Frank Film
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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!
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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“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.

You hear about “cult films” and films with “a cult following” a lot, but where are these cults? Is there a basement in Des Moines where ten or twelve people get together monthly to watch Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone? Maybe a club in Montreal that meets at a different member’s living room every wednesday night to watch a different Mario Bava movie from one guy’s prize collection of DVDs and bootleg cassettes? An Alejandro Jororowsky society in Mexico City that watches a 16mm print of El Topo once a year followed by a ritual sacrifice of farm animals?

If these movie cults literally exist, I just hope there’s one for Werner Herzog.

“Little” Dieter Dengler was about seven when WWII ended. He lived through the rebuilding of Germany, when people were boiling and eating wallpaper to get the nutrients that were supposed to be in the glue. Later became a blacksmith’s apprentice and worked at a machine shop. Got toughened the hell up by all these experiences and finally left town for the first time ever to head to America and become a pilot at age 18. Joined the air force, worked shit jobs for a few years, then quit to get a college degree, become a citizen and join the navy where he finally started flying, which is all he ever wanted to do. Got sent right away to Vietnam, and first mission he’s shot down and captured over Laos. It gets hairier from there, with deadly escapes and all the adventures that Herzog’s upcoming Rescue Dawn will be recreating. Died in Feb 2001, and there’s a “postscript” scene of his funeral on the DVD.

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Dieter lived an exceptional life, went through very extreme ordeals, and had a single driving obsession (to fly), all making him such an obvious Werner Herzog protagonist that, a decade after shooting this documentary, Herzog is returning to the same story with Rescue Dawn.

Never one to make a “straight” documentary, interviewing Dieter and his war buddies at a neutral location, zooming in slowly on old photos and showing stock footage… no, Herzog does all that, but he also takes Dieter back to Laos. Herzog “helps” Dieter re-enact his own capture and imprisonment with props, locations and some willing Laotian men. What a terrible, wonderful idea. Dieter seems totally up for it, never breaks down into post-trauma sobbing sessions, just reports his history matter-of-factly, with Herzog’s voice occasionally coming in to ask questions or observe in his godlike way.

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(Grizzly Man connection) Dieter: “Duane, my friend, he was gone, and from then on my motions, my progress, became mechanical. In fact, I couldn’t care less if I would live or die. But then later on, there was this bear, this beautiful bear that was following me. It was circling me in fact sometimes. It was gone and I missed it. It was just like a dog, it was just like a pet. Of course I knew this bear was there, he was waiting to eat me. When I think about it, this bear meant death to me. And it is really ironic. That’s the only friend I had at the end, was death.”

But… Herzog: “Dieter took an early retirement from the armed forces and became a civilian test pilot. He survived four more crashes and flies to this day. Death did not want him.”

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Completely awesome movie, short and gripping and moving. I might not join the Herzog cult (they’d never stop talking about the relationship between man and nature, and they probably all have dangerous and bizarre obsessions) but I’ll sure watch more of his films.

Herzog’s oddball version of Nosferatu/Dracula. Renfield is Harker’s boss (was he always?). Some good scenery in the journey to Transylvania. Nobody in Dracula’s castle except the man himself. After the deadly boat ride, the rats and plague take over the city, ending with a wonderful fancy breakfast in the middle of the square. Mina Harker tricks the Count into staying in her room past dawn, then an otherwise useless Dr. Van Helsing finally uses the stake (offscreen) then is arrested, after which Jonathan Harker, not destroyed or freed from his curse by the death of the count, escapes presumably back to the castle. The last five minutes or so are amazingly great.

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We watched the German version… guess I don’t have the English version anymore. Katy didn’t like it.

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