I’m glad I got to see this in a theater, since I don’t know if I could’ve sit still for it on video. Also fun to observe the number of walkouts, probably from the half of the audience who hadn’t read the description beforehand and gasped loudly when Andy mentioned its 3.5-hour length in his introduction (AKA the half that wasn’t receiving class credit for attendance). But surprisingly I didn’t like it very much, never got the sense that all the elements (formalist experiment + weight of duration + story or lack thereof + static, careful camera compositions + subtle lead performance) congealed into a singular, great experience.

So, as I already knew, the film portrays Jeanne going about her routine for three days: making coffee, awakening her son and sending him to school, shopping, sleeping with some guy, making dinner, eating with her son, going to bed. Towards the second half her routine isn’t going as smoothly. Potatoes are overcooked. She walks into the wrong room. She can’t comfort the infant she watches while her neighbor shops. Then on the third day she stabs her guy to death with scissors. I’m still thinking about language since watching Pontypool. IMDB and Criterion descriptions say she “turns the occasional trick,” but most viewer descriptions outright call her “a prostitute.”

Delphine Seyrig was already a star (see: Last Year at Marienbad) and would remain one. Jan Decorte (her son) would only be in one more film (also by Akerman). The first two (non-murdered) men are both directors, the middle being Jacques Doniol-Valcroze. He played Etienne, whose letters get stolen and ransomed, in Out 1.

I. Magulies:

The perfect parity between Jeanne’s predictable schedule and Akerman’s minimalist precision deflects our attention from the fleeting signs of Jeanne’s afternoon prostitution. They nevertheless loom at the edge of our mind, gradually building unease. Jeanne Dielman constitutes a radical experiment with being undramatic, and paradoxically with the absolute necessity of drama.

Helping explain the movie’s feminist reputation:

Aunt Fernande, Jeanne’s sister, living in Canada, only appears in the form of a letter, read in litanylike monotone by Jeanne to her son; the neighbor, heard by the door (and played by Akerman herself), describes how, shopping for her husband’s dinner, and still undecided, she ended up getting the same expensive cut of meat as the person in front of her on line. Never casual, each of the film’s uniquely strange and long-winded monologues expresses some form of gendered pressure: they refer to Jeanne’s marriage, the son’s Oedipal thoughts, each breathing a sexual anxiety, each a drawn-out, wordy attempt to mitigate the “other scene” we never see, the elided afternoon trysts.

Wonderful program by Beebe, a Florida film prof when he’s not touring art spaces with eight projectors. He’s a low-key charismatic speaker who held the audience easily while introducing films, telling stories or fixing equipment breakdowns. It probably helps that most of us were Film Love regulars who weren’t exactly expecting to see Transformers 2… I wonder how the screening went in Macon the night before.

Last Light of a Dying Star (2008)
This is the big one. Opens with two 16mm loops of blippy light tears, then more 16mm and a Super-8 of science videos (comets, solar system, eclipses) and a german or russian show about the sun getting drunk and trying to stay up all night, and videos of an astounding sequence of thousands of still images featuring the sun or moon aligned and sequenced to show a sunset/moonrise. Also a short stop-motion 16mm loop of a star, sliding and breaking. The frames are positioned around the wall, some overlapping, as Roger “conducts”, starting and stopping and moving frames so it’s more a performance than any kind of traditional film.

Money Changes Everything (2009)
3x16mm, the left and right being documentary shots of Las Vegas while the middle is similar but has a ghostly frame inside a frame, and the audio track sounds like a radio show explaining research which shows Vegas to have the highest suicide rate in the nation.

TB TX Dance (2006)
TB is Toni Basil (singer of the hit song Mickey) and TX is Texas (the state). After their respective introductions, they dance. Made with a laser printer on clear film leader (including the soundtrack), and projected side-by-side with its inverse image, this was an impressive, creative and goofy way to start the show. I won’t say the name of the litigious filmmaker from whom some of the images were borrowed.

The Strip Mall Trilogy (2001)
Strip-mall images are reclaimed, decontextualized and rapidly edited. If I was a serious film scholar I would’ve cornered Beebe and bugged him about Hollis Frampton and Zaireeka, but it doesn’t matter if this was Zorns Lemma-influenced or not – it is awesome.

Composition in Red & Yellow (2002)
An ironic hymn to the ever-present McDonald’s.

Famous Irish Americans (2003)
Educational! Made during a Minneapolis winter when he was afraid to go outside, heh. Tried to show this to Katy but when she learned it wasn’t about Minnesota, she declined.

There was another one shot in Paris – spoken intro along the lines of “Now you’ll see I don’t just hate America – I hate France, too.” Also, a reluctant dude from the audience sang along with a karaoke music video of “Touch Me I’m Sick” consisting of clips from a venereal disease educational film. Director was selling (cheap!) DVDs of his work, hence the screenshots.

Andy gave us some Jean Painlevé action from a different DVD than the one I’ve got. Love the “FIN” made up of stop-motion creatures at the end of most shorts. Love the octopus crawling through the mud, the way sea urchins walk with thin suckers that stick out past their spines, the umbrella dances of the acera, the camoflaged crabs, and everything about the sea horse. These are crowd-pleasers. Nice to hear the original music, which is actually really neat, especially the early electronic sounds.

Also saw something called Predatory Mushrooms by one of Painleve’s influences, Jean Comandon – microscopic mushrooms create three-cell nooses to ensnare and eat tiny worms. Sounds icky, but it looks bizarre and wonderful. Could’ve used some music (GBV’s “Mushroom Art”). And the 1898 The Separation of Siamese Twins by Dr. Doyen. It’s not the doctor sawing these two people apart that is most disturbing, it’s their inhumanly spindly legs. Also could’ve used music, maybe something by Ministry.

Always happy to watch Jean Vigo’s À propos de Nice again. I only said one sentence about it last time, which is not fair. Seems to be a humorous portrait of a rich, beach-side tourist town with thrilling associative editing and the occasional staged scene (guy gets super-sunburned, woman in beach chair changes clothing repeatedly). Watched on 16mm. For music I suggest some Luna, or a jaunty classical piece.

Gardner: “Forest of Bliss is intended as an unsparing but ultimately redeeming account of the inevitable griefs and frequent happinesses that punctuate daily life in Benares, one of the world’s most holy cities. The film unfolds from one sunrise to the next without commentary, subtitles or dialogue. It is an attempt to give anyone who sees it a wholly authentic though greatly magnified view of the matters of life and death that are portrayed.”

Gorgeous doc from American anthropologist/filmmaker Gardner assembles this “day in the life” through many days of shooting (either that or he’s the most efficient filmmaker in history), with beautiful artistic shots and editing. There’s a clear plot/progression, as he shows fragments, actions, people, with no indication of who they are or what they mean, then it all gets woven together. The “ladders” being built are stretchers for the dead. The shipful of timber is for funeral pyres. The stone courtyard being washed down is where bodies are prepared. The man bathing in the river is a priest who performs funeral ceremonies. Some shocking images (bodies get dumped right into the river!) but for the most part it’s an awe-inspiring ecstatic film.

Andy opened with Den of Tigers (2002, Jonathan Schwartz), a decent Gardner-influenced short doc from West Bengal featuring people speaking to us in English (so it wasn’t too Gardner-influenced).

Andy: “Since the early 1960s, Nathaniel Dorsky has been one of the great practitioners of meditative cinema. Projected at the non-standard rate of eighteen frames per second (which he refers to as ‘sacred speed’), Dorsky’s films are an explicit invitation to increase our awareness of moment-to-moment existence and experience a sense of reverence for the visual world.”

Nice program with perfect-quality 16mm prints of four silent twenty-minute shorts. Gotta remember to attend all of Andy’s screenings from now on.

Alaya (1987)
The first one was just shots of sand. Just sand (one special appearance by an insect). No camera movement, but the sand is always moving, blowing in the wind. Goes from wide, wide shots of a huge desert (Death Valley) to extreme super-closeups, the sand crystals looking like boulders on the screen (but boulders that flit about in the breeze). An intensely beautiful movie, my favorite of the bunch.

Triste (1996)
Variations (1998)
The next two were similar to each other, and reminded me of Warren Sonbert (though I couldn’t remember Sonbert’s name until Andy announced that they reminded him of Warren Sonbert). Shots of varying length (8-45 seconds), extremely well-composed, of almost anything Dorsky came across: people, nature, the city. Second one was more exciting, with more quick bursts of shorter shots, and seemed to have a visual theme of seeing, looking, through glass and mirrors. Halfway through the first film the ceiling fan stopped making its rhythmic knocking sound which had made me think of the editing sounds in Zorns Lemma, so I had to imagine my own soundtrack (’twas TV On The Radio for a while). Fun and difficult to try to figure out relations between the shots while watching.

The Visitation (2002)
Then came a discussion, during which Andy talked about film stocks (these were all made on a Bolex, just like Sonbert) and mentioned that of course the second movie was called Triste, which means “sad”, which is why it felt like a lull, edit-wise, between exciting films. There’s all this hidden meaning in these films which the simple likes of ourselves can never understand. I don’t like being made to feel stupid by avant-garde filmmakers so I was determined to assign meaning to every last shot in the bonus fourth movie The Visitation, and I succeeded easily. Visitation = alien invasion. Lots of shots of light from above, and representations of alien bodies (mostly tentacles, via cords and long plant leaves). Aliens have many eyes – we see the eyes, and their view of our world. Ends with a gorgeous shot representing their planetary invasion, two low waves approaching each other over sand, the alien wave easily covering the human wave, but the human wave slowly fighting back at the end, regaining victory. A lot like War of the Worlds.

“A gradual unfolding, an arrival so to speak. I felt the necessity to describe an occurrence, not one specifically of time and place, but one of revelation in one’s own psyche.” –N.D.

Thanks to Andy, I finally had the chance to see one of the most talked-about avant-garde films of all time. While it’s important to talk about experimental film, it’s more important to actually see the damned things – and while anyone can order a copy of Visionary Film for $26.95, it’s nearly impossible to see Wavelength on any given day.

Unfortunately, it’s one of those times (see also The Leopard) when I check out one of the Great Important Works of Cinematic Art and come out less than impressed. I didn’t find the audiovisual experience very enlightening compared to the descriptions I’ve read of the film. Didn’t dislike it (though I came close to disliking the soundtrack) but not an overwhelming experience like Zorns Lemma, either. A few updates to those written descriptions: (1) It’s not a single, continuous zoom a la Last Days – the zoom moves sporadically and the camera slightly changes position from time to time. (2) There’s sound – a sinewave tone that starts low and ends high, with other quieter tones joining it at times and sync sound during the four action scenes. Those action scenes: Woman gets bookshelf delivered, two women listen to “Strawberry Fields Forever”, man dies, girl makes phone call expressing concern that there’s a dead man in her apartment. (3) There’s a twist ending – after zooming the full length of the apartment, the photograph on the wall is of waves in the sea. I get it, ha ha. After reading Sitney and Snow, I see why the movie is interesting, even exciting in theory, but the viewing experience just wasn’t there… wouldn’t want to see it again anytime soon.

P. Adams Sitney: “This is the story of the diminishing area of pure potentiality. The insight that space, and cinema by implication, is potential is an axiom of the structural film.”

Snow: “I wanted to make a summation of my nervous system, religious inklings, and aesthetic ideas. I was thinking of planning for a time monument in which the beauty and sadness of equivalence would be celebrated, thinking of trying to make a definitive statement of pure Film space and time, a balancing of ‘illusion’ and ‘fact,’ all about seeing. The space starts at the camera’s (spectator’s) eye, is in the air, then is on the screen, then is within the screen (the mind).”

Hollis Frampton: dead man:

Actors included Joyce Wieland and Hollis Frampton (as the man who dies). Assisted by Ken Jacobs, and sound by Ted Wolff, who unsurprisingly didn’t do any other film sound after this. Snow screws with the camera a bunch: focus, filters, film stocks (supposedly – I hardly noticed), light settings, time of day and lighting inside, etc. My favorite part is one or two frames where the picture on the wall towards which we are slowly zooming is highlit by a sunburst of drawn lines (screenshot below). I’m glad I got to see it anyway, and glad Andy played this and not Warhol’s Empire or something.


When I got home, watched WVLNT (2003) and Prelude (2000). The former was a shortened version of Wavelength “for those who don’t have the time” – he cut the movie into three equal parts and superimposed them. Except for the now-intolerable soundtrack, I liked this version much better! There’s much more to look at.


Prelude was a cute intro bit from the same Toronto Film Festival that brought us The Heart of the World. It’s hard for me to tell exactly how cute since my copy is such low-quality (think it came from streaming realvideo on the TIFF site), but it seems to be a single camera take, clean picture on a clean set, with unsynched sound edited in all over the place – actors and film crew talking about films in general and the one they are presently inside. This and WVLNT travel a similar road as Snow’s SShtoorrty, with its color-coordinated set, single camera move and superimpositions.


Wonderful 16mm screening at Emory, but not well-received by the students and regulars who came to be entertained. Silly students and regulars, it is not a university’s job to entertain you!

Scorpio Rising – 1964, Kenneth Anger
Couldn’t remember if I’d seen this before, but of course I have… opening credits bedazzled onto a motorcycle jacket were immediately familiar. Despite the nazi imagery and comparisons between bikers headed for a gay orgy and Jesus and his disciples, I heard no complaints. I think people enjoyed the juxtapositions (well-prepared presenter Andy warned us about ’em in advance) and grooved on the hot 60’s rock radio score (kept hearing “oh I love this song” from behind me).

Lemon – 1969, Hollis Frampton
Lovely film, second time I’ve seen it. Should be shown every year. Only comment overheard: “I don’t know about the second movie. Just a lemon.” Mostly people were quiet about this one. I choose to believe that they were awed into silence, contemplating its light play and imagining possible deeper meanings, and not quietly wondering what they needed to pick up at the grocery store. A movie can feel much longer or shorter than it is. Lemon is supposed to be seven or eight minutes long, but I say it feels like four, five tops.

Zorns Lemma – 1970, Hollis Frampton
(no apostrophe, in tribute to James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake)
Okay, this one feels its length… its exact length, measured second by second.
1) Black screen, voice reads us some children’s poetry, each line beginning with a successive letter of the Roman alphabet (so I=J and U=V) to make 24.
2) The meat of the piece, 24 seconds, one letter per section. First section we see each letter once. Then a word beginning with each letter. Then again (different shots, different words). Again. Again, but X has been replaced by a shaking, roaring fire. Again, with the fire. Again. Again. Again, but Z has been replaced by the ocean, flat horizon, a wave rolling out to sea. Again with the fire and the ocean. Again. 24 letters at 24 frames per second (though it’s 25 seconds if you consider that each alphabet section is followed by a second of black, a shout-out to our PAL-locked buds in Europe who see everything on video a little faster than we do). And on until, some 40 minutes later, each letter has been replaced (C was the last to go). No audio except the groaning and laughter of my fellow filmgoers.
3) Sound and Vision together! A visual cooling-down after part two, two people and their dog walk across a snowy field from bottom of the screen to top as six alternating female voices on the soundtrack read us some philosophical writings about light – at precisely one word per second.
4) The audience members (those who hadn’t walked out) were horrified!

D. Sallitt liked it:

The bizarre experience of taking a test during a movie was completely distracting, so that I absorbed the materiality and the narrativity of the alphabet images only indirectly, during brief rest periods. Somehow this strengthened my investment in the images: I don’t think I would have found the “letter H” guy’s walk around the corner very interesting in itself, but that corner took on mythic spatial qualities for me.

Hahaha, I know what he means about the corner. Of the little movies that replace each letter, seen in one-second increments, some stay pretty much the same (the fire, the tide) and some progress as time passes (someone peels and eats a tangerine, this guy walks towards a corner). Everyone breathes a little sigh of relief when, finally after a half hour, the man disappears around the corner in a one-second bit toward the end. Next bit is just the corner. Next one the man comes back around the corner! Must be considered one of the biggest twist endings in non-narrative avant-garde cinema.

excerpts from S. MacDonald:

Even a partial understanding of Frampton’s films requires a rudimentary sense of the history of mathematics, science, and technology and of the literary and fine arts. … Nowhere is Frampton’s assumption that his viewers can be expected to be informed, or to inform themselves, more obvious than in Zorns Lemma, the challenging film that established Frampton as a major contributor to alternative cinema. Zorns Lemma combines several areas of intellectual and esthetic interest Frampton had explored in his early photographic work and in his early films. His fascination with mathematics, and in particular with set theory … is the source of the title Zorns Lemma. Mathematician Max Zorn’s “lemma,” the eleventh axiom of set theory, proposes that, given a set of sets, there is a further set composed of a representative item from each set. Zorns Lemma doesn’t exactly demonstrate Zorn’s lemma, but Frampton’s allusion to the “existential axiom” is appropriate, given his use of a set of sets to structure the film. Frampton’s longtime interest in languages and literature is equally evident in Zorns Lemma. …

The tripartite structure of Zorns Lemma can be understood in various ways, at least two of them roughly suggestive of early film history. The progression from darkness, to individual onesecond units of imagery, to long, continuous shots. … If the second section of Zorns Lemma is Muybridgian – not only in its general use of the serial, but because the one-second bits of the replacement images “analyze” continuous activities or motions in a manner analogous to Muybridge’s motion studies – the final section is Lumieresque.

As set after set of alphabetized words and their environments is experienced, it is difficult not to develop a sense of Frampton’s experience making the film. The film’s collection of hundreds of environmental words suggests that the film was a labor of love, and an index of the filmmaker’s extended travels around lower Manhattan, looking for, finding, and recording the words.

For most viewers the experience of “learning” the correspondences is fatiguing – especially since the process of watching sixty shots a minute for more than forty-seven minutes is grueling by itself – but the laborious process has been willingly (if somewhat grudgingly) accepted. The experience of learning the correspondences is the central analogy of the second section. It replicates the experience of learning that set of terms and rules necessary for the exploration of any intellectual field.

In a philosophic sense, Grosseteste’s treatise [spoken during the third segment] is an attempt to understand the entirety of the perceivable world as an emblem of the spiritual. And, on the literal level, what Grosseteste describes in the eleventh century is demonstrated by the twentieth-century film image: For a filmmaker, after all, light is the “first bodily form,” which, literally, draws out “matter along with itself into a mass as great as the fabric of the world.”

I, An Actress (1977)
“This film gives an insight into my directing techniques while under pressure.”
A good way to start things off… George directs a screen test for a young actress and ends up in front of the camera flamboyantly showing her how he wants the scene performed. The funniest film of the evening, and it wasn’t even “written” to be funny. J. Steffen says it “becomes a commentary on his own camp persona and on the eternal problem of directing actors with wills and personalities of their own.”

Hold Me While I’m Naked (1966)
The famous one! Kuchar plays a film director whose actress quits mid-shoot out of disinterest and because George has asked her to take her clothes off. He calls around but finds nobody else, and falls into a crisis. Hilarious little movie. Played very straight, as George claims he was actually quite depressed. I wouldn’t say that the editing reminded me of Breathless and Parajanov, but Steffen did say that.

I Was a Teenage Rumpot (1960)
The young Kuchar brothers discovered three people who look completely unlike movie stars and began filmmaking careers in order to get these people onscreen. This sums up what makes Kuchar interesting and worth watching, and where all the John Waters comparisons come from. A glorious no-budget fake melodrama starring the ‘differently-shaped’ Arline, Edie and Harry.

Sylvia’s Promise (1962)
Sylvia promises that if Mike will only settle down and marry her, she’ll lose weight. The joke ending is that eight years later, they’re married and she’s lost three pounds.

Anita Needs Me (1963)
I’m not doing a good job describing these movies, and I don’t even remember which one this is because I’ve waited too long after the screening to write about ’em (ten days is too long?!?), but they’re totally fun to watch, short enough to never outstay their welcome, and different enough from each other to make seeing a bunch in a row worthwhile. It was a hoot of a screening, and I’d watch any one of ’em again.

Eclipse of the Sun Virgin (1967)
GK: “Painstakingly filmed and edited, it will be painful to watch, too.” This was my favorite of the bunch, just awesome. Unbelievably, I couldn’t remember what to say about it so I just watched it again on Ubu web… and I still don’t know what to say about it! Um, something about piano playing and humiliation and the color red? It’s poetry, and it is awesome.

Knocturne (1968)
Starring Joyce Wieland, Michael Snow’s wife. I think this one was less narrative than the others, and I’ll leave it at that.

The Mongreloid (1978)
George with a late-70’s mustache reminiscing on the time he shared with his dog Bocko. Brief sound dropouts were replaced in post-production with tiny bursts of music, keeping a playful edge on this otherwise diary-like personal short.

This was a very good program, and Kuchar is a good speaker, full of stories about an entire adult life spent making cool underground films, and the people he’s known (John Waters, Michael Snow, Ken Jacobs, Jack Smith, Jonas Mekas). Wish I could’ve made it to the other nights of screenings, featuring his storm-chasing films and diary videos. Wait, this just in:

Wild Night In El Reno (1977)
As watched on Ubu web. 6 minutes long, storm over a motel builds into the night. Probably some nice footage, but the online video flattens it out and uglies it up, and my sound dropped out after a minute. No substitute for the wonderful Eyedrum screening.

GK: “At the age of 12 I made a transvestite movie on the roof and was brutally beaten by my mother for having disgraced her and also for soiling her nightgown. She didn’t realize how hard it is for a 12-year-old director to get real girls in his movies.”

Amphetamine (1966)
Where Did Our Love Go? (1966)

Warren Sonbert started his career just like Stan Brakhage (Desistfilm) – sitting around his apartment, shooting his friends doing daily stuff. But where Brakhage used camera tricks and crazy editing, Sonbert (12 years later) relied on his friends’ outrageous antics (drug use, homosexuality, knowing Andy Warhol) to make his movies interesting. It didn’t work for me, but the mid-60’s pop songs he strung together on the soundtrack made for good listening.

Honor and Obey (1988)
Friendly Witness (1989)

Then Sonbert travelled the world for a number of years, reviewing operas and shooting everything he came across with his portable Bolex. And like the dude who did “Ashes & Snow”, he one day sat down and edited all his stuff through the years into some movies. Unlike “Ashes” though, it’s quickly and intuitively edited, the shot order making sense only to the director, if anybody. “Honor and Obey” is completely Brakhage-silent, and Friendly Witness starts with the same 60’s pop songs from before, then uses opera over the second half. Slightly more excitingly edited than “Honor” and would’ve been preferable anyway if only for the pop songs. Completely wonderful films, great color, great framing, lots of animal shots, shots from planes, on water, on children. Loved ’em. Didn’t understand ’em, of course, but didn’t have to.