprise some kind of whole. Tscherkassky never employs technique to put pornography at arm’s length. Indeed, in some ways his experimental treatment of the material actually heightens its capacity to titillate. Indeed, the sheer visual excess of bodies on film produces a highly singular new “film body,” a sort of structuralist orgy.

Tscherkassky in Cinema Scope: “My approach was to show the naked body of cinema. So it made sense to use films whose main goal was to show the human body.”

I never really have a fixed image of what the film is going to look like. It’s always about time. Time to study the footage and then learn it by heart, so it seeps into your memory and there it sits and waits for the ideas to come. The second aspect is the production time itself, when you sit in the darkroom, exposing your individual frames – frame by frame by frame – and that takes a lot of time, time during which the film grows. Time to memorize, to remember something completely differently than how you thought about it three years ago. That’s the beauty of my way, my style of filmmaking.

There’s a famous Roland Barthes quotation that the erotic takes place where the woven textile has ripped. You look inside of something that is not meant to be seen. I wanted to move from straight porn and transform it into something that might fit this Barthes quotation.


Watched a few, scattered animated shorts over the last couple months – since I didn’t have anything to pair with The Exquisite Corpus, here’s a round-up of those.

Harvie Krumpet (2003, Adam Elliot)

One night nobody felt like watching a full-length movie so I weirded them out with this instead. Harvie is a unique stop-motion guy, not so bright but armed with rules and bits of wisdom, like your Forrest Gumps and your Chance The Gardeners. And like those movies, this one won an oscar (impressively beating both Boundin’ and Destino). The award is well-deserved – it’s a bittersweet narrative of a vividly drawn, damaged character who ends up happily nude at a bus stop. “He knew it would never come, but… he didn’t mind.” I still haven’t watched Elliot’s feature Mary and Max, but now I’m more likely to.


The Danish Poet (2006, Torill Kove)

We liked Kove’s Me and My Moulton, so it was time to find her earlier oscar winner. And it’s just wonderful. Maybe not as visually stylized as the follow-up (can’t remember for sure), but a beautifully designed movie both in its visuals and story (a roundabout telling of how the narrator’s parents first met). Narrated by Liv Ullmann – another indie(?) short that beat both Pixar (Lifted) and Disney (The Little Match Girl) at the oscars.


Black Soul (2000, Martine Chartrand)

Beautiful paint on glass technique shows a mother taking her son through stories of black history, which are mostly nightmarish. Chartrand studied in Russia with Alexander Petrov, won the top prize for shorts in Berlin with this film.


Triangle (1994, Erica Russell)

Nude line-drawing dancers are interrupted by black-cloaked triangle person and a red ninja square. The dancers grow more and less abstract, combining and separating, the force of the triangle warping the very frame of the movie, until it settles as a happy, sexy threesome. Lovely work – every frame a painting, as they say. Oscar-nominated against The Monk and the Fish and Bob’s Birthday. Russell is from New Zealand and South Africa, and created a “dance trilogy” with this film in between Feet of Song (1988) and Soma (2001).


Snop / Candy (1991, Jan Konings)

Meaningless reminiscing about the popularity of candy when the narrator was young, with below-average animation. From a blu-ray of Norwegian animation that I suppose I won’t be running out to buy.


Protege (2000, Levni Yilmaz)

Drawing paper shot from the other side as the pencil finishes drawing each panel, just like The Mystery of Picasso, but with a monotone voiceover guy explaining his history of imitating people he thought cooler than himself. Cute, and I suppose it technically counts as animation. Since I don’t have the book this disc came with, I’m not sure if this short predates Lev’s long-running Tales of Mere Existence youtube series, or if it’s part of it.


Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014, Steve Purcell)

Another toy story is always nice but this is more of the same ol’ thing. Bonnie from part three is on a post-Christmas playdate at a spoiled boy’s house, neglecting his complete set of some fantasy war toy collection to play a VR videogame, and our gang discovers that the war creatures haven’t yet figured out that they’re toys. Reptilius Maximus (Kevin McKidd) and tree ornament Angel Kitty probably won’t make it to the next theatrical sequel. Purcell is credited as a writer/director of Brave, and with animation on some 1990 video games (Loom and Monkey Island, wow).

Coming Attractions (2010, Peter Tscherkassky)

Wow. Footage from advertising shoots repurposed by the master of footage-repurposing. He fashions a series of mini-movies using different techniques, each with its own title card. Possibly his best, or at least, his funniest film.

PT: “The impetus for Coming Attractions was to bring the three together: commercials, early cinema, and avant-garde film.”

Depart de Jerusalem en tracteur:

Cubbhist Cinema #3:

Le Sang d’un poeme:

Cubist Cinema #1:

Swimmer (2012, Lynne Ramsay)

Young man swims and walks through a bunch of other movies (through their music and dialogue, anyway) in lovely black-and-white slow motion. There is some bow-and-arrow shooting, a favorite thing of Ramsay’s.

Drool (2011, Jeremiah Kipp & The Mandragoras Project)

A boy and a girl are covered in drool, slithering about in a white room. The bathhouse scene from Eastern Promises as a twisted love story, then swallowed and spit back out. Only four minutes long and still the slimiest movie I have ever seen.

Crestfallen (2011, Jeremiah Kipp)

Woman committing suicide in fancy bathtub flashes back to cheating husband, then flashes back to her young daughter and decides to live. Beautifully shot, with sweet music by Harry Manfredini. My favorite of the three dialogue-free shorts I’ve seen from Kipp… the third being Contact, which I watched again today – such an impressive little movie that I’m sorry I knocked the sound design last time I watched it.

Luckily, a Canyon Cinema program was playing at the university when we rolled into Portland, and I somehow got Katy to come along to the severely under-attended screening.

Our Lady of the Sphere (1969, Larry Jordan)

Occasionally amusing clip-art animation with a colorful circus theme, featuring a woman with a balloon head. But if amusing is what Jordan was going for, he’s about 20,000 leagues below Terry Gilliam. I assume there’s something else that eludes me. The sound was irritating. I give it slightly more credit for difficulty once I realized it was made in the 60’s with physically-clipped-art and not on a Macintosh in the early 90’s. Apparently this is one of his best-known works – it’s in the National Film Registry, whatever that is. Internet says it draws from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Dream Work (2002, Peter Tscherkassky)

Quiet (relatively) centerpiece of the Cinemascope Trilogy – a world of difference seeing this on a cinema screen vs. my laptop and television. So, so awesome. Katy watched with her eyes closed. I’ve seen it before on DVD, noted here.

Self Portrait Post Mortem (2002, Louise Bourque)

A decaying pattern scrolls up on left and right of frame, low frame rate but with a weird sliding motion. During the second half, a woman appears in the center of screen.

Happy-End (1996, Peter Tscherkassky)

The one composed from stock footage of a couple in the 60’s at different holidays (or is it just one holiday?), opening and drinking a ton of celebratory booze, dancing and posing for the camera. I’ve seen it before on DVD, noted here.

Very (2001, Stan Brakhage)

We saw a trailer for some upcoming Helen Mirren thing before the shorts started, and I was annoyed to see that the projectionist was running another trailer beneath this totally gorgeous, brightly-colored hand-painted Brakhage piece, but no, it looks like Stan ran out of blank film and painted over a trailer reel for the movie Quills, taking his title from the on-screen superlatives complimenting that movie and cast. Hilarious and wonderous.

Night Mulch (2001, Stan Brakhage)

Companion piece to Very, coloring over the shortened TV version of the Quills trailer. Katy loved these.

Mirror (2003, Matthias Muller)

The rare piece with original footage using actors and locations and lots of careful lighting, not hand-tooling some stock footage. Lots of darkness, and chairs.

The Observer: “The tableaux in which the figures stand like statues are animated by light alone. A light that glimmers, or suffuses a room like smoke, or crackles and fizzes from overhead lamps in long corridors. It polishes a grand piano, soothes the cheek of the pensive woman, surrounds the man with glassy halations and then makes him vanish, as if his part was over, before the room in which he stands disappears.”

Phantom Limb (2005, Jay Rosenblatt)

Title cards tell the story of Jay’s little brother who died as a boy, then a series of short pieces (home movies, some stock footage, some staged) are presented in order of the stages of grief. Katy didn’t approve of the birthing scene, and I was mesmerized by the sheep-shearing one.

I’d considered declaring August to be Shorts Month and watching hundreds of those, so I stocked up, but the inspiration had fled by the time the month rolled around. But we can’t let all these shorts go to waste, so I still watched more than usual.

73 Suspect Words and Heaven’s Gate (2000, Peggy Ahwesh)
Fun gimmick videos, one displaying the “suspect words” found by running the Unabomber manifesto through a spell checker, and the other listing off the search keywords of the Heaven’s Gate cult’s website. In the first the text appears quickly and fades out, and in the second the words flicker constantly.
image
image

Apocalypse Pooh (1987, T. Graham)
scenes from Apocalypse Now and Winnie The Pooh inexpertly combined. Actually the lipsync and some of the shot selections were pretty wonderful. I’m pretty sure nobody will ever care about this movie again now that a hundred thousand video mashups are clogging youtube, but it’s a cute piece of cult history. The poor video quality would turn on the guy who made Out of Print.

Thanksgiving Prayer (1991, Gus Van Sant)
William S. Burroughs hatin’ on America, being a general bummer, as is the fashion among leftists around Thanksgiving time. Decent video but I far prefer Ballad of the Skeletons with Allen Ginsberg.
image

Szalontudo (2006, Szirmai Marton)
That joke where guy 1 thinks guy 2 has stolen his food, so he starts eating from the other side, and they glare at each other eating the same food, then guy 2 walks off and guy 1 sees his food still untouched… he was eating guy 2’s food! Ah! This was terrible, with gross squishy chewing sound effects. Won an audience award in north-central Spain where they’ve never heard that joke before.
image

Le Vol d’Icare (1974, Georges Schwitzgebel)
I think it’s primitive animation made on a lite-brite. Or maybe it’s HyperStudio version 0.1. Story of icarus, I suppose. I liked the flocks of birds. What is that, a harpsichord?
image

Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine (2005, Peter Tscherkassky)
Pumping stutter-motion! Variable-speed lock-groove dude in a Leone western having a death-dream. Ends with words “Start,” “End” and “Finish” overlapping as the guy, appearing to be on fire, runs with mirrored graveyards above and below him.
image

The Adventurer (1917, Charles Chaplin)
Weird to see Charlie as an escaped convict threatening cops with a shotgun. But there’s plenty of ass-kickin and cliff-jumpin so it’s alright. I forgot the encoding quality is garbage on my copy of these… must buy a better one.
image

image

Inflation (1927, Hans Richter)
Rich people, money, poor people, more money, stock traders, more and more and more money, digits rushing at the screen whilst speed-adjusted carnival nightmare music plays until the whole damn thing comes crashing down. Only two minutes long! An achievement.
image

Yellow Tag (2004, Jan Troell)
In the old days we were close to our farm animals but today governments require tracking ear-tags. Fun movie… maybe didn’t need the classroom and religious art scenes, but it makes up for that in the end by going all wacky with shooting galleries and suited men raining down outside some kinda UN building.
image

image

Crac! (1981, Frédéric Back)
Animated story of the creation and long life of a rocking chair, accompanied by drum and fiddle music. It’s much better than it sounds.
image
image

Thigh Line Lyre Triangular (1961, Stan Brakhage)
Arrrrgh, another birthing movie! Why did nobody warn me? Apparently the title is Brak-code for “vagina.” Once I got over the initial shock, this is excellent. Hand-processed frames over live-action film, intense.
image

image

Gymnopedies (1965, Larry Jordan)
An egg floats around on different backdrops interacting with various objects, all cut-out animation a la Gilliam or Borowczyk, set to calm piano music. Feels more like a proof of concept than anything else – if there was a narrative present, I didn’t catch it. Cute, though.
image

Lipstick (1999, Pascal Aubier)
Single 6-minute shot beginning under a bed, unsubtitled. Family is getting ready to leave for a trip, the mother is briefly visited by her lover who comes in through the window. Aubier was assistant director on some French New Wave classics in the 60’s, now an actor and a director of (mostly) comic shorts. Liked this a lot (and not only because of the naked dancing), will have to check out more of his stuff.
image

Ark (2007, Grzegorz Jonkajtys)
Iffy-looking 3D animation tells apocalyptic story with a twist ending. Our guy wasn’t really the lead scientist onboard an ark of the last surviving humans searching the oceans for new land, just a crazy old man in a convalescent home. Ha! Bah.
image

Happy-End (1996, Peter Tscherkassky)
Found footage of a couple sitting down for dinner, toasting the camera, drinking… and drinking and drinking! Dancing, drinking, sitting, more drinking. Different days, different clothes, edited together, eventually with scenes superimposed atop each other, a haunted distortion of a French pop song as the soundtrack.
image

Two Solutions To One Problem (1975, Abbas Kiarostami)
Very short with narrator, two kids get in a fight over a torn book. We tally the damages then rewind, and instead of starting a fight, they help repair the book and remain friends. Nice.
image

Blah Blah Blah (2006, Dietmar Brehm)
Liquor bottles. Close-ups of objects with strong textures, overexposed porno, an action film in extreme-fast-forward, long pause on an ashtray, back to the liquor bottles, etc. Audio is a quietly rainy/windy day with a metronome hit every three seconds. Looks like old 8mm or 16mm color with some monochrome sections. Pretty alright, probably better in a theater surrounded by like-minded shorts instead of following up a cute Kiarostami piece.
image

A Girl, She is 100% (1983, Naoto Yamakawa)
Wow, that wasn’t very good at all. They must’ve thought it’d be the simplest Haruki Murakami story to film. Straightforward, with some good still photography and some bad acting by our IMDB-unknown hero, closing with some rockin’ 80’s music.
image

Foutaisies (1989, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Young Dominique Pinon with 80’s hair tells us about the things he likes and does not like. Very Amelie-feeling, with Delicatessen opening titles (and Deli‘s lead actress).
image

image

image

The Hitman (2001, Ruben Fleischer)
Mary Lynn Rajskub decides to be a hitman, but her first mark (Paul F. Tompkins) decides not to go through with it and asks her out instead. Just your typical indie comedy short. From the director of Girls Guitar Club, whose film career didn’t take off, I guess.

What Is That (2001, Run Wrake)
Buncha funny animated business involving insects and meat and ringing sounds. Cute, but only three minutes long and pretty inconsequential… not up to Rabbit level. Guess it’s an early work.
image

Film Noir (2005, Osbert Parker)
Awesome, very short. Like Fast Film but slower. Some After-Effects-lookin’ animation combined with models and lots of cutouts – not trying to tell a story, just cool visuals/mood. Ahhh, the internet reveals that it was all created in-camera – impressive!
image

image

image

Banquize (2005, Claude Barras)
Boyer’s French Dictionary: “banquize – heap of floating ice frozen together in close masses.” Might be called Banquise, actually. Simple animation, fat kid wears his snow clothes in summer, dreams of living on banquize and playing with penguins. One day trying to hitchhike there he drops dead from heat/dehydration. Hmm.
image

Herakles (1962, Werner Herzog)
Herzog’s very first film, six years before his first feature. This was really good, and not like anything else I’ve seen by WH. Pretty simple structure so I’ll let wikipedia take it below.
image

The film relates to six of the twelve labours of Heracles. The film starts with shots of young male bodybuilders working out in a gym, posing on a stage and flexing their muscles. Each of the labours are then announced by on-screen text in the form of a question, followed by related scenes of modern challenges intercut with the bodybuilders. The audio track of the film is saxophone jazz and sounds from a gym.

The question “Will he clean the Augean stables?” is followed by scenes of a garbage dump, “Will he kill the Lernaean Hydra?” is followed by a huge line of stopped traffic on a motorway and people walking around outside their cars, “Will he tame the Mares of Diomedes?” is followed by scenes of car racing and several race crashes including a crash into the spectators and shots of the subsequent disaster and piles of bodies, “Will he defeat the Amazonians?” is followed by scores of young women marching in uniform, “Will he conquer the giants?” is followed by shots of rubble of a destroyed apartment building and men in uniform searching the wreckage, “Will he resist the Stymphalian birds?” is followed by jets flying in formation, shooting missiles and dropping bombs on training targets. The last shot of the film is of a bodybuilder’s buttocks as he goes off the stage through the stage curtains.

image

Matta (1985, Chris Marker)
“What I am showing here is no exhibition. It is an appeal: Come and play with me! It’s a very lively game, but nothing happens.” Simple interview with Chilean artist Matta (not surprisingly an Allende supporter), an original member of the surrealist group, talking coherently about his art and all art, human beings, dimension and meaning. Would be nice to get/make a transcript. Would be even nicer to have been able to see the Matta paintings that Marker frames him against, but my video was too low-quality to make out much visual detail.
image

Experimental shorts program at the Nashville Film Festival. Below in italics I’ve quoted their online program notes for each film and added my thoughts in regular text. Unfortunately my memory is very bad and I was neither taking notes nor concentrating on remembering details during the screening, just getting lost in the films, so my thoughts might be wrong or meaningless. I will say it was a cool program, a little saggy in the middle/end but mostly high-quality work, very enjoyable. Most of these were on video, but not the first few I don’t think.

Olivo Barbieri’s Sevilla (06) (Italy 2006,13 min.) is a tale about the perception of Europe in Africa…from the vantage point of an airplane.

Deceptive to call it a “tale” since it’s non-narrative. Also I thought it was from a helicopter – there are helicopter noises on the soundtrack (along with harsh electronic sounds coinciding with some edits, mostly near the beginning and end). I struggled throughout this one to tell if it was out-of-focus, if my eyes had gone funny, or if it’s just supposed to look that way. Didn’t know what city I was ever in, assumed Sevilla, Spain. Whether caused by the focus effect or not, it looked very much like models, a giant, detailed model city, until I’d see traffic moving. Think I liked it, anyway a nice way to start the program. I still remember the percussive music, but I bet I won’t the next time I read this. How to describe music?

Combining live action, stop-frame animation and a kinetic sculpture, Harrachov (Matt Hulse, Joost van Veen, Netherlands 2006, 10 min.) explores the effect of an arcane force that, like a black hole or an immensely powerful electromagnet, exerts a far-reaching and irresistible power upon certain objects and materials, willfully seducing, centralizing and internalizing them.

Junk moves across uninhabited ground towards a sinister shed, pulled by unseen strings, magnets, animated by stop-motion or simply tossed and rolled. Very cool movie, black and white, really brought to life by the great sound effects. We never see the final assembled creation, unless it was obscured in darkness or I blinked and missed it, but it’s shown on the website:
image

In The Drift (Kelly Sears, USA 2008,9 min.), a mysterious disappearance on a space journey gone awry launches the counter-cultural revolution at the end of the 1960s.

Not quite slow-zooms on still 1960’s photos, because slight motion is added to the “photos”. This one had a story and a voiceover, unusual for the program, and the woman next to me whispered “was that experimental?” From the director’s website statement: “The Drift uses frame-by-frame techniques to weave an absurd fable about our country’s unflinching frontierism and the desire to push too far, too fast. Images dug out of thrift store bookshelves and flea market bins are animated to create an alternate take on what really happened behind the face of ground control, the space program, and the American psyche.” A cool little movie about a contagious space-disease, certainly better than The Astronaut’s Wife. The drift theory would probably answer some of Werner Herzog’s questions about the inhabitants of Antarctica.

Sera Sera (John Murphy, USA 2007, 3 min.) sets atomic-bomb-testing footage to a reggae-ized version to hypnotic effect.

Director was in attendance but I had to haul ass to Phantom Love (which it turns out was cancelled, so I could’ve stayed, sorry Mr. Murphy, and sorry also for not being able to remember your film clearly but I do recall that it was short and felt like a good music video and that’s not an insult because I like a good music video). Come to think of it, the music was a trippy “que sera sera” remix. Wait, it’s coming back to me, 60’s footage treated with Tscherkasskian film-off-the-rails effects.

With water imagery as the foundation, Number One (Leighton Pierce, USA 2006,11 min.) engages the experience of elasticity between varying states of mind.

A flowing, sometimes symmetrical composition with a sliver of image in the center, and mirrored or continuous images on the left and right. And sometimes it’s something else entirely. Put me in a happy mood. Can be bought in digital form from the iTunes store.

Dig (Robert Todd, USA 2007, 3 min.) is a constricted frame in agitation, with the sweet music of jackhammers raging throughout – with intermission.

Haha, Mr. Todd, the “sweet music of jackhammers,” I get it. A desperately irritating movie about the annoyance of road construction. Actually, it’s pretty cool visually, rapid-rapid-fire shots of painted road markings spinning and sliding – would watch it again with the sound turned off. This is when people started walking out, about 3-4 per film from now until the end.
image

Kip Masker (Maria Petschnig, Austria 2007, 3 min.) disguises body parts in altered pieces of clothing to create semi-abstract compositions that defamiliarize the human form.

J. Schaffer says: “Soft, strained breathing accompanies the picture, intermixed with the occasional crackling of latex. From the start, I am faced with the task of disentangling the compositions magnified on screen: a hole purposely cut into a white bra with a shoulder muscle swelling over the seams? A white supporter for a packer (a silicone penis), worn the other way around?” And so on. I actually got and appreciated the intention of this film, a rarity for me. People next to me didn’t like it one bit.

The Green Bag/Documentary Happens (Tim Sharp, Austria 2007, 7 min.) is a single take, real-time documentary shot from the terrace of the Circle Hotel restaurant in Gondor, Ethiopia. While it allows a brief look at the density and multiplicity of everyday interactions taking place around the camera, the film also stimulates questions related to defining the essence of what documentary film is as a cultural artifact.

I was mesmerized by a green plastic bag blowing in the wind… dancing with me. Just kidding, I was actually bored to tears by this dull documentary by Wes Bentley, errr Tim Sharp. It stimulated questions like “when will it end?” and “how many more people will walk out?” Movie had a stunt ending: the appearance of a different-colored plastic bag. A different bag! Reminded me very much of Hidden In Plain Sight. Apparently there’s a new trend in filming stuff nobody cares about and calling it an experimental documentary. Paging Andy Warhol…

With super high-speed cinematography, reminiscent of adored science education films from our childhood, gun fetishization is taken to a surrealist extreme in Kogel Vogel (Frederico Campanale, Netherlands 2006, 6 min.).

Gun shoots bullet through glass in super-slo-mo – whoosh! Liked it, but not much there besides art-i-fying those mentioned education films.

In Ariana Gerstein’s 96 (USA 2007, 7 min.), the space between being 90 and 6 is always shifting in this moving picture portrait.

Something about photographs and a little girl? I don’t remember! I think the sensual overload of the next film acted as a memory-blanker.

Daddy I’m Scared (Tijmen Hauer, Netherlands 2006, 4 min.) is an iconoclastic video piece consisting of thirteen different children’s cartoons layered on top of one another, transforming their innocent qualities to an aggressive and mesmerizing inferno of image and sound.

Almost interesting, but the clips don’t seem to be meaningfully combined, just thrown atop each other to form a red-tinted fiery Disney nightmare. I recognized Aladdin by sound and Hunchback by visual. It was short at least.

In Light Is Waiting (Michael Robinson, USA 2007, 11 min.), a very special episode of television’s Full House devours itself from the inside out, excavating a hypnotic nightmare of a culture lost at sea.

The one I’d been looking forward to (and the reason I didn’t wander away unhappily during the green plastic bag doc) didn’t quite live up to expectations. Funnier as described to me than to actually watch. Excerpt of a Full House ep (which Katy remembers) where they drop a TV from a great height turns into SCREAMING BLINKING PAIN turns into a mirrored, folding-in-upon-itself color-tinted noisy nightmare, an extreme slow-mo excerpt from a different episode on some fantasy island (which Katy also remembers). Good move equating Full House with shrieking hell, but not actually much fun to watch. I want some Peter Tscherkassky, please.