In a Lynch mood, rounding up some pieces I hadn’t seen, or not lately.


Fictitious Anacin Commercial (1967)

A one-minute lark, man in a rural jump-cut rocking chair (next to a bloody sack or dress) has a headache, the anacin gets him up dancing again. Big music, some weird slo-mo, and Jack Fisk is obviously the man.


BlueBob Egg (2004)

Not gonna count this as a movie, it’s a single take of a dude in a mask getting arrested. No BlueBob music included. Web video from the old site?


I Touch a Red Button (2011)

He certainly does touch a red button – that’s about all he does, more or less to the beat of a good Interpol song I don’t recognize, from when I lost track of them post-Antics. Animated character, just three or four frames, with manic camera blur. The title hangs above the little long-nosed button-smashing guy the entire time. Pretty great, honestly.


Lamp (2003)

Making the colored based of a two-toned yellow and grey lamp
Discussed: lunch, coffee, pissing in the sink
There’s a score, a light beat.
“future home of Disc of Sorrow” sign is visible.


Idem Paris (2013)

I’ve seen this before, endlessly watchable mini-doc of the men and machinery making a series of prints of one of Lynch’s artworks.


Ant Head (2018)

Not the head of an ant, but a head covered in ants, scored by some good noise music. The head is composited onto a still background of power lines, the edges matted off so ants walking over the top side vanish into the background. At the end the image reverses and slowly zooms in, a little radio play monologue about Pete vs. the woodcutters. Based on a Thought Gang song that was based on a cancelled Twin Peaks video game sequel.


The Spider and the Bee (2020)

A pretty long time to spend in a spider web, but the shadow of the lead characters (the spider wins) and the light off the web held my attention. Some light ambient music, and best of all is the sound effects, not just assigned to the creatures, but also the camera moves.


David Lynch: The Art Life (2016, Barnes & Nguyen & Neergaard-Holm)

Nice little doc about Lynch’s history and art career, as told by the man himself. Got inspired to watch this after Lamp, which I still slightly prefer, though this is obvs valuable and got a standalone Criterion blu release, so what do I know. Sync sound is rare, swearing is common. Real Blue Velvet vibes when he talks about living three different lives at once during high school and tells a story of an upset naked woman walking down his street one night. Surprised to hear him say Philadelphia was really good for him. After The Alphabet, David got a day job at a printer – he likes printers (see Idem Paris) but hates day jobs – then won an AFI grant, made The Grandmother in their apartment, AFI people helped him get into an advanced filmmaking program in L.A. where he made Eraserhead.

The Day of Destruction (2020, Toshiaki Toyoda)

A movie shot quickly in 2020, in which a masked woman screams that we’re all dying and can’t even hold funerals. A man pays his way into a closed mine, walks for a very long time, music only appearing as periodic blasts of static, looks at the epidemic-causing monster for ten seconds then turns around. We hear unconfirmed rumors of a Masque situation, the rich waiting out the plague together in an estate. But it’s an arthouse punk movie, and instead of going anyplace narrative it stays slow and philosophical. Issey Ogata (emperor of The Sun) appears, and I recognized the professor from Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. Some good percussion on the soundtrack almost saves the movie, not quite.


The Tell-Tale Heart (1941, Jules Dassin)

Sorry to say I prefer the 1950’s animated version, the 2005 animated version, and the expressionist version all over this one. Dassin’s film debut is pretty good, with some cool lighting and camera moves, but the cinema is rich with Tell-Tale Hearts, and the 1940’s were the least frightening decade in the movies, unless you count the newsreels. Joseph Schildkraut (an oscar winner a few years before) isn’t even tormented by the evil vulture eye of the old man (Roman Bohnen, later Ingrid Bergman’s uncle in Joan of Arc), he’s just unstable and tired of being told what to do by such a miserable geezer, and he’s a terrible liar when the cops come around.


Metrograph ran a series of very average old-timey holiday shorts…

The Cuckoo Murder Case (1930, Ub Iwerks)

One of those cartoons where every single object is anthropomorphized, all swaying to the rhythm of the score. Detective Flip The Frog is on the case of a murdered cuckoo. I think Flip escapes into hell at the end but I’ll have to watch the sequel to be sure.


KoKo’s Haunted House (1928, Dave Fleischer)

KoKo sends his dog into the haunted house, too chicken to go himself. Primitive silent animation, with plenty of ghosts – some frantic out-of-the-inkwell stop-motion saves it at the end.


Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party (1933, Dave Fleischer)

Oh, I last watched this short from Clay’s collection at the Plaza. Those were good times.


The Haunted Ship (1930, Bailey & Davis & Foster)

A couple of dumbasses flying a tiny plane tempt fate until fate sinks them, so they explore a haunted ship on the sea floor. Hard to return to something this primitive after the Boop. I thought the sync sound would be limited to sound effects until a barbershop quartet of drunken turtles sang Sweet Adeline


Pete’s Haunted House (1926, Walter Lantz)

Cheeseball animator who puts on a suit to work from home keeps a cartoon dog in a model house in his office, sadistically torments the dog every chance he gets. The dog discovers the plot and blows the man to bits, good ending at least.


The Cobweb Hotel (1936, Dave Fleischer)

A fly hotel run by a spider, uh oh. Champion fighter fly and his equally strong wife bust it up and free the fly-prisoners. Pretty inventive. Our print was pink.


Felix the Cat Switches Witches (1927, Otto Mesmer)

After being a total dick and pranking everyone around, Felix gets his fortune told and learns he’ll marry and have a bunch of kids, but his bride is a horrible witch. Naw, it’s a hot girl cat in a witch costume.


Bold King Cole (1936, Burt Gillett)

Felix is just trying to get inside from a thunderstorm, ends up at Old King Cole’s castle. The King is a loudmouth braggart, and the castle ghosts have chosen this night to torment him for it. Felix harnesses the lightning to rescue the king. I was rooting for the ghosts.


The Garden (2019, Patrick Müller)

Real 60’s 8mm-looking film of Savannah trees (reminded me of Charleston, which we’ve visited more recently) with a spoken Lovecraft poem. A nice breather after the cartoons.


The Pit and the Pendulum (1964, Alexandre Astruc)

Back to the classics – this is our third Pendulum on the blog, sticking closer to the original Poe story since the Stuart Gordon and the Roger Corman added whole plots to expand out to feature length. This is the mid-60’s version of arthouse slow cinema, entranced narrator speaking the story we see playing out with Maurice Ronet (star of The Fire Within) alone in the torture chamber. His great idea with minutes left to live is to have the rats chew through his ropes – I’d think that would take longer, but it works. The walls close in to force him into the pit, then they stop short, because just then, at that moment, the 350-year reign of the Spanish Inquisition ends. So it’s pretty much just as narratively suspect as the Stuart Gordon, but nice and short. Astruc was a pre-Cahiers auteurist known for his blandly-titled feature Une Vie.

Up to the Expressionism chapter in the Vogel. Our Lady of the Turks was a bust, and I had Viva La Muerte lined up but it sounds depressing, so I’m turning to shorts: three from Expressionism then three from Surrealism.


The Reality of Karel Appel (1962, Jan Vrijman)

The artist looks like he is fencing with the painting, and the camera. Short doc portraits of artists aren’t usually the most creative, so I was surprised to see that Vogel picked a few. This is really good, with a jazz montage of Appel cruising a junkyard, and crashing sfx as he attacks a canvas. Appel contributed his own music.


Visual Training (1969, Frans Zwartjes)

Stonefaced blackeyed man eats his jam and toast in a bowl, then smears his breakfast all over a nude woman on the table. There’s lots of posing, and looking into the camera. Sounds like a Kurt Kren actionist short, but unlike Kren’s, this one is actually good. No audio, I played the opening track to Zorn’s Heaven & Earth Magick. Zwartjes made about thirty more films, and if they’re available somewhere I’d consider a marathon.


The Liberation of Mannique Mechanique (1967, Steven Arnold)

Another short with heavily made-up topless women, this time with less posing, the actors and camera in constant movement. Good use is made of feathers and a glass table, multiple takes of the same scene are strung together. Some pretty-whatever music, I should’ve kept playing Zorn. Debut short of Arnold, a Dalí associate.


Magritte: The Object Lesson (1960, Luc de Heusch)

Cutouts of the paintings fade into each other. I barely know Magritte’s name but I know some of these images – “This Is Not a Pipe” and the hatted man facing away from us. He painted more birds than I realized. Vogel: “one of the few films to deal with the philosophical basis of contemporary art,” true enough. De Heusch worked with Storck, and previous to this he made a film about eating, which would’ve also fit into this program.


Eaten Horizons (1950, Wilhelm Freddie & Jorgen Roos)

Weirdo little short with abrupt picture and sound editing, fetishizing loaves of bread. A woman is opened up so her insides can be eaten, a loaf is cut and bleeds goopy guts. Freddie provides the art-world weirdness here, Roos (who’d just made a Cocteau doc) the cinema experience.


The World of Paul Delvaux (1946, Henri Storck)

Forming a trilogy of short docs about painters. I didn’t dig the music or the dramatic poetry reading, but it’s cool to zoom in and around the paintings, lingering on background details. This one’s all paintings – unlike the other two, the artist doesn’t appear in person. Vogel: “Storck’s outstanding work extends from early radical documentaries to later surrealist films.” He also worked with Ivens, and his other stuff looks interesting; political.

Cityscape (2019, Michael Snow)

This looks and sounds great, I must remember to watch it often. Snow is up to his old tricks, the camera across the river from the Toronto skyline, tracking down then up (an almost-invisible cut in the water), left and right, a drumbeat soundtrack increasing in speed and intensity along with the camera, whipping back and forth, then slowing down and adding rotation into the mix, never going the full Centrale, staying on one axis at a time, finally spinning off in the sky.


Train Again (2021, Peter Tscherkassky)

Strobing between trains and horses, combining images so it looks like horse action is being projected onto the side of a train, or the train is the physical filmstrip. Then tracks-as-filmstrip, colliding into each other, always in motion. And this being Tscherkassky he shows the filmstrip itself sliding around, overlapping other images, displaying printed soundtrack and fetishizing sprocket holes. Some visual and sound segments are identifiably looped, some images inverted and posterized. Not sure why Danny bikes in from The Shining but it made me laugh to see him here. A theater audience is strobed against a parade of Lumiere films, then of course The Great Train Robbery appears. Screaming brakes and smash-ups dissolve into shards – I can’t tell if this is Evan Johnson-style digital melt or if my encoded copy just can’t keep up with the motion. The flicker on this thing must really be something in a theater. Closes with a Kren appreciation, the train rounding the bend, having survived history and catastrophe.


Log 0 (2019, Isiah Medina)

Silent but for one burst of rain, this feels like a random assemblage of things, daily life and filmmaking excerpts. I’d thought of the title as mathematical, but oh, it’s an activity log, like the little end-of-year videos I make but Medina-style. Towards the end piano music comes in and the shots get longer, and there’s somebody sketching some curves, so maybe it’s mathematical after all, or both.


Duck Duck (2019, Harmony Korine)

Dance-beat instagram-filter hot dog furries go on a gentle hotel-trashing rampage. My first Korine movie since Trash Humpers is under four minutes long and could’ve been a minute shorter, so I dunno how I feel about tackling the 95-minute The Beach Bum anytime soon. Description says this “exploring the emerging disciplines of wearable cinema, augmented reality, and spontaneous storytelling.”


White Echo (2019, Chloe Sevigny)

Kickass little movie about a group of women using a ouija board in an old house, a spirit following medium Kate Lyn Sheil home. Groovy music, too.


Point and Line to Plane (2020, Sofia Bohdanowicz)

Easily my favorite Bohdan/Campbell, dedicated to the memory of the two departed friends mentioned in the voiceover, so some truth in the story here. Ghosts and movement (fast horizontal camera pans) tie this to the other shorts watched today. Art (Hilma af Klimt) and color and patterns are discussed as DC travels to cities and museums, ruminating on two late friends.


La Chanson de Prévert (2021, Michel Gondry)

Apparent cutout animation of an autumn leaf that produces radical temporal effects on anything it touches, set to an upbeat French pop song. Tremendous.


Figure Minus Fact (2020, Mary Helena Clark)

Still frames at first. Bells and silence… insects and fishes. Not sure what it’s going for, but it’s in crisp HD and some of the images are very nice. There are numbered “figures” (demonstrating insects that blend in with plant life) but most figures are presented unnumbered, sans fact.


Nimic (2019, Yorgos Lanthimos)

The Lanthimos short with the great poster and music. Considering laying down my rock records and getting really into Britten and Ferrari, but I need to finish Tom Waits Mode first. A little movie with big music and camerawork, Matt Dillon happens upon a mimic (Daphne Patakia of Benedetta) on the subway, who replaces him in his home and profession. Mimicking Lanthimos’s usual cinematographer is Diego García, who shot Cemetery of Splendor.


The Bucket (2019, Jia Zhangke)

Ohhh no, I was gonna say the music sounds like a TV ad, but this WAS a TV ad, a “shot on iPhone” promo about a guy traveling from the country to the city with a heavy bucket packed by his mom, which turns out to contain eggs from her farm packed in sand. Not gonna count this as a Jia film, just a paycheck, but at least there was bird tossing.


The Names Have Changed Including My Own (2019, Onyeka Igwe)

Archival slideshow, then british-accented narrator speaks of reading a book about her grandfather. Australian? A mother walks off with her infant twins. A darkened-stage dance routine, really nice photography. Discussion with her father or an uncle over a video version of the slave trade story featuring the grandfather. Facemask and hand sanitizer in a 2019 movie. A silent film is run and described in real-time but only the film reels and equipment are shown. Story of separated twins who reunite late in life. These threads run one after another, shorter and faster towards the end. The film about trains and the research family history in archival media really ties this nicely to the Tscherkassky and Bohdanowicz shorts.


The Return of Tragedy (2020, Bertrand Mandico)

“A smile is not a peaceful act, it’s a carnivorous statement.” In English and great color, Elina undead flying her internal organs like a kite while a cultist named Kate Bush confuses the cops. Scenario repeats with different details and results. The casio music and kooky weirdness recalls Quentin Dupieux. Yann Gonzalez also came to mind, or rather I was trying to remember if Mandico is the filmmaker who’s in M83, but no that’s Gonzalez, who is mentioned in the credits.

Not part of my slow delve into Film as a Subversive Art – my copy has no index, so I don’t yet know if Smith is covered within – rather a holdover from when I read Visionary Film. Quotes below are by Smith, as printed in the latter book.


Film No. 1 (1939)

Fast, blobby, hand-drawn animation morphs along a speckled screen. I likened the characters to amoebas, then blew my own mind thinking about the similarities between actions on a microscope slide and on a film frame. “The history of the geologic period reduced to orgasm length.”


Film No. 2 (1941)

Full moon circles pendulum and pac-man across the screen, a 2×2 grid of squares joining them center screen.


Film No. 3 (1946)

Hashtag: The Movie… rectangles form the number sign, then more complicated grids and block patterns, some diamonds thrown into the mix, a lot more complex than the last couple films. The rapid-fire circles of the second movie broke up in compression artifacts on my video copy, but the brilliant colors of this one made up for that. “The most complex hand-drawn film imaginable.”


Film No. 4 (1947)

Short, using an actual camera I think. Familiar circle and grid shapes, as lights, smearing across the screen in multiple exposure blends. “Made in a single night.”


Film No. 5: Circular Tensions (1949)

The technique of the previous piece, refined and improved, with more colors coming in.


Film No. 7 (1951)

Long and great, a huge leap forward. Looks like someone got a proper animation rig (courtesy of the Guggenheim Foundation) and applied all his favorite colors, shapes and patterns to it – brings to mind Oskar Fischinger (I wrote this before discovering that Film No. 5 was aka Homage to Oskar Fischinger).


Film No. 10 (1956)

Another big change – instead of just shapes, we’ve got character-objects. They seem to be based on foreign historical/religious icons, dancing around and forming miniature pantomimes. “An exposition of Buddhism and the Kaballa in the form of a collage.”

Snake made of eyeballs:


Film No. 11 (1956)

Some of the same religious icons/patterns as the previous movie, nicely synched to a Thelonious Monk piece. Possibly the previous films had also been synched, since per the literature, “Smith spoke of his films in terms of synesthesia, the search for correspondences between color and sound,” but the earliest films had no synched soundtracks, and Smith kept changing the music – including at one point awkwardly overlaying Meet The Beatles over the whole collection, as in my copy.


Film No. 12: Heaven and Earth Magic (1962)

Small man with a hammer reconfigures objects, animals and women from/into pieces. Narrativish with sound effects, no music. Fully Gilliamesque, cut-out characters, always with something else hiding behind/beneath them. A house grows feet and walks off, machines with multi-hinged arms, umbrellas, syringes, eggs and watermelons, dripping liquid. One scene reminds me I haven’t seen Guy Maddin’s Odilon Redon in a while.

“8 shots for a quarter, win a kewpie doll,” funny to hear the carnival barker on the soundtrack the day after watching Gun Crazy. I don’t know if I can recommend watching 70 straight minutes of Harry Smith cutout animation. About the 20th time the magician brings out the hammer to reconfigure all nearby objects into new forms, I wondered if this wouldn’t be better served as an installation. And it might be appropriate to the depicted characters, but the sounds of crying babies and yowling cats never improve a movie.

“The first part depicts the heroine’s toothache consequent to the loss of a very valuable watermelon, her dentistry and transportation to heaven. Next follows an elaborate exposition of the heavenly land, in terms of Israel, Montreal and the second part depicts the return to Earth from being eaten by Max Muller on the day Edward the Seventh dedicated the Great Sewer of London.”

Boro in the Box (2011)

Just watched some early Borowczyk so I’m checking out Mandico’s terrific biopic. It is so reverent of Boro’s wife/actress, and so dismissive of Lenica. A bit of Cronenberg there at the end when the camera becomes a living organ.


Memories of a Boobs Flasher (2014)

Elina Löwensohn solo show, repeats a four-minute monologue twice. It’s good to see that Mandico has had the same interests from the beginning, and The Wild Boys feature didn’t come out of nowhere but was a culmination.


Prehistoric Cabaret (2014)

Absolutely the most GuyMaddinist shit I’ve ever seen, GuyMaddiner than some Guy Maddin films, but still with some Cronenberg edge. These are not complaints, this is what movies should be doing. The Boro camera reappears. More dialogue repetition, this one’s about a camera that is inserted into the body. In color and English, wild.


Depressive Cop (2016)

A different sort of thing, in English again and partly filmed like a grey VHS dupe. More of those obsessions, merging with islands and becoming fruit/crab/milk. Aphex Twin t-shirt cameo.


Blow Up, Le Cri dans l’œil (2019)

Let’s not forget Lynch in our list of influences. This is simply a montage of some of the best screams and yells and shouts in modern cinema, which keeps returning to Wild at Heart.

Street Art (1957, Konstanty Gordon)

To begin with, a short doc on street posters, the profession Lenica and Borowczyk started out in – its history and function and form and prevalence. Narrator, upbeat orchestral music, the main attraction here is seeing a montage of good poster art.


Once Upon a Time (1957)

Magic: the poster art comes alive. Wordless adventures of some ever shifting graphic design elements, fond of fashioning themselves into creatures and hats, interacting with clip art. Playful organ music, some strobing scraps of concert footage, a cute and inventive little movie.


Requited Feelings (1958)

This one’s more limited because it’s based on someone else’s paintings (Jan Plaskocinski), which B&L bring to life the best they can through fast cuts and pans. It tells a story using intertitles of a man looking for love. The film editor would later make No End with Kieslowski.


Banner of Youth (1957)

McLaren-esque abstract animated pieces, with separate quick blasts of every kind of news and sports and entertainment footage, a cultural survey in two minutes set to lively jazz.


Strip-Tease (1957)

This and the previous short were commissioned advertisements for a newspaper, I think. Male and female abstract characters, she “strips” her outer layers revealing newsprint, the messages on which knock him out. Cuter than it sounds.


School (1958)

A rifleman performs training exercises, is pestered by a fly, can’t get his rifle to fire, then dreams of dancing legs, all in live-stop-motion (or very low framerate photography). Some light horn music, heavy percussion and frequent whistle blasts. Composer Andrzej Markowski had already scored A Generation, and would soon do the MST3K-approved First Spaceship on Venus.


Dom (1958)

This one is like an entire Flying Circus episode, bringing together all the techniques from the previous shorts into an anthology of episodes witnessed by a woman before she stops to make out with a decaying mannequin head. Before that, we’ve got sci-fi poster art, early cinema motion studies, archive photography and storybook pages, a man stuck in a time-loop room, and a stop-motion wig consuming or destroying everything on a table. I’d watched this before, ages ago, in a poor copy.


Boro would go on to become a major director of nudie flicks, and I just found out that an early Bertrand Mandico film was a tribute to him.

The woman in Dom was Ligia Branice, aka Mrs. Walerian Borowczyk, who also appeared in La Jetee. Chris Marker also contributed to Boro’s Les Astronautes the following year, and must have been influenced by the photography in these films.

Lenica would later make the feature Adam 2, about a guy who escapes his drab life into an animated fantasy world, and a feature adaptation of one of Alfred Jarry’s pre-dada Pere Ubu plays, then a final half-hour short with Piotr Dumala.

Really very uninterested in tennis, so of course when I sign up to Metrograph they are showing tennis films, centering on William Klein’s doc The French. I watched Wes Anderson’s intro to that, then moved straight to this mid-length (or long-short) followup to Rat Film, very much a precursor to the electronic surveillance of All Light, Everywhere – what is observable and provable, either by man or by camera/computer, etc.

Then Katy and I watched a beautiful copy of Broadway by Light, and I meant to follow up with the Canadian/Chinese table tennis doc by Marcel Carrière, but instead rewatched Perfect Fifths.

I half-remembered this from watching Eros at the Landmark way back then, and the new remaster gives us a good excuse to revisit. Gong Li is a high-class call girl, whose life/career hits a rocky patch, then she has to move into a dank moldy place and gets the croup. Chen Chang is her devoted tailor in good times and bad. Besides all the perfect costuming and sumptuous dim-light photography, highlight is a scene of erotic dumpling stuffing.


There’s Only One Sun (2007)

Found this short, nonsensical spy drama on vimeo, with horrid video compression compared to The Hand blu-ray. It’s a commissioned television ad that culminates in Amélie Daure of Frontier(s) making out with her flatscreen. Before that, there’s some talk off finding an untraceable person(?) named The Light, a flashback structure, a couple murders – that’s a lot for Wong, who likes to let his camera linger, to pull off in eight minutes. Mostly it seems designed to show the brightest colors possible, bleeding into each other, to impress the rubes when the brightness is cranked up at the Best Buy video wall. No need for too many new ideas – songs are reused from the 2046 soundtrack.