Someone or other, at the beginning of 2022, said they might watch a pile of 1972 movies on their fiftieth anniversary, and I stole the idea. This is probably why I watched The Inner Scar and The Boxer from Shantung and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and Boxcar Bertha and Fat City and Asylum and The Blood Spattered Bride… and sometimes my release years get mixed up so it might’ve been why I watched A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin or Fantastic Planet. It’s definitely why I gathered these 1972 shorts and kept them around for many months before finally deciding on Dec 30 that it’s now or never. Turns out they were all very good.
Ordinary Matter (Hollis Frampton)
The opening seconds, the camera rockin’ and rollin’ over some shingles, effectively demonstrates the weakness of my overcompressed VHS rip. A man speaks single syllables (a Chinese alphabet? you can download the script from Carnegie) with feedback echo, as the low-framerate camera tears ass through the countryside, producing frantically framing foliage. Then a square park surrounded by a columned hallway, the camera running through the halls looking inwards towards the park, the columns providing a film-flicker effect. Then over the Brooklyn Bridge, the camera getting distracted by any stone columns it encounters. Into the earth and grass, the image like an abstract fireworks display with the occasional tire track running through it. The voiceover runs out of syllables during a romp through Stonehenge with ten minutes still to go in the film – that’s poor planning for a structuralist! A shock when the camera stops and lingers in the cornfields. Anticlimactic ending, silently stomping sunward through the bushes. One of the more vibrant Frampton films I’ve seen, overall – part of his Hapax Legomena project.
Leonardo’s Diary (Jan Svankmajer)
Intercutting painstaking journal pages come to life with stock footage of human antics, creating some wild juxtapositions. A really fun one, released the year after the also-great Jabberwocky.
The Midnight Parasites (Yoji Kuri)
More animation, this one a colorful panorama of hellish mutilations. Among all the things gobbling up and shitting out other things, there’s a rare 1970’s human centipede. Real demented Boschian cartoon, the music a nifty electrogroove.
The Bathroom (Yoji Kuri)
Stop-motion lunacy in a striped room (and sometimes the bathroom). Objects make and unmake themselves and clip through the floor, 3D cartoons and human actors turned into animation. Kuri’s interest in food and butts continues. Then suddenly, sped-up doc footage of crowds visiting a gallery of Kuri’s butt-centric art. Obviously this is all wonderful. The wikis say that Kuri was an early star of the Annecy Film Fest, made 40+ shorts, and is alive at 94.
Winnie-the-Pooh and a Busy Day (Fyodor Khitruk & Gennadiy Sokolskiy)
Alas, the last of the Russian Pooh shorts.
The one where Eeyore cries a lot on his birthday, then finds his lost tail.
Chakra (Jordan Belson)
Richly colored video light, washing like waves, flying like ashes, drifting like clouds, with a better soundtrack than these things tend to have. I bet seeing this projected properly would be gobsmacking.
Chakra (c) Jordan Belson
Take Five (Zbigniew Rybczynski)
Dancers’ images, tinted and overlapping, like these screenshots but in rapid motion over a jazz soundtrack. In the final minute the editing goes berserk, the jazz gets chopped and screwed. Real out there. I’ve only previously seen Rybczynski’s oscar-winning Tango. Take Five was among his earliest work, a thesis film, and the wikis say he’s had a big life since then, becoming a pioneer in video technology.
Top Ten Still-Unseen 1972 Movies:
The Merchant of Four Seasons
Don’t Torture the Duckling
Remote Control / Special Effects
Last Tango in Paris
What’s Up, Doc?
The Death of Maria Malibran