The opener was… Nerenai? That’s what I wrote down, though it’s not listed on the fest schedule… two women with two guitars, mic and drum machine.

You Can’t Stop Spirit (Vashni Korin)
Portrait of the Mardi Gras “Baby Dolls” shot like a Beyoncé video with dialogue loops and callbacks, fun. This came to mind again during the Big Ears festivities.

In Flow of Words (Eliane Esther Bots)
My fave of the bunch, though I remember it the least well now. Widescreen stories of translators who work on genocide trials.

The Last Days of August (Robert Machoian & Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck)
I knew the Killing of Two Lovers guy was going to be in this program, and recognized his style from the first frame… portrait of dying Nebraskan towns.

Our Ark (Deniz Tortum & Kathryn Hamilton)
3D models and simulationism. Our second Deniz collaborative short.

Nuisance Bear (Jack Weisman & Gabriela Osio Vanden)
Katy gave this a thumbs-down. Widescreen gliding camera discovers creatures on the outskirts of Canadian towns: snow rabbit, dogs, foxes, and the bears, who are caged and deported when they dare to involve themselves in the human civilization that has encroached on their territory and now comes out to gape at them as they migrate.

We showed up for the feature Dos Estaciones (Juan Pablo González), a re-enactment about an extremely buttoned-up woman running a failing tequila factory, but we ditched to get food and rest – it’s a lot of movies to watch over a long weekend.

Earthearthearth (2021 Daichi Saito)

Opens with sunrise/sunsets, light tentatively emerging then retreating, broken up with ugly digital artifacting and with one of those a-g drone tracks that says “I didn’t have any sound in mind but I want to act like it’s a sound film so the viewer doesn’t put on an Abraxas album.” But the drone gets bigger and more complex as the visuals turn into fullscreen desert landscapes, superimposed over different ones, infected by huge color tinting – purple-blues, blue-and-gold. The radiation-green with Argento-red section is incredible, as the drone starts to sound like a processed bowed string instrument. I went back and forth on digital/analogue and finally decided it’s scanned film run through a panel of analog video processing effects – am I right? (nope, chemical-processed 16mm). Just a half hour of looking at lights flicker over mountains, but it’s the most times I’ve said “whoa” out loud while watching any movie this year. Eventually I started daydreaming about putting on The Grandmaster, but the Grainy Cloud Explosions finale was worth sticking around for.


The Head That Killed Everyone (2014 Beatriz Santiago Muñoz)

Voice reads methodically, as if from a lesson plan, some lines about the energies that go into casting a proper spell. Then a woman does a long dance in medium close-up without music, just the sounds of the night and an approaching thunderstorm. Not as exciting as its title, which I took to be the opposite energy of that Flaming Lips song.


13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (2020 Ana Vaz)

Another woman reading, this time onscreen but out of sync, a crackly vinyl loop overlaid on the soundtrack, until it suddenly is not. To be uncharitable to the experimental shorts, they revel in adding and removing elements on a random timeline. Title card. Instead of seeing a scenario, we see someone with eyes closed, her voiceover telling us the scenario she’s envisioning. After a couple of those, the camera at least shows a scene that kinda represents what the person dreamed. I think each title card is a line from the opening monologue, so each chapter expands on a section of that. And they mention blackbirds pretty often, though any birds the camera or mic pick up seem pretty incidental to their “what are images, what is the meaning of anything” conversations. Forgot I wanted to save this movie to double-feature with There Are Not Thirty-Six Ways of Showing a Man Getting on a Horse.


Glimpses from a Visit to Orkney in Summer 1995 (2020 Ute Aurand)

Silent defocused montage of extreme close-ups on colorful things – flowers, farm animals, gramma. A personal diary-travelogue short, a-g-style.


What Distinguishes The Past (2020 Ben Russell)

Long take of a fireworks display in reverse motion, neat. I’m glad I watched this, because it’s got a playful reversal on what I consider (based on Let Each One and A Spell to Ward) to be Russell’s signature: handheld cam following a person walking in real-time over terrain. This time the people are walking in reverse, shot from the front, composited into the terrain, and it’s all over in four minutes.


Kyiv Frescoes (1966 Sergei Parajanov)

After Pomegranates and Ancestors, it’s fun to see a Parajanov with modern costumes. This picks up the pace from Pomegranates, practically playing like a silent comedy, though one with impeccable compositions, prominently placed symbolic objects, and few (but some!) actual jokes. Besides being a playful compositional art object, it’s a choreographed dance film and I dunno, maybe a history lesson. I know I’m ridiculous for thinking this might have been about actual Kyiv frescoes, imagining a tour in the style of Varda’s Les Dites Cariatides.

This was to be his followup feature to Ancestors but was shut down during production, so these scenes are outtakes from that project – then he’d develop this new style into Pomegranates. Per The Calvert Journal:

Parajanov intended to set this loosely-structured metaphorical film on the day of the city’s liberation from Nazi troops — but wanted to centre it around a museum, praising beauty and art rather than heroism and patriotism. The production of the film was terminated by the state studio, who deemed Parajanov’s experiments inappropriate for the subject.


The Balloonatic (1923 Buster Keaton)

The most random of the shorts, moving from a haunted house to hot air balloon to canoe, with fishes and bulls and bears along the way. Buster is a ridiculous idiot here with moments of brilliance – and the girl he keeps bumping into is mostly capable with moments of incompetence, so they’re made for each other. Phyllis Haver is his lead actress – a Sennett and DeMille star in the silent era, before something went wrong 40 years on; she took a lot of pills and died.


The Blacksmith (1922 Buster Keaton)

I suppose he’s more capable here, but mostly oblivious. A blacksmith’s assistant, he ruins two cars and two horses, and gets the blacksmith (Big Joe Roberts, of course) arrested, ends up on a chase, hopping a train to elope with customer Virginia Fox. The casual use of hot metal and blowtorches produce some wincey stunts. Better use of a balloon in this short than in The Balloonatic.

Superman (1941 Dave Fleischer)

Wait, everyone on Krypton had superpowers, and Superman was raised on Earth in an orphanage? Mr. White is the newspaper boss. Lois flies a plane, is the only person investigating the letter they got saying an electrothanasia ray would cause devastation at midnight, the villain a mohawked creep, vaguely popeye-voiced, with a pet vulture. “This looks like a job for Superman,” Kent says casually the next day, after Lois is kidnapped and many people are dead, goes out and punches the electric ray into submission (and unforgivably, saves the girl and the villain but not the vulture). A silly story, but check out these colors.


The Mechanical Monsters (1941 Dave Fleischer)

These have a catchy theme song. Another rich mad scientist, this one in a purple suit and twirlable mustache, has developed drone technology – radio-controlled bank-robbing robots. Haha, when Lois and Clark are present at the next robbery, Clark steps into a booth to “phone this in” and… he phones it in! He just calls the newspaper office… it doesn’t occur to him to use the booth to become Superman until later. Lois is of course kidnapped, dangled over a smelter. I suppose all of these stories end the same way, with rescued Lois’s cover story in the paper the next day while Clark winks at the camera.

Everyone on Krypton also sports a Magic Cape:


Let’s Sing with Popeye (1934 Dave Fleischer)

Oh no, this was a two-minute short where Popeye punches some of his own stuff aboard a boat, then sings his theme song in a low, disinterested voice with follow-the-bouncing-ball lyrics.


Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions (1933 Dave Fleischer)

Opens with fireworks with live cats inside, so it’s gonna be good. Betty and friends are at a giant trade show under a circus tent, showing off different impractical inventions. She and Bimbo escape after a haywire sewing machine goes on a rampage, presumably hundreds of people are dead.


In the Future (2019 Phil Mulloy)

Absurd shadow-characters discuss the future. Very short, and a quarter of the runtime is a guy peeing. Phil has been out there since the 1970’s, making a pile of shorts and some features.


Endgame (2015 Phil Mulloy)

Two guys leave the city for some weekend war games and get more war than they bargained for. Stick figure art, the roughly drawn backgrounds include random-seeming numbers and figures. I was with it until the gang-rape joke.


Peter & the Wolf (2006 Suzie Templeton)

Great birds in this: an emotional support duck and a crow tied to a balloon, and terrific camera perspectives and stop motion work. Peter just wants to play in the backyard with his friends, help the crow with bad wings pretend to fly, and skate on the frozen pond, but grandpa wants him to stay indoors because there’s a wolf out there. The boy traps the wolf after it eats his comfort-duck, but frees the wolf at the end rather than hand it over to the ruffian townies. No dialogue, so it premiered with live orchestra accompaniment, and won the oscar, obviously.


My Love (2006 Aleksandr Petrov)

Another half-hour movie based on a Russian story featuring ducks, a cat in a tree, and some good birds. 16-year-old gives a crystal duck to a girl he likes, is figuring out what love is. He dreams of marrying his family’s poor maid, also starts worshipping a hot neighbor, but he is finally weird to the neighbor and when he becomes sick with brain fever the maid leaves to become a nun. My DVD copy isn’t high-res enough to get the full effect, but this is lovely – painted frames, smearing the backgrounds as the characters move past, exploding into fantasy scenes in the kid’s imagination. Feels too wordy, watching so soon after Peter & the Wolf. Petrov’s followup to his great Old Man and the Sea.


The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1981 Mark Hall)

It took a minute to even realize this was stop-motion; my copy’s contrast is off. The opposite of the Petrov in that the wordless animation moments are alright but it comes to life when the narrator is going off – he is Robert Hardy of the 1970’s version of The Green Knight, reading the original poem. Obviously not a movie to explore unless you’re ready to see hundreds of stop-motion rats. Jiri Barta also made a version, which would be worth digging up. A good effort for England, who still had ten years to wait until Wallace & Gromit. Hall was a British TV veteran, working on Danger Mouse among others.


Who Would Comfort Toffle? (1980 Johan Hagelback)

Toffle is alone and scared with nobody to talk to when the night monsters come, so he ditches his house and wanders to find somewhere new. Limited storybook animation with a rock musical soundtrack. The Hemulens are giant things outside that are maybe moomins? Real kids stuff, cute – you don’t see a lot of Swedish mythology cartoons.


The Chimney Thief (1944 Paul Grimault)

A thief who steals lightning rods and uses them to pole-vault across the rooftops is a pretty great idea. What ever happened to lightning rods anyway? You don’t see them around much. The scene where he distracts a guard dog with a wind-up mechanical bone is simply odd, all the character animation timing wonky. Their stretchy rubber-band bodies seem Boop-inspired. Nothing more to it than a rod thief outsmarting two identical cops chasing after him, some typical chase scene bits, but remarkably good use of 3D space. Grimault worked with Jacques Demy and made some other widely-acclaimed works that I’ve meant to find.


Birds/Ptakhy (2012 Mykyta Liksov)

Unlike the Blackbird short, this movie called Birds is about birds – this is all I ask for. The birds dance through the air, form couples and nests on the last above-water structures of a flooded Earth, except for one who swims underwater in search of a fallen spouse and finds a glowing egg in the irradiated wreckage of human civilization. I was already enjoying this before its all-timer end-credits sequence.


The Baby Birds of Norman McLaren (2014 Mirai Mizue)

Aha, someone is into maximalist mutations, colorful patterns, and bright pop music. Someone watched the entire McLaren DVD set and took away all the correct lessons, turning in a fun, short, snappy piece with tributes to Norman’s different animation and sound sync styles.


The Big Snit (1985 Richard Condie)

Squiggle-vision cartoon about a domestic squabble over a scrabble game while nuclear war is beginning outside. Between the two Ukraine-related shorts and this one, I hadn’t meant to get so topical tonight. The couple reconciles just in time to be vaporized, a happy ending. This and Condie’s La Salla are maybe over-acclaimed, but I like his very random sense of humor, and he also produced The Cat Came Back.

Lie Lie Lie (2007 Martha Colburn)

Animated music video, cutout characters with swivel limb joints are always grabbing each other and falling from heights. Judging from his wiki photo, the male lead in the video is based on musician Serj Tankian (System of a Down).


O Black Hole! (2020 Renee Zhan)

Wow, pencil and watercolors on Rejected textured paper gives an intro story on how a woman who couldn’t let go of anything became a black hole, then we go inside to a stop-motion tower and a girl (“the singularity”) who has to climb to the top and free the entrapped people and seasons and planets. So it’s a reverse Mad God – climbing out of the darkness. The paint-swirl black hole transitions into the stop-motion world are nice. And it’s a musical. Presented online by Locarno in February, even though the festival’s in August.


Journey to the East (2021 Eve Liu)

The start of a three hour(!) Metrograph shorts program that I didn’t feel like tackling in its entirety. A Chinese-American Western, had good lighting, and finger jewelry, and Ashes of Time-style slow-mo. Feels like an ad, I dunno for what, maybe for itself.


Daffy Doodles (1946 Robert McKimson)

A full-bodied Daffy, all his parts in sync, is a mad graffitist, painting mustaches on all posters and pig cops. Some unusual 3D perspective stuff, good gags and a daffier Duck than normal – I approve.


On Memory (2021 Don Hertzfeldt)

The new piece for the World of Tomorrow blu-ray is a Don monologue on exactly that, placing his voice into characters from his past films, and wonderful new ones. “A movie is something that will eventually spend more time living in our heads than the time we took to experience it.”


Voyage of a Hand (1985 Raoul Ruiz)

Europeans fondle their African art. A mustache man with two souls communicates through whistling. A guy says that all human voyages take the form of a hand, then he screams in pain. Others look at the man’s hand and see maps and patterns. He later travels carrying his own severed hand as a magic talisman, then sews his eyes shut, relying only on the hand to see the world. Obviously needs further study – should be watched annually, alongside Dog’s Dialogue, Zig-Zag, Le Film a Venir, and The Gift.

I watched all the shorts I could find called The Letter,
and some related shorts that were on the same DVDs.


The Letter (2008 Gael Garcia Bernal)

“Achieve universal education” – this is from an anthology in which overqualified filmmakers (Sissako, Wenders, Gaspar Noé) created little issues dramas. Bernal had made one feature before this and never really took off as a director. Mustache man Ingvar Sigurdsson (lately star of A White, White Day, soon to be seen in The Northman) is working in Iceland. He helps his son with homework, reads to him. Any time he’s not talking with his kid, a narrator is speaking, and none of this is in English or subtitled on my disc, so I dunno, but the man seems to be divorced and the only letter they receive is a credit card bill.


The Water Diary (2008 Jane Campion)

From the same anthology as the Bernal. Drought caused by climate change causes a farming town to fall apart. The little girl at the center loses her horses, loses her uncle to suicide, spends the day pretend-galloping with her cousin through the dry riverbed. The neighbors tell each other their dreams of rain, and imagine that if the prettiest girl in town plays her viola atop a hill, the clouds will gather and weep. Second movie I’ve seen in a year where people collect their tears in jars. Lovely short, even on DVD, with some unusual visuals. The lead girl later played opposite Elle Fanning in Ginger & Rosa.


The Letter (1971 James Gore & Adam Beckett)

Silent freeform animation, the figures constantly transforming, returning to a striped-shirt character writing then mailing a letter. Besides the figure mutations (just while addressing and stamping the letter, the person becomes a stick figure, a mouse, a bird, a pig and a wolf) we spend some time inside the letter itself, a blue-on-blue field of growing and folding shapes.


Sausage City (1974 Adam Beckett)

Single-color pen drawings of mutating geometries, gradually becomes more 3D as colorful blobbos appear and begin taking over the image, a chaotic jazz combo underscoring the whole thing. This for a while, then it zooms out and a man jumps into the drawing table, where he’s transformed into a hip mouse creature. Music by “Brillo”


The Letter (2002 Vladimir Leschiov)

Man sitting under tall apple tree is writing a letter. Plays around with scale, and the nature of apples. Nice pencil-looking drawing style, with soft music that adds fx and transforms along with the visual scene. Leschiov is described as the most famous of Latvian animators, though he made this in Sweden.


Lost In Snow (2007 Vladimir Leschiov)

A man leaves his shack for some ice fishing and a drink. But the man begins multiplying, differently dressed ice fishers in different nearby spots, as the ice sheet cracks and they all float around each other. Prompted to watch this after we went to the lake today, saw some ice fishers and got very close to a bald eagle. The movie loses points for featuring no eagles, but there is a penguin at the end


The Letter (1998 Michel Gondry)

A boy with a photography hobby is anxious about Y2K and wanting to kiss a girl he likes. His older brother tries giving him advice, the boy dreams that he’s unable to connect with other humans because his head has become a camera, the girl writes a letter saying she likes his older brother. B/W with some nice photochemical effects, I think this was Gondry’s first narrative work that wasn’t a music video.


The Letter (1968 Jacques Drouin)

Only a minute long, simple animation on white background of a person attempting to write a love letter, the words of the discarded drafts appearing onscreen and self destructing.


Pismo aka Letter (2013 Sergei Loznitsa)

Cool jump-cut on a thunderclap, and there is a cow. Either this town is in heavy mist or the film is fogged. This goes beyond Slow Cinema into Sokurovian smear-cinema, without even a pretense at story or characterization, the camera too far from whatever daily menial activities are going on. There’s a four-hour Loznitsa playing True/False next month, and the guy’s not convincing me that’ll be time well spent [edit: a month later, after reviews and global events, now I’m dying to see the T/F feature]

Official description:
“A remote village in the Northwest of Russia. A mental asylum is located in an old wooden house. The place and its inhabitants seem to be untouched by civilization. Over 10 years ago, Loznitsa shot astounding black-and-white footage at a psychiatric institution in a forgotten corner of Russia. Since then it has resided in his archive.”


The Letter (2018 Bill Morrison)

A young man falls for a nurse. Her friend reads alarming news in a letter. A maid is being harassed by her employer. Is Bill a great preservationist, showing us the remnants of old films before they’re physically corroded away? Or is he the cause of the corrosion, has he realized that 1920’s studio pictures of well dressed people having conversations in rooms are inherently uninteresting without an added Decasia effect, and he’s out to document his chemical destruction of silent film history? I like my theory, gonna run with it, though now I see this was made from the Dawson City films.


The Letter (1976 Coni Beeson)

Big keyboard music, voiceover fragments of a man’s breakup letter while a blonde woman in a robe is montaged through all different scenarios, some of them nude. Her voice responds, “what if I change, what if I stop” as the movie deteriorates into hippie-manson-orgy territory with prominent ankhs. She achieves some kinda (still nude) peace at the end. The official description mentions “a symbolic rape by the Devil.”


The Letter (1970 Roman Kachanov)

Daddy’s off at war, and wifey gets very mopey when he hasn’t sent a letter lately, to the concern of their kid. Cute stop-motion.

Labor of Love (2020 Sylvia Schedelbauer)

Visuals of pure pulsing hypnosis, a voiceover speaking of a cosmic pagoda, “portals within portals.” Highly colorful, ever-pulsing visions of an eye and then a brain, through water waves, into pure geometry, the voice falling away leaving only loud ambient music.

Inspired by a Paul Clipson film, in fact the only one of his I’ve seen. This must count as some kind of animation – not sure how it was done, but the official site says “16mm archival footage and HD Video” and recounts inspirations and sources and intent.


By Pain and Rhyme and Arabesques of Foraging (2013 David Gatten)

I’ve watched a few of his, and he does love filming old texts. I made the mistake of playing a song from Craig Taborn’s Avenging Angel that matched the movie’s length – it might’ve played better silent, since the cutting is so rhythmic, steadily editing between handwritten letters, a typed description (“an experimental history of colours”), and R/G/B colored objects, the camera often gliding slowly, as when it creeps all the way up a telescope. Abrupt switch to monochrome, and a new page on dreams (“folly and madnesse”), a tinted study of water on glass, still cutting back and forth but with more frequent cuts to black.


Matchstick (2011 Jeff Scher)

Wow, speaking of colours, Jeff’s painted animation of lines and dots, rapidly growing and shifting, soundtracked by a good song by an electro-psych-rock band.


Social Skills (2021 Henry Hills)

Hills is still making these. Filmed for a month, barely pre-pandemic at a Belgian dance workshop, then presumably edited for a year. The music is chopped clips and loops from old songs, plus cartoon sound effects and a Zeena Parkins piece. Large number of dancers in a room doing every sort of exercise and movement. Besides cutting rapidly (but not so rapidly that we don’t get a sense of each motion) he’s also using masks to highlight parts of the image. Wonder how long Henry had been in edit-room pandemic lockdown when he added the audio clip about “practicing the fantastic intelligence of touching people.”


Whistle Stop (2014 Martin Arnold)

No longer torturing poor Judy Garland and Gregory Peck, Arnold has moved to cartoons. Also demonstrating his erasure techniques from Deanimated, here he’s taken a manic Daffy Duck scene, isolated each of Daffy’s body parts in different layers, and as he scrubs the audio three steps forward, two steps back, the body parts play the scene out of sync with each other.


Happy Valley (2020 Simon Liu)

Like a John Wilson episode, a montage of unusual signs filmed off the street, but instead of voiceover commentary there’s layered decaying noise loops, recalling my Brave Trailer Project (which I’m guessing Liu hasn’t seen). Nice complex sound mix, but apparently the Negativ(e)land film lab in Brooklyn has no relation to the music group, too bad.

Looked up Liu after reading the Phil Coldiron story in Cinema Scope… he calls this and Signal 8 “Liu’s most lucid works to date, emotional reports from an imperiled homeland [Hong Kong] that continue his effort to give memorable and engaging form to personal experience while broadening the scope of what this experience entails.”

Red Film (2019 Sara Cwynar)

“Technology disciplines its audience.” Dense and completely wonderful, fast overlapping voiceover with new age music accompanies saturated visuals of consumer conveyor belts, makeup tests and dance poses with a lot of face touching.

From the wikis: “Cwynar’s work presents a marriage of old and new forms that are intended to challenge the way that people encounter visual and material culture in everyday life.”

Kenji Fujishima:

Compared to its deliberately messy predecessors, Red Film feels like the work of an artist who has clarified her obsessions. For all its frenetic surface activity, Red Film is a coherent commentary on the vicious cycle of capitalism, which, with the aid of modern media, perpetrates our physical insecurities, creating impossibly high standards of beauty that only feed into people’s desire to consume more in the inevitably disappointing quest to reach such standards.


Rose Gold (2017 Sara Cwynar)

Focused on the iPhone instead of makeup – tech/marketing/desire – and just as great, though it’s maybe redundant to watch these two so close together. The only thing they have in common with Barneys New York is that she always seems to have ink on her hand, and we get to see her camera mechanism (I did get to try out one of those Barneys phone gimbals and decided I don’t need one). Closing credits list all the references – not direct quotes, unless Heidegger and Wittgenstein wrote about the iPhone.

Sicinski:

Rose Gold is as much a jumble of ideas and impulses as the very society it aims to critique. This is no doubt a conscious strategy, undertaken on the assumption that linear argument is inadequate to the task of understanding our neoliberal global structure. Nevertheless, this is a film that announces its intellectual intentions but adds to the cacophony instead of parsing meaning.


At Hand (2005 Andrew Busti)

The first time I watched a Cwynar short the program opened with a Busti short, so it seems fair to keep exploring their work together. This seems like photographed scenes, slowed down, and either Decasiaed or rotoed, all texture replaced with that of liquid metal, stained glass, beer bubbles, a pebble beach. I thought for a moment that it may be the abuse of an edge-detection filter, but it looks more organic than that, a low boiling rumble on the soundtrack.


26 Pulse Wrought (Film for Rewinds) Vol I (2014 Andrew Busti)

Somebody’s been watching Hollis Frampton? Flickering shots of different objects and colors and landscapes (including the camera lens in a mirror) stuttering to a morse code rhythm. Like a video essay where the voiceover and visuals are saying different things, only we don’t know what the spoken message is saying unless we load the movie into Adobe Premiere and decode its frames using the key from the opening titles – not tonight. Annoying to listen to but once I got used to the flicker the visual choices were interesting.


26 Pulse Wrought (Films For Rewinds) Vol III (2016 Andrew Busti)

Black and white flicker film – I can’t tell if it’s in morse code or not. “These words here are meaningless,” etc, large text on screen with matching voiceover, very annoying to watch, though very short, and I was thinking if you take the word “here” from this film and the camera reflection from Vol. I you could create the other Busti short I’ve seen. According to his vimeo (which doesn’t have Vol. II) this was produced on 16mm.


Night Swells (2015 Zachary Epcar)

Photographic study of potted plants on the sidewalk outside the mall, abrupt sound editing of street noise and a record about talking to plants.


Return To Forms (2016 Zachary Epcar)

Photographic study of waterfalls, and feet, and hand models – I prefer the waterfalls. Gliding camera tour of an apartment, and surveillance scan of the building from outside. The sound editing just as abrupt, but to cleverly humorous effect. An excellent final image brings together all the previous pieces: a gloved hand fondling a plant growing through a hole blasted through an iPad. Guess I was right to play these the same night as the Cwynar films.


Life After Love (2018 Zachary Epcar)

The title only comes in at the end, as an in-car hypnotherapy session. The rest seems like a languorous car ad set in a parking lot, made by people who don’t realize cars are supposed to move.

Sicinski:

Epcar’s camera moves around this space as though it were on rollers, controlled like an automatic car window. The filmmaker sees with windshield eyes. His name is an anagram for A CA CAR ZEPHYR.


New Fancy Foils (2013 Jodie Mack)

Stills of paper samples, different orientation, with advertising text, then faster and faster. At 12 minutes there’s time for a slow build, and the rapid fancy foil flicker was worth the wait – though for ten seconds there it got so fast that my mpeg copy broke down. Silent, I played the Attacca Quartet album with the pretty bird cover art.


Let Your Light Shine (2013 Jodie Mack)

A different sort of thing – animated white line segments surrounded by rainbow prisms, in increasingly rapid succession. The crap-atari sound effects give the impression that the white figures are computer graphics, but the line texture says not. From the Cinema Scope cover story, it sounds like the original film was just the white hand-drawn figures and theatrical audiences wore prismatic glasses to create the rainbows.


Something Between Us (2015 Jodie Mack)

A real audio journey in these three Mack shorts from no sound to bad sound to great sound that carries the picture. Taking gramma’s jewelry out to the yard to play, repetitive bird and frog noises get looped and warped into music. Closer look at the jewelry, and the pond, the RGB prism artifacts from the previous film returning with a vengeance here, and taking over as the second half’s soundtrack keeps adding new layers of bells.

Sicinski:

Something Between Us plays with the cheap shine of costume jewelry … Mack intercuts these close-ups with shots of a hazy lakeside forest, its early dawn refracted by the misty fog to produce rainbow prisms and flares. In time, Mack is alternating between this “natural” light and its highly artificial facsimile, the trinkets swinging to their own chiming electronic theme song. A game show bell dings mid-film, as though we’ve found the right answer when the organic is largely vanquished in favor of Mack’s pendular, sun-dappled Claire’s Boutique of the mind.

First movie watched in 2022. I’d seen this before, but ages ago. Opens with voiceover and archival footage of mustacheless Chaplin directing. He makes fun of Edna, then introduces three classic shorts with new music.


A Dog’s Life (1918)

The Tramp kicks some cops’ asses, and fails to land a job. He gets robbed in a bar, and the proprietor responds by throwing him out – so much injustice in this movie. The bit with sausage-seller Syd is real good, as is the thief-puppeteering of Albert Austin.


Soldier Arms (1918)

He’s actually a war hero in this one, until it turns out to all have been a dream while exhausted during basic training, but for a while there Charlie had his own Inglorious Basterds, capturing the Kaiser along with a mustachioed Edna.

In disguise:


The Pilgrim (1923)

Plays the same cowboy song thrice – again he’s sort of a hero, again with a sort-of downer ending, the bet-hedging version of the better previous film. CC’s a prisoner on the run, stealing an Edward Norton-looking chaplain’s clothes. He gets the hell out of town, and the place where he lands was expecting a new minister, so he’s given lodging with a family with lovely daughter Edna. Runtime is padded when a horrible family comes to visit. More coincidences, sure why not, CC’s ex cellmate is in town and recognizes him, and Edna’s mom keeps a large amount of cash laying around. Criminal CC preventing his own partner in crime from robbing the girls he likes, somewhat ripped from His Regeneration in the Essanay days.

Awful Family feat. Syd Chaplin:

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.