Precautions Against Fanatics (1969, Werner Herzog)
“Have you ever seen a dishonest man with a chest like this?”
Said to Werner’s cameraman by a one-armed man in a suit: “What are you doing here? Go away!” It’s not clear who is supposed to be here where they’re filming, in the training area of a horse racetrack. Some guy is repeating himself and karate-chopping flat stones. This cannot actually be happening! It is all pretty wonderful, a parody of a behind-the-scenes documentary. Made in between Signs of Life and Even Dwarfs Started Small, both of which I need to catch some day.
image

Organism (1975, Hilary Harris)
Time-lapse footage and readings from biological textbooks portray a large city (New York, of course) as a living organism. The dated 70’s sound design is unfortunate but otherwise it’s completely wonderful. Makes me wish I had a classroom of kids to show it to. He worked on this for years, inventing a time-lapse camera in the 60’s for the purpose. Bits from Scott MacDonald “As late as 1975, Harris apparently felt that time-lapsing imagery was unusual and high-tech enough to justify his frequent use of science-fictionish electronic sounds as an accompaniment. … Hilary Harris shot some of the New York City traffic shots used in Koyaanisqatsi, though apparently Reggio didn’t see Organism until after his film was well under way.”
image

L’Opéra-mouffe (1958, Agnes Varda)
Somehow I missed this during Varda Month – one of her earliest shorts hidden amongst the copious features on a Criterion DVD. Varda films either herself or another pregnant nude women, then goes on a rampage through the marketplace, mostly capturing the faces of people shopping there, with interludes featuring actors (incl. Varda regular Dorothée Blank, as nude here as she is in Cleo) clowning around. Sections highlight public drunkenness, anxiety and affection. I want to say this is my favorite of her shorts so far, but then I remember they’re all so good. Delightfully scored by a not-yet-famous Georges Delerue.
image

“I was pregnant. I felt the contradiction of expecting a child, being full of hope, and circulating in this world of poor, drunken people without hope, who seemed so unhappy. I felt tenderness toward them, especially the elderly. I imagined them as babies, when their mothers kissed their tummies.”
image

Silent Snow, Secret Snow (1966, Gene Kearney)
A boy named Paul starts to obsess over snow, allowing the snow in his mind to filter him from reality. Creepy and well shot. Later remade as a Night Gallery episode with Orson Welles narrating. Makes me think of the Handsome Family song “Don’t Be Scared,” with its line “when Paul thinks of snow, soft winds blow ’round his head,” except it’s one of their very few comforting, happy songs and the movie is anything but.
image

Une histoire d’eau (1961, Truffaut & Godard)
A girl wakes up and the whole town is flooded from melting snow. She meets a guy (a young Jean-Claude Brialy) who offers to drive her to Paris before nightfall. Music is weird – gentle flute or horns punctuated with bursts of percussion. Ooh, a Duchess of Langeais reference… in fact there are a ton of references in her quick monologue narration, which ends with spoken credits.
image

The Forgotten Faces (1960, Peter Watkins)
Revolution in Budapest. Nice reconstruction, convincingly documentary-like – where’d Watkins get all those guns? No sync sound, a TV-sounding narrator. One part, the reading of a communist speech turns briefly into a dramatic propaganda montage – don’t see that happen much in Watkins’ films.
image

image

The Perfect Human (1967, Jorgen Leth)
“Today I experienced something I hope to understand in a few days.”
image

I like the British narrator. “What does he want? Why does he move like that? How does he move like that? Look at him. Look at him now. And now. Look at him all the time.” There’s no diegetic sound, but if this was dubbed in a studio, why does there have to be so much tape hiss? A fake documentary and a stark white delight, with slow zooms in and out, gentle string music, and a general sense of serious absurdity. Only saw, what, a third of this in The Five Obstructions.
image

Les Maître fous (1955, Jean Rouch)
Document of a group in Ghana called the Hauka doing something involving wooden toy guns, red ribbons, chicken sacrifice, dog-blood-drinkin’ and having lurchy foaming-at-the-mouth fits. I’m not ever quite sure, because the French narration has been auto-subtitled by google – whatever they’re doing, the subs call it “having.” After they’ve had, the film crew catches up with them at their day jobs, not freaked-out cultists anymore, just working hard, smiling at the camera. This is one African film that Katy didn’t want to watch, because Rouch is an exoticizing anthropologist. So what’s going on that this film makes the best-ever lists? A Rouch tribute page says he popularized direct cinema/cinema verite, that he was known for rethinking ethnography, and a documentary surrealism (sounds like Jean Painleve). Ian Mundell says the film “drew plaudits from the Nouvelle Vague, in particular from Jean-Luc Godard. They liked the fact that Rouch’s fiction emerged from an encounter between the actor (professional or non-professional) and the camera, and his willingness to break the rules of cinema.” Paul Stoller says Rouch crisscrossed “the boundaries between documentary and fiction, observer and participant,” but I take it that’s more about his later films, which I’m thinking I would like better. So it’s seeming like this film gets awarded because it’s one of the most-seen of his films and because of its influence, not because it’s Rouch’s best work.
image

Nicky’s Film (1971, Abel Ferrara)
A mysteriously silent possibly gangster-related 6-minute film. I can’t imagine even a Ferrara scholar gets much out of this.

The Hold Up (1972, Abel Ferrara)
Super-8 production made when Abel was 21, seven years before Driller Killer. A few minutes in, I realized it’d be much better with the director commentary turned on. “And away we go. Wait, it’s the other way. Which way is she looking?” Um, some guys get fired from factory jobs, hold up a gas station, get caught. The song “Working on a Building” is heard.
image

FITZCARRALDO (1982, Werner Herzog)

Klaus Kinski (the year after starring in Terayama Shuji’s Fruits of Passion) acts less crazy than usual as Fitz, though he’s still got that hair. And of course, his crazy actions speak for themselves. Fitz loves opera, especially the singer Caruso, whose records he collects (which places the action somewhere 1905-1915ish) and wants to build an opera house where he lives in Iquitos, Peru, but investors won’t be convinced.

image

So Fitz decides to make a fortune as a rubber baron, and build his own damned opera house. Gets his brothel-running girlfriend Claudia Cardinale (over a decade after her heyday in Once Upon a Time in the West, 8 1/2, The Leopard) to front him a steamboat and claims an unharvested plot of riverfront land in the jungle. It’s unharvested because nobody can reach it… it lies upstream from dangerous rapids. But even further upstream, another river veers within half a mile of the river in question, so Fitz plans to sail up THAT (dangerous-native-infested) river, drag his boat onto land across into the other river and harvest his rubber.

Claudia Cardinale:
image

Along with a half-blind but navigationally-keen captain, a drunken chef, and a mechanic (Miguel Ángel Fuentes, fresh from playing the mystical indian sidekick in Puma Man) who’s openly spying on Fitz for his competitors, Fitz makes it to the crossing and with the help of hundreds of natives, drags his 30-ton ship over a damned muddy mountain and into the other river. That night, after the drunken celebration party, the natives cut the ship loose as a sacrifice to the rapids, undoing months of work. In a wonderfully bittersweet finale, with what’s left of his capital Fitz hires the opera to come to Iquitos and perform from the ship.

image

Shot realistically, naturally taking its time to unfold. Herzog’s/Fitz’s ambition is immeasurable, and so a mere two hours cannot contain it. Movie doesn’t seem long so much as… huge. Actors speak English, dubbed into German and subtitled back into English.

image

Hey wow, it was shot by the guy who did Orson Welles: One Man Band, which is the other movie I considered watching tonight. He also shot bunches of Alexander Kluge films.


WERNER HERZOG EATS HIS SHOE (1980, Les Blank)

“I’m quite convinced that cooking is the only alternative to filmmaking”

image

Oh man, this was great… first of all because Werner is my hero, here being smart and funny and provocative, and second because Les keeps it lively with a circus atmosphere, bringing in clips of Herzog movies, The Gold Rush, and a Gates of Heaven outtake. Fitzcarraldo was in pre-production, and Les would follow Werner into that venture, filming…


BURDEN OF DREAMS (1982, Les Blank)

“If I abandoned this project I would be a man without dreams, and I don’t want to live like that.”

One of the most amazing docs I have seen, and essential viewing with Fitzcarraldo. Shows and tells the factors that made that film define “troubled production”, making Terry Gilliam and Francis Ford Coppola look like pansies in comparison. Attacks and intimidation by natives (their camp is burned down, a spear attack injures three), losing both stars of the film (post-Melvin and Howard Jason Robards and pre-Tattoo You Mick Jagger) and the actual pulling of a 30-ton steamship over a mountain by natives doesn’t even cover the whole story.

Burden of Dreams:
image

Fitzcarraldo:
image

On-set tantrums by a bored Klaus Kinski aren’t in this film (presumably they’re covered in My Best Fiend). This doc itself is wonderfully well-paced and shot, and Les gets choice interviews with Herzog, including his oft-quoted bit about how the jungle birds don’t sing, “they just screech in pain.” Taken as a package, Fitz and Burden are the rare cult films which exceed their reputation.

image

From Paul Arthur’s Criterion essay:

When production stalls, as it often does—Herzog claims his film is “cursed,” admitting that “the jungle is winning”—Blank filters in lively scenes of the Campa extras’ quotidian routines: food preparation, clothes washing, the blending of a local alcoholic drink made from yuca plants. It is significant that most activities are “women’s work,” a realm that Herzog’s masculinist vision rarely acknowledges. Later, Blank constructs a touching vision of cross-cultural identification by juxtaposing the sound of a Caruso aria coming from a record player in an earlier shot with loving close-ups of native women, as if they are responding to the beauty of this alien voice. The moment recalls an archetypal collision staged by romantic adventurer Robert Flaherty in Nanook of the North (1922), when the titular Eskimo marvels at a phonograph record (then jokingly decides to bite it). Unlike either Herzog or Flaherty, Blank clearly prefers the rhythms of collective effort, of sensuous community, over Eurocentric ideals of heroic individualism. In essence, he has crafted a film about the interaction of premodern tribal existence with European modernity, epitomized by a movie narrative about the invidious clash of brute nature and a singular ego bent on his own, ultimately delusional, mission of cultural enlightenment.

Immediately after watching Milk, I unaccountably wanted to watch something else featuring Diego Luna, who was the worst part of Milk. Not necessarily his fault though, and he’s been great before (in Y Tu Mama Tambien and Criminal) so I thought I’d give him (and hated Nashvillian Harmony Korine) a second chance.

image

Here he’s a Michael Jackson impersonator who meets a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. She takes him to her commune retreat, staffed only by other celeb impersonators, including her abusive cheating husband Charlie Chaplin and their cute daughter Shirley Temple. Meanwhile in an entirely different movie, Werner Herzog is a priest who airdrops supplies to people in need. One of his nuns accidentally falls out of the plane and lands unharmed. A miracle is proclaimed, and all the nuns start skydiving without parachutes and landing unharmed.

image

And that is good enough for me. That storyline (provided it’s done well, which it is) combined with moments of euphoria (MJ’s dances with sfx but no music, the camerawork on the falling nuns) is good enough. Korine is redeemed, Luna rises above being the crazy, clingy boyfriend in Milk, lovely Samantha Morton is freed from the dour prison that was Synecdoce New York, and all is well.

image

Of course all is not well, exactly. Why does Werner annoyingly repeat everything he has just said? What is the connection between the nun bit and the impersonator bit? How come Michael is so easy around others and never seems all that lonely?

image

I enjoyed it and didn’t worry too much about the questions above. Katy only watched the first half, which was all setup, and missed most of the story. The commune’s sheep are sick and have to be killed (with shotguns by the Three Stooges) and after that everyone’s depressed. They pick themselves up and decide to hold a spectacular show, open to the public. After much prep, the show is just okay and only ten people show up. That night Marilyn is discovered having hung herself from a tree. Charlie is painfully distraught (it’s a great turn in an interesting performance by French actor Denis Lavant, looking rough, star of Lovers on the Bridge). Michael takes the bus home and tells his agent (Leos Carax, director of Lovers on the Bridge, hmmm) that he’s quitting the impersonator business and is going to be himself from now on (after he is sung an uplifting song by the ghostly heads of his commune buddies upon some painted eggs). Meanwhile, in the other movie, the nuns set off in Werner’s plane for the Vatican to get their miracle blessed by the church, and the plane crashes on a beach killing everyone, heh.

Leos Carax:
image

Movie is divided into four sections titled by MJ songs: “man in the mirror” (luna/michael)… “beat it” (leaving town for the commune)… “thriller” (drama and death)… and “you are not alone” (the finale). Very nice music by J. Spaceman and the Sun City Girls and camerawork by Michael Winterbottom’s reguar guy. Actors were good (and surprisingly not overdoing it), especially young Buckwheat, who may be a bit nuts. As The Pope and The Queen were James Fox and Anita Pallenberg, two stars of the movie Performance… interesting. And playing Samantha Morton’s daughter was actually Samantha Morton’s daughter.

image

Shot immediately after Nosferatu. Kinski looks worn out, stupid and insane. IMDB says “The entire 80-minute film was shot with only 27 cuts.” but I remember five or six in the opening credits alone, so nice try. I didn’t know there was a best supporting actress award at Cannes, but Eva Mattes won it. Movie was trounced by Tin Drum and Apocalypse Now for the grand prize, though, and it’s not on either of the top 1000 movies lists that I track, but it’s now on mine. Looks just like Nosferatu, same crew worked on it. All giant buildings and city and space dwarfing our characters. Feels like a play – you can totally tell the way people talk to themselves that it was written for the stage. Dialog is awesome. Writer Georg Büchner is famous mostly for Woyzeck, and this is one of twenty film adaptations of it.

image

Kinski is a soldier, or a military barber I guess, in the 1800’s. He’s seeing Marie, and has been for a while since they have a son together. Lately Marie likes a drum major, no surprise since Kinski is completely nutty and nervous, due in part to the all-peas diet his doctor (above) has him on. After a movie’s worth of foreshadowing that crazed Kinski will kill someone and most likely his wife, he kills his wife down by the river. That’s it, except the film and script are way more poetic than my description.

The Noroit-ian band:
image

V. Canby in the Times: “At the heart of each Herzog film is a mystery, not because information is arbitrarily withheld, but because every Herzog film is a record of the director’s questions and speculations about his subject — which is, I suspect, why he chooses to do the films he does. To do anything else would be storytelling of a kind that doesn’t interest him. Questions for which the answers are simple aren’t worth asking.”

image

The Drum Major had been in Herzog’s Heart of Glass, would eventually turn up in Haneke’s Code Unknown. The Captain had been in Herzog’s Signs of Life after small parts in Rivette and Welles films. Eva Mattes had been in Strozek and In a Year of 13 Moons.

image

Shadow of the Vampire should’ve portrayed Klaus Kinski as a demon instead of Max Schreck. Anyway, I’d like to see Malkovich playing Werner Herzog.

Where did this movie come from, and what happened to it? How come this and Chacun du cinema, anthology films with tons of super-famous directors, aren’t well known and out on video? Paris, Je T’aime did pretty well, right? Whatever… we’ve got two 90-minute anthologies here, “The Trumpet” (the first seven listed below) and “The Cello”. Each has short films with the theme of ten minutes, or else something to do with time and the number ten. Each begins with some light jazz, abstract images of water, then the signature of the director on a black background and the title of the short.


The Trumpet

Aki Kaurismäki – Dogs Have No Hell
image
More dry wit from Aki. Guy spends the night in jail, gets out and has ten minutes until the train leaves for Siberia (via Moscow). In that ten minutes, he finds a girl he knows, proposes to her, buys a wedding ring and gets them both train tickets. Not much in itself, but a good start to the anthology, setting up the whole ten minutes thing.

Víctor Erice – Lifeline
image
A sleeping baby starts bleeding while its twenty-or-more family members are each doing their own thing. Time passes, tension mounts. Someone finally notices the baby and fixes him up, no problem. Great camerawork here! The kid above is listening to a watch he drew on his wrist.

Werner Herzog – Ten Thousand Years Older
image
A sad ten-minute documentary. Twenty years ago in Brazil, contact was made with the last tribe of people anywhere in the world who didn’t have watches and t-shirts and chicken pox. We gave them all three of those things, the chicken pox killed most of them, and now there aren’t many left. Werner, along with a member from the original team, checks up on them. The younger generation is embarrassed by their parents, want to move to the city. The older ones, represented by the war chief (above right, with his brother on left) ponder their fates and the passage of time.

Jim Jarmusch – Int. Trailer Night
image
Chloe Sevigny tries to unwind in her trailer on a film shoot for ten minutes. There are interruptions. It’s pretty, but what else is it?

Wim Wenders – Twelve Miles to Trona
image
Wenders manages to make a ten-minute desert road movie. This is kinda hilarious actually… straight guy accidentally overdoses on unknown hallucinogenic drug, has to drive himself to the hospital in another town ten minutes away. He doesn’t make it, but a passerby gets him there and he’s okay. Looked a bit like one of those Masters of Horror episodes where they mess with the camera to make things look trippy, but it pulled me in pretty well. They played two loud Eels songs from the Souljacker album.

Spike Lee – We Wuz Robbed
image
A compressed mini-doc about Bush II stealing the 2000 presidential election from Gore (with help from the mass media and supreme court), snappy and nicely done, using all interviews and TV news graphics.

Chen Kaige – 100 Flowers Hidden Deep
image
Crazy guy brings a moving company to a dirt lot to move his furniture. Finally they pretend like they’re moving furniture to appease the guy, until one mover “drops” a “vase” and breaks it. Not great, but cute. Wish it didn’t end with an awful, sub-2046 wireframe 3D animation though.


The Cello

Three of the seven Trumpet shorts made me tear up with emotion (hint: Spike Lee yes, Wim Wenders no), but most of the Cello disc left me sad, tired or bored. Huge difference there, but I’d rather have it that way than have the crap diluting the good stuff over both discs. If only the Michael Radford short had been on the Trumpet disc, I could’ve just sold Cello.

Bernardo Bertolucci – Histoire d’eaux
image
I kinda liked this, but it still gave me a sort of “uh oh” feeling about The Cello when it started. Foreigner (Indian?) is in Italy with a pile of other foreigners, confused thinks he’s in Germany. Old guy wanders away from the group asks our man for a drink of water. Our man finds a girl, fixes her motorcycle, marries her, has kids, gets a nice job, buys a car, crashes the car, wanders off from the car crash site and sees the old man still waiting for his water.

Claire Denis – Vers Nancy
image
A dry, academic conversation on a train about outsiders & foreigners, with the writer and one of the actors of Denis’ 2004 feature The Intruder. I haven’t seen Intruder, but this is obviously a companion piece, prequel or commentary on it. It almost put me to sleep, and I wasn’t even tired.

Mike Figgis – About Time 2
image
Figgis was the oscar-nom director of Leaving Las Vegas, but I don’t think the producers of Ten Minutes Older realized that in 2002 his career was on the verge of death after Timecode and the critically bashed Hotel (it would die for real the following year with Cold Creek Manor). This is a nonsense short, shot Timecode-style. So far, it is the least-bearable ten minutes I have watched this year… I was itching to fast-forward.

Jean-Luc Godard – Dans le noir du temps
image
In collaboration with Anne-Marie Miéville, I think this was actually a trailer for Histoire(s) du Cinema. They’re definitely related. The most unfortunate similarity to Histoire(s) is that this was only partially translated – none of the onscreen French text has subtitles.

Jirí Menzel – One Moment
image
A very nice tribute (using archive footage) to Czech actor Rudolf Hrusínský who acted in more than ten of Menzel’s movies and died in 1994.

Michael Radford – Addicted to the Stars
image
Guy travels 80 light years in suspended animation in a space capsule, gets back to earth and doctors say he has only aged ten minutes. Goes to visit his son, who was a young boy when he went away, now a very old man. Movie has an awesome sci-fi look to it, and I liked the story and atmosphere – a very nice short, my favorite of the Cello bunch. Fresh off Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Daniel Craig starred as the astronaut.

Volker Schlöndorff – The Enlightenment
image
Camera zooms around an outdoor party while unseen narrator ponders the nature of time. At end camera flies into a bug light and dies. It turns out we have been a mosquito. Har!

István Szabó – Ten Minutes After
image
Szabó is the Hungarian director of Lovefilm and Sunshine – I haven’t seen anything else of his. A husband comes home extremely drunk and angry, starts storming around the house while his wife watches upset, “what’s wrong? you never drink!”, finally he tries to strangle her, she stabs him, emergency crew arrives in like fifteen seconds, cops question her, the end. Why? I thought it was gonna be all one long shot, but then I saw a cut towards the end, so there were probably a couple others.

Not very Herzogian – the great man doesn’t interject any commentary of his own, letting his narrator (journalist Michael Goldsmith) do all the leading and interviewing, and not cutting away when Goldsmith follows up interview subjects’ stories of being imprisoned and tortured for years by order of Central African Republic dictator Jean-Bédel Bokassa with Goldsmith’s own oft-repeated story (“you know, I was imprisoned for a month myself”). Gives the feeling that it is the journalist’s film and Herzog is a director-for-hire, which is probably not true. The movie does, after all, end with a caged monkey smoking a cigarette, which isn’t a typical way to end a journalistic interview-doc. And it opens with Herzog himself reading a letter from Goldsmith over beautiful, otherworldly shots of migrating crabs. It’s just the bulk of the film in between those animal bookends that seems kind of typical.

Bokassa, fallen dictator:
image

Bokassa himself seems sadly typical – a military leader of an African country who took over the government, becoming more corrupt, horrible and bizarre as his rule progressed. We talk with a couple of his (many) wives and some kids, including one who was involved in a fraud/mistaken-identity comedy which led to her having a sister with the same name who got married on the same day as her.

image

Goldsmith survived torture and imprisonment in Central Africa, and returned safely from Liberia (where he had gone missing at the time of this film’s completion), only to die of a hemorrhage in late ’90, shortly before the film premiered.

Fascinating movie. I think Katy liked it too, though we were both a bit upset after she vetoed my triple-feature short-doc selection at the last damned minute.

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

Not as audacious as La Soufrière nor as profound as Grizzly Man or moving as Little Dieter Needs To Fly, but has its measured share of audacity, profundity and… moving… ness. Motion? Werner goes to Antarctica to look at things, interview people, and express his contempt for it all. He finds some stuff to love, and there’s some gorgeous, wondrous underwater photography (non-Herzog-directed) by Henry Kaiser – THE Henry Kaiser, guitarist friend of Fred Frith – who also did the music. For above-ground shooting Werner brought along his Rescue Dawn/Little Dieter cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger.

We get the obvious “ice is melting and we are all doomed” bits, and shots of penguins, and interviews with the philosophers and scientists who live (either temporarily or not) in the ugly US base city of McMurdo. Touristy reaction scenes and the training sessions given to visitors before they’re allowed to leave the base. Then there are more typically Herzog moments. He comments on the commercialization of the south pole, the end of human discovery over the planet, signs we leave behind for future generations and visiting aliens. He cuts off some interviews, giving his own postscripts and summaries and arguments in their place (interrupts one woman flatly saying “her story goes on forever”). It’s a cool movie and a nice addition to Herzog’s philosophical travelogue cinema of human behavior on the edge, probably not destined to be a classic Great Film. Was very happy to see it on the big screen, and it was a nice breather among all the avant-garde shorts. Katy was a little disappointed with her first Werner Herzog experience, then I think after I told her she’d already seen a Herzog film and it was Nosferatu: Phantom of the Night, she liked Encounters a little more by comparison.

Frank Film
image
Barebones story of Frank Mouris’s life narrated on the soundtrack blended with a free-association list of words. Visual is a fast-motion collage of magazine-clipped images. Neat, must’ve taken forever. Won the Oscar, kickstarting a long life of filmmaking obscurity for Frank, poor guy.

Valse Triste
image
Looks like a montage of found footage from rural America in the 1940’s set to sweeping sad music. Sepia-tinted, only 5 minutes long. Took me a visit to IMDB to realize the montage represents the wet dream of the boy who goes to sleep at the beginning of the film, damn. I get it now. Bruce Conner born in Kansas in 1933, so he WAS that boy!

Adam, 5 to 12
image
Begin the rhythmic Estonian vocal music. Trippy animation doesn’t do much, then the clock appears, then a whole pile of grim images of war and death are overlaid on the clock. Adam tries to turn the clock back but it’s frozen at 5 to 12. Finally it moves dramatically to THE END. Director Petar Gligorovski died in 1995.

V. Gligorijevic (via email) on the music: “Its composer, Veljo Tormis, had clash with Soviet authorities which perceived Estonian nationalist overtones in Tormis’s music, from which the Curse to the Iron, the featured background, is considered one of his most recognizable works.”

Reflecting Pool
image
Wow, this is great. Seven minutes of a reflecting pool with some video effects. A man motions to jump in, but is frozen in midair while the pool stays in gentle motion. The man slowly fades out, and most of the rest of the action takes place in the pool’s reflection and through its varying levels of agitation. Probably just a more complicated metaphor for sex than the last film… I don’t pick up on those things easily. Bill Viola is only 56 and still working.

Sweet Light
image
Another by Bill Viola. Close-up: some flies on a windowsill. Camera moves slowly and evenly away and turns toward a man writing at a desk. Camera fast follows a ball of paper he hurls on the floor. Abrupt change to camera spinning around a dinner table candle, then insects leaving vapor trails in the air. There is light involved, and it’s all pretty sweet, so there’s your title.

Pause!
image
A man against a wall making hand gestures, distorting his face and making breathy sounds. Gets violent at times. Probably also a metaphor for sex. My copy was dark and muddy but it’s not like I’ll be scouring rare video stores looking for a better version. Oh, I looked it up and the man is Arnulf Rainer, a surrealist-influenced artist known for “body art and painting under drug influence”. This must be body art. I wouldn’t have named a museum after this guy, but I guess the New York art scene knows better than I do. Directed by Peter Kubelka.

Powers of Ten
image
By famous designers/architects/filmmakers Charles and Ray Eames. “A film dealing with the relative size of things in the universe and the effect of adding another zero”, made for IBM. A man is laying in a park in Chicago. We zoom out from him to 100 million light years (10^24 m) then zoom into his hand to 0.000001 angstroms (10^-16 m). Both Eames died on August 21, ten years apart. Music by Elmer Bernstein (also dead) of Far From Heaven and Ghostbusters.

The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa
image
The Kafka story done with cool mushy black and white perspective-shifting animation (paint on glass?). Samsa might be some sort of spider/beetle. Caroline Leaf works with the National Film Board of Canada.

Elimination Dance
image
Co-written and starring Don McKellar (Last Night). Dir. by Bruce McDonald, who made cult films Roadkill and Hard Core Logo. Couples dance all night while an announcer reads off descriptions (“anyone who has lost a urine sample in the mail”) eliminating them one by one, as the cops slowly close in fearing unrest. A comedy, cute. Not from the seventies, I realize (1998).

A Doonesbury Special
image
Kind of limited animation, but that’s not a cool criticism to make of a well-intentioned independent production like this one. Neat movie, could’ve stood to be another half hour longer. A regular day at the commune with a bunch of flashbacks, “feeling the present as it moves by”. A little sad, some disillusionment about the fallen ideals of the late 60’s, probably a nice companion to the comics (which I haven’t read since Hunter died). Both Hubleys have died, Trudeau cowrote the Tanner movies.

La Soufriere
image
“This is the police station. It was totally abandoned. It was a comfort for us not having the law hanging around.” Would’ve probably been one of Werner Herzog’s best-known movies (OR have led to Herzog’s fiery death) if the volcano had exploded as predicted, but since it didn’t, this is an obscurity on a DVD of documentary shorts. “There was something pathetic for us in the shooting of this picture, and therefore it ended a little bit embarrassing. Now it has become a report on an inevitable catastrophe that did not take place.” Herz and crew tromp about an extremely dangerous volcano site in the Caribbean, explore the completely empty towns below, and interview what few stragglers remain. One of the cameramen is from Morristown NJ, also shot Far From Heaven, A Prairie Home Companion, Tokyo-ga, True Stories and The Limey.

Most of these movies are as old as I am.